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MAGELLAN ASHES 2017-18

Cook toasts triumph with a rare beer

28 December 2017
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England’s champion opening batsman admits he doubted his ability at the top level before ending his run of outs with his fifth Test double-century

About the Writer:
 @ARamseyCricket

Andrew Ramsey is the senior writer for cricket.com.au. He previously wrote for the Guardian, The Australian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Hindu and Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and the author of The Wrong Line.

Players of lesser moral substance than Alastair Cook might have taken the unwanted opportunity to front a media conference an hour after such an unforeseen triumph and pour scorn on those who had the temerity to doubt its plausibility.

But Cook, now installed as the sixth-greatest scorer of runs that Test cricket has seen with chances to rise higher on that exalted list, is as comfortable gloating as he is toasting one of his 32 Test centuries with an excess of cold beer or imported champagne.

So he fronted up, less than an hour after dragging his weary 33-year-old body from the centre of the MCG where he has spent every minute of his past three working days (and 634 of those in full batting kit) and admitted he was among those doubters.

Cook proud to deliver double at MCG

Not just the ones who suggested his lack of productivity since England arrived for the Magellan Ashes campaign two months ago signalled the winter days of a once bountiful summer career.

Or even the broader collective who felt that Cook’s appetite for Test cricket (the only form of the international game he remains part of) must surely have waned since he stood down from the captaincy before the start of the most recent home season and his days were, accordingly, numbered.

The unflappable Cook – he of the unfailing humility before, during and post holding one of the most scrutinised and scathingly critiqued jobs in world cricket – revealed that he has held those doubts on a daily basis ever since he made his debut as a baby-faced 21-year-old in 2006.

While also acknowledging they have burned deeper than before throughout his fourth Test tour of Australia, which began with him scoring a duck in his team’s opening tour fixture in Perth and had yielded fewer runs (200) in nine subsequent innings than he then scored across 10 and a half hours at the crease in his 151st Test.

Day wrap: Cook puts Aussies on MCG barbecue

“I’ve doubted myself for 12 years and I’ll probably continue to doubt myself,” Cook said tonight as he reflected on his fifth Test double-ton that lifted him past Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene and West Indies’ legends Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brian Lara on the all-time Test runs ladder

"Those doubts have been beating me up for four or five weeks, because I haven't been playing very well."

Rarely comfortable in the spotlight despite being England’s longest-serving Test skipper, their most-capped player and their greatest-ever batter, Cook reflected that he felt genuinely sorry for Lara in overtaking the flamboyantly gifted Trinidadian upon reaching 11,954 runs shortly before stumps today.

That’s because Cook readily concedes his yeoman-like batting technique relies as heavily upon nuts and bolts practicality as did Lara (and, for that matter, Jayawardene) on exquisitely eye-catching strokeplay.

Ponting called it! "Never write off a champion"

“Unfortunately, most of my runs are pretty ugly runs and quite hard work,” Cook said tonight with trademark candour and in attributing today’s success that defied form and logic to the extra training sessions he had undertaken in the hope that touch might return before tour’s end.

“I’ve always prided myself on working really hard.

“I suppose that does show that, eventually, it does bear fruit.”

Broad adds to Aussie frustration with fifty

But while doubts have remained a constant companion throughout an 11-year Test tenure, Cook dismisses speculation that he felt the curtain was about to fall on his time as an England player.

Even though he would have understood if, in the wake of another failure in this current Test which Australia coach Darren Lehmann has conceded is now beyond his team’s hopes of winning, he had been culled from the XI for the final Test starting in Sydney next week.

An outcome now as outlandish as his record-breaking innings would have sounded a few days ago, given that he’s moved from a position of peril to being England’s foremost runs scorer of the series in a single bound.

Cook claims it was the frustration that came with failing to contribute to a struggling team while the urn remained on the line more so than his personal battle with diminishing returns that made his first century – completed in the final over on Wednesday – one of his most special.

Captain Root passes fifty but fails to push on again

“It was probably one of the more emotional last night, from where I’d been on this tour,” Cook said this evening.

“It meant a lot last night and today I was quite proud to back it up after all the emotion came out yesterday and to get a real big one for the team today was very important.

“I played quite nicely yesterday, I got to 40 and I felt that the old movements are back.

“The feeling when I walked in the changing room last night was very special and obviously just now as well, although I’ve been dragged out to do this (media conference) so I haven’t really enjoyed it.”

Broad stands ground amid contentious Khawaja catch

With the nagging self-doubt quelled, if only for a few hours, by his breakthrough century on Wednesday Cook found his next day at the office one of simple pleasures, even if the nature of the MCG workplace didn’t ever allow him to become wholly settled.

The battle he waged with Australia’s flagging seamers and sole spinner Nathan Lyon saw him advance his total by barely 30 runs in the first session, and an additional 39 between lunch and tea before the mood turned full party as he put together a 100-run stand from just 110 balls with Stuart Broad.

One of the few times the opener has found himself batting with England’s number 10 and 11 (James Anderson) and that experience coupled with the ditties chanted by the Barmy Army – the most pointed targetting Australia’s wicketless quick Jackson Bird – meant the final hours flew by.

To Cook’s suddenly cleared mind, at least.

Lehmann reflects on a tough day for Australia

“I quite enjoyed listening to the Barmy Army singing their songs in the last session, and batting with Broady which is a different experience,” he said.

“A few times in your career you get into that bit of rhythm where time just kind of flies by.

“On this tour, batting for half an hour has felt like two hours and then for whatever reasons the last 10 hours has gone quickly."

Moeen makes easy prey for hungry Lyon

To the extent that he was contemplating another break from long-time tradition having finished unconquered on 244, such was his lightness of his spirit and sense of satisfaction.

"I don't know if I'm allowed to say it, but I'll have a beer tonight,” Cook revealed.

Australia XI: Steve Smith (c), David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Mitch Marsh, Tim Paine, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.

England XI: Joe Root (c), Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Dawid Malan, Chris Woakes, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Tom Curran, Stuart Broad, James Anderson

Malan leg before but misses inside edge

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard

Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard

Third Test Australia won by an innings and 41 runs. Scorecard

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21

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