It’s been a fantastic summer of Test cricket but, like all good Test series’ it has had it’s challenges as I realised last week.
Naturally, hours before last week’s column hit the press, Alastair Cook announced his retirement from Test cricket after I had spent a lot of time pushing the case for Keaton Jennings to be bombed out and Rory Burns being called up as Cook’s (final) long-term partner.
That’s cricket for you.
England’s greatest ever (if you count the volume of runs) opening batsman said he had “nothing left in the tank” and, frankly, who can blame him considering some of the players he has been made to walk to the crease with in recent years.
So, rather than have to make friends with yet another likely failure, Cook has decided to call it a day at the end of the 5th Test against India.
Cook has scored an extraordinary amount of runs, in the twelve years since he made a ton on debut in India. In fact, and I am probably making this stat up, he has probably scored more runs than all of the other opening partners he has had combined.
And now, there will be no more excessive leaving of the ball outside off. There will be no more carefully placed shots to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Looking at the potential replacements, I think we can all agree there won’t be another Alastair Cook for a very long time.
Cook got his best scores of the series in 5th Test at the Kia Oval, notching up 71. Before he finished it all oFf in fairytale fashion with his 147 in the second. This summer has been a story of poor starts by England saved by decent batting in the mid-to-lower-order. Consequently until Jos Buttler put in another very mature shift in the first innings, it was all about Cook’s 71 as England toiled. But Buttler, surprisingly supported by Stuart Broad of all people, managed to move England north of 300 and set India a decent score to try and get past.
The 5th Test, at the time of writing, has only been worth watching in the evenings – which is standard at the Oval if you buy into the old adage of “Red Duke in the morning, bowler’s warning. Red Duke at night, bowler’s delight”. On each of the four days so far, the morning and afternoon sessions have been slow going. As soon as the tea bell has been rung, the bowlers have been chucking down bananas. England led by 45 at the turnaround and, most of the time, they go on to win from there.
That said, India’s bowlers must have been played and missed at more times than Keaton Jennings has scored runs in this Test series. Time and time again the ball beat the bat of the left-handers without a nick in site. India have certainly done as much as they can in many ways this summer, but they must wonder how they have failed to score more runs than this utterly inconsistent England unit.
I find myself coming back round to the subject of the opening bats as this series is done and dusted and England will probably have won this 5th Test by the time you read it. Can we not just chuck it to Jason Roy and Alex Hales? I mean, at least they can attack a bit if they get their eye in.
I’ve not seen enough of Rory Burns to have any kind of opinion – though, primarily due to his inability to stay in long enough I have also seen very little of Keaton Jennings – but I would still like to see England see if they can bring more of their ODI game to the Test arena. And, to any person who says to me that it is a different discipline I refer you to Jos Buttler – he is England’s best ODI bat and, right now, he is England’s most consistent Test bat so don’t stand there telling me the ODI boys can’t play Test cricket. Matches are the shortest they have ever been yet the runs are heavier than they have ever been – surely we can take that to the next level?
Alastair Cook retiring is the end of an era – is it time to define the next era of opening the batting in Test cricket?