So long, Farewell, Alastair

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Re: So long, Farewell, Alastair

Postby bigfluffylemon » Thu Sep 06, 2018 1:32 am

Arthur Crabtree wrote:. The flat track tendencies. These subtleties will be the domain of the cricket scholar.


Still have to disagree about that one AC. I don't think he's any more a flat track batsman than anyone else. All batsmen score more on flat wickets, of course, but Cook scored heavily in a lot of England wins where the tracks weren't that flat, as England were able to take 20 wickets. I will agree that his ability to compete on tough wickets tailed off in the later part of his career, though, but as an example, his 88 at the Oval last year was scored in pretty tricky conditions, and set up the lower order to profit from better conditions on day 2, and a subsequent England win.
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Re: So long, Farewell, Alastair

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Thu Sep 06, 2018 8:09 am

His big scores are almost all in draws, or against WI and BD (before BD were any good) and that one tour against a hapless Australia when everyone filled their boots- except Perth when Mitch fired England out, even though he got to bat before the ball reversed (his average against them otherwise is appalling over many series). Otherwise he has a good score v NZ at home (162 out of 478 after NZ posted 523) and a near triple v India at Edgbaston (out of 710-7).

But I'm not basing my slur on stats so much as my observation. And I'm not saying big runs on good batting tracks aren't often valuable (his score at Melbourne in the last Ashes saved a whitewash as did the double in UAE). I said he was the greatest good-track bat I've seen, which of course implies a criticism, but can be taken at face value too. If conditions were ideal, he would exploit them as no other because the characteristics needed to do that, reliably, were abundant in Cook.

And I qualify it with the outlier stat of his success in India. But in terms of gutsing it out on badly prepared tracks v good attacks, he doesn't have the kind of innings we remember Gooch for. Maybe Perth in 2006 on a bad tour for him in a beaten side? There is some kudos there in doing well in two of England's most memorable overseas wins, in India and Australia.

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Re: So long, Farewell, Alastair

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Thu Sep 06, 2018 8:26 am

He was at a peak about 2010 to 2013. After the Mitchwash series I remember over a period of years that when he scored runs it was usually facilitated by dropped catches. The India series at home sticks in my mind where he was being dropped for every 20 runs scored (and not just that series, but generally when the ball did a bit). Maybe a bit monomaniacal to remember that!

After 2013 his footwork tailed off, he was often too far over to the off side, falling over and he looked like someone coaching himself while batting. He got through to a certain extent on his qualities: self belief, determination, concentration. Occasionally he would go into a series having stripped down and reassembled his game with Gooch and look clumsily in place (as I've said before looking like an awkward teenager playing twister) but he'd soon regress. Scoring runs was a struggle for him, one he overcame at times via his qualities listed above, the friendliness of the conditions, and a couple of years of golden form.
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Re: So long, Farewell, Alastair

Postby bigfluffylemon » Thu Sep 06, 2018 8:53 am

Depends how you define a good track, I guess. If one side makes a lot of runs thanks to Cook scoring big, and the other does not, is it a good track? Do we think of it as a good track because Cook scored big?

Take Edgbaston 2014. India were all out for 224 and 244. Without Cook's runs, England made 416-6. The average runs-per-wicket-that-was-not-Cook's-wicket was 34. The average runs-per-wicket for all teams in the 2010s is just over 33. That suggests a fairly average wicket if considered without Cook's score. So was it an average wicket where he scored big? Or do we judge it a good wicket because he scored big? There's a chicken and egg problem here.
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Re: So long, Farewell, Alastair

Postby sussexpob » Thu Sep 06, 2018 9:01 am

Arguing the merits of individual innings in a such a long career seems futile, because in such a span you will find evidence of everything. What is clear to me is that ACs statement is no doubt true, and that Cook is the beneficiary of playing largely in series when the fortunes of the England team were at a comparatively much higher plane than others around them. Its easy to forget that the decline of Australia and of India at the time of his career defining tours was pretty marked. In 2007 when McGrath and Warne were still around, it was different.

I mean, lets take that Australia series. Doug Bollinger had stood out for Australia the year before, but he played one test in Adelaide (Where cook made a big 100) and it was clear the injuries that lead to him missing the tour of India and the start of the series was terminal. He never played again despite a low 20s average before that test. Hilfenhaus shouldnt have been playing but was forced through due to other injuries, his back and knee injuries lead to retirement about a year after this series still in his 20s. He bowled half pace and clearly struggled as the innings went on. James Pattinson was lined up to play, but he was, and never is, fit. Rhino wasnt fit, I think he played in two games, the first being the Perth test where he ripped England apart for a 6-for in a game we got burnt in. Mitchell Johnson was in his famous lean patch. Marcus North bowled 38 overs in one test as a part timer. X.Doherty and Michael Beer was very poor spin options. Steve Smith was still a bowler back there, and we know what his spinners were like (long hop central).....

Australia didnt really have a fit or on song attack, they were all injured or off form. And yes, we took 20 wickets in the same conditions, but who did Australia have? Katich must have been in his late 30s and was retired after 2 tests. Shane Watson opened the batting (4 test hundreds in a 10 year regularly starter career, hardly a return). Phil Hughes who couldnt lock down a place. Michael Clarke was in the era of his back problems and for a few years was clearly not himself. Marcus North was a walking wicket. Khawaja didnt score a maiden hundred till 5 years after this series. Smith was a bowler at this time, and would take 3 odd years to register a century after. Mike Hussey famously went through a massive slump and was ready for the chop before he scored that massive first innings 100 at Brisbane (indications of the flat nature of the wicket). They werent a great team. Oh and Ponting. Who also after averaged 6 runs in a three match series v South Africa at home, 17 away in the return, 24 vs the Windies and 16 in that Ashes series..... lets just say the great man was at this point about as reliable as a stick hut in a hurricane.

Same can be said of India in 2011 and 2012/13. Tendulkar went something like 30 months at the end without a 100, with all due respect to the greatman by this stage he was just a name. Laxman was on his last legs. Gambhir had that famous purple patch between 08-10 (most 100s in consecutive tests, or nearly beat it, cant remember).... never scored a 100 in 6 years as a test player after that. Yuvraj and Raina were ODI specialists thrown in with very poor techniques (especially to the short ball) and were ripe for picking. Dhoni was hardly a world class bat. Sehwag's eyesight had completely gone, and he went through an extended period of decline after 2010 (3 years averaging mid 20s). Zaheer Khans career was over, averaged 49,45 and 42 per wicket between 2011-14. Sharma averaged 75 and 55 in the years he played England. I think Kolhi was another ODI specialist who had just come into the team and was struggling to adapt to tests. Seem to remember Ashwin playing in OZ in the lead up to this series, and being utterly trampled on to begin with. Went for 200 runs in one test and a 150 without a wicket in another. Harbi came back, Chawla was given a go.......

And those wickets were flat and slow and didnt turn much. Remember MS Dhoni having a big bust up with the Kolkata groundsman because he was sick of being given pitches that didnt suit his spinners, only to be told he was a batsman and to shut up and leave the pitches to the master ( the track was a pancake, many say it was on purpose as a response). Nagpur produced a lowish first innings, but that was arguably the slowest wicket I have ever seen, so slow batsman got out playing shots and mistiming. In fact, India lost wickets while trying to force a result for a series draw by batting quick, at which point Kohli and Dhoni realised you couldnt bat quick on it and then proceeded to spend about a day batting like snails. You know if Kohli and Dhoni take 600 balls to get to the point both are challenging for centuries, the pitch isnt for strokemaking. But for wickets it was terrible, you could block all day on it.

So yeah, there is definitely a sense that his career defining streak with these away tours come in conditions or scenarios that make them look far better. His best score v India in 2011 came at a time where India seem to have already given up. 500, 500, 600 and 700 went on the board in consecutive tests. Ian Bell I remember scoring a massive double around the same time.

When Australia were back to a functional and hungry side in 2013, what did he do? What did he do in the mauling of 2007? The close series of 2009? What did he do in India last time out, when India then had a settled bowling attack and India realised they needed to produce more spinners? Murdered the non entity of BD away in 2010, did nothing when they became competitive. The best team at his peak was probably SA.... averages 34 v them in 19 tests. Has a very poor record in series in NZ, where the ball has swung.

Its not a dramatic criticism. Those conditions, those series... someone had to go and win them. You still have to apply yourself, bat big, set up to make scores. And when the ball didnt move and a score was there to be found, he was brilliant at it. Others really arent that great at it.
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Re: So long, Farewell, Alastair

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Thu Sep 06, 2018 9:16 am

bigfluffylemon wrote:Depends how you define a good track, I guess. If one side makes a lot of runs thanks to Cook scoring big, and the other does not, is it a good track? Do we think of it as a good track because Cook scored big?

Take Edgbaston 2014. India were all out for 224 and 244. Without Cook's runs, England made 416-6. The average runs-per-wicket-that-was-not-Cook's-wicket was 34. The average runs-per-wicket for all teams in the 2010s is just over 33. That suggests a fairly average wicket if considered without Cook's score. So was it an average wicket where he scored big? Or do we judge it a good wicket because he scored big? There's a chicken and egg problem here.


England scored a lot of runs in every game in that series (as did Dravid). India didn't. It was a mismatch. I remember that game and I don't think it could be described as tough batting conditions. But still, 294 is a lot of runs. But of course, I think if the gradient wasn't too steep, then Cook was very proficient in going a long way. The Bradman of good pitch batting, to adopt an internet cliche.
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Re: So long, Farewell, Alastair

Postby sussexpob » Thu Sep 06, 2018 9:22 am

If you were putting together a list of players he directly played with, or shared an era with, where would you fit him?

Personally, if physical fitness or health issues had not taken hold with any of these players, Id rate them all over him..... Vaughan, Tresco, Thorpe, KP, Trott.....
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Re: So long, Farewell, Alastair

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Thu Sep 06, 2018 9:31 am

Probable behind only Thorpe and KP in Asia. Matt Prior could have been with them in Asia perhaps if Flower had batted him in the early middle order, but he didn't get enough of a chance.

Before his injury, I always say MPV was the best England batter I've seen. Then KP and Thorpe. Beyond that, Cook. Then Tresco. I don't seem to rate Tresco as highly in Tests as some. His career was a real mixed bag.

In my lifetime, Gooch and Boycott were England's best openers.
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Re: So long, Farewell, Alastair

Postby sussexpob » Thu Sep 06, 2018 9:50 am

Arthur Crabtree wrote:Probable behind only Thorpe and KP in Asia. Matt Prior could have been with them in Asia perhaps if Flower had batted him in the early middle order, but he didn't get enough of a chance.

Before his injury, I always say MPV was the best England batter I've seen. Then KP and Thorpe. Beyond that, Cook. Then Tresco. I don't seem to rate Tresco as highly in Tests as some. His career was a real mixed bag.

In my lifetime, Gooch and Boycott were England's best openers.


You could call it double standards, but in home conditions Trescothick was very very good. Id be inclined to judge his away form as definitive to him as a batsman, but then we are talking of a guy that suffered from an anxiety related illness that definitely had an effect on how he toured, both as a batter and personality. Without that, what could he have achieved?? Its debatable, but for me quite clear that his functional away form that came good occasionally would have been better. Pushed that average up past 45 and beyond. Despite that, we got innings like that in Multan back in the day, which will have to remain as a standout in greatness.

Vaughan was classy. Its a shame that his post 30 career was erased off the board. He should have really retired in 2005 after the knee went first time, he was pounded after that, never the same player. Hard to pick a winner between Thorpe and KP as a personal favourite. Trott is a worthy mention for me. Despite the fact he played seemingly for 3-4 years suffering from a potentially debilitating mental illness, his record in terms of runs is right up there. He averaged 50 deep into his career, before it all spectacularly fell apart, but we know why that was. If he'd stayed healthy, again speculation, youd have to expect his name in the discussion of best English bats of the last 50 years.

He lost about 6-7 runs of his average in nearly as many tests though.

Lots of ifs surround England's batters. All the above mentioned had careers cut short by illness, injury or undue sacking. Thorpe you could argue didnt, but then I seem to remember it was known at times that he couldnt get out of bed due to chronic back problems. Atherton had that too, and I think that was supposed to have really killed his career somewhat.
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Re: So long, Farewell, Alastair

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Thu Sep 06, 2018 10:33 am

Thorpe had personal problems touring for the first half of his career which restricted his touring. Allegedly wasn't picked for popularity issues as well.

Always had Trott as my era's number three, but Root has gone past him. Such a shame IJLT came back.
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Re: So long, Farewell, Alastair

Postby bigfluffylemon » Thu Sep 06, 2018 1:00 pm

I give up. As sussex says, in a career as long as Cook's, you can find a evidence for any narrative you want to weave.

Frankly, there aren't many batsmen in world cricket who score big in all conditions and against all attacks, in all series, and when the going gets really tough. They're the true greats of the game. Was Cook one of them? No. But I think he deserves more credit than you're giving him - it's not like he never made scores in tough conditions or tough series. He didn't do it as consistently as we would have liked, there is no doubt about that, but prior to about 2016 it was a rare series where he totally failed and didn't register at least one or two decent scores.
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Re: So long, Farewell, Alastair

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Thu Sep 06, 2018 1:47 pm

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Re: So long, Farewell, Alastair

Postby ddb » Thu Sep 06, 2018 10:48 pm

Nice post Sussexpob.

Slightly irrelevant but earlier on in the thread people were talking about captaincy not suiting Root either as well as Cook as both have always seemed like yes men.

Do you think this why Butler was put in as vice straight away and is he the long term captain if he can maintain a spot? I guess that's the real issue with England recently and India indecently. Kohli rotates so much he is the only constant in the side.
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Re: So long, Farewell, Alastair

Postby ianp1970 » Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:54 am

Slightly irreverent, but Alistair moves into the 'in my lifetime' all-time double-letter surname Test XI:

Cook A
Greenidge G
Chappell G
Kallis J
Sangakkara
de Villers AB
Lloyd C / Vettori D
Pollock S
Hadlee R
Marshall M
Underwood D
Sports broadcasting media nut miscast as a hard-working family man. Or should that be the other way around?

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Re: So long, Farewell, Alastair

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:05 am

Might be in a second name as an occupation XI. Opening with Mark Taylor. Marshall can be in that one too.
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