Stephen Craig Cook
November 29, 1982, Johannesburg, Transvaal
Right hand bat
Right arm medium
With textbook technique and a temperament to match, Stephen Cook seemed an obvious candidate for international honours from an early age but ended up being a late bloomer, much like his father Jimmy. Cook was schooled at the King Edward VII School, two years below Graeme Smith and the pair occasionally opened the batting together. While Smith was aggressive and unorthodox in his approach, Cook was as correct as they come, with a serene cover drive and a confident pull shot in his repertoire.
Cook made his provincial debut the season after Smith, in the 2000/01 season in which he also played for South Africa's under-19 team. He was part of the age-group side that competed in the 2002 World Cup, alongside both Smith and Hashim Amla. Cook finished as South Africa's second highest run-scorer and only centurion at the event but unlike Smith and Amla, it would be many years before he would make his mark higher up.
In a strong Gauteng and later Lions set-up, Cook had to fight for a place as a regular in the early years, but by the mid-2000s had established himself as a reliable opener. In the 2008-9 season, he shattered the South African first-class record for the highest individual score. In a marathon innings of two minutes short of 14 hours at the crease, Cook scored 390, eclipsing Daryll Cullinan's 337 scored sixteen before. Cook was also part of a 365-run sixth-wicket stand with Thami Tsolekile, also a record in South African cricket. That season Cook entered the first-class top ten run-scorers list and he stayed there for seven seasons, without a national call-up.
The following summer, 2009-10, he notched up over 1000 first-class runs, a feat seldom achieved in South Africa's six-franchise system. He was promoted to Lions' four-day captain ahead of the 2014-15 season, in which he led them to the trophy and topped the run-charts.
Recognition finally came in January 2016, sixteen years after he made his domestic debut, when Cook was named in the South African XI to play England in the Centurion Test. The wait was worth it. He became the sixth South African to score a century on debut and guided the team to their only victory of the four-match series.
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