On the eve of his first match without the Test captaincy in five years, Alastair Cook has revealed Australia seamer Stuart Clark, along with Pakistan pace pair Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif in 2010, are the bowlers he’s struggled with the most during his prolific international career.
Cook is England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer and century-maker, with 11,057 runs and 30 centuries from a record 140-matches for the Three Lions.
The 32-year-old has faced many of the modern great bowlers, including Ashes rivals Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Mitchell Johnson, South Africa speedster Dale Steyn, Sri Lanka legend Muthiah Muralidaran and a throng of India spinners.
But in a surprise admission, Cook told The Times UK it’s Clark above all else who has caused him the most difficulty.
Cook faced Clark in seven Tests in two Ashes series – the first five contests coming in the 5-0 rout in 2006-07 and the final two encounters in the victorious 2009 campaign in England.
In 14 innings, the right-armer dismissed the left-hander five times, with the batsman passing 50 only once (116 in Perth, December 2006) in their seven meetings.
Four times Clark had Cook caught behind the wicket – three times to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist and once to Michael Clarke at first slip – and once bowled off an inside edge.
A year after his final run in with Clark, Cook came up against red hot Pakistan duo Asif and Amir.
In the four-Test series in England in 2010, Cook batted seven times and was out to the tourists’ new-ball combination on six occasions – the dismissals were shared evenly between the two quicks.
While England won the series 3-1, Cook had a torrid time at the top of the order.
Opening the batting with skipper Andrew Strauss, Cook compiled just 167 runs for the series, which included 110 in the second innings of the third Test at The Oval, where he was eventually dismissed by Wahab Riaz in England’s only defeat.
Since the end of that 2010 series, Cook has made 17 centuries at 49, and now enters a new phase of his career without the burden of captaincy and with Keaton Jennings as his opening partner.
The first Test against South Africa starts tonight at Lord’s.