Cook to Come in from the Cold?

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120, 32, 98 & 70*. That’s what opening batsman Stephen Cook scored for South Africa A in their competitive series against India’s second string recently. I closely analysed Cook’s performance in Australia in a series of previous articles…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/12/28/cook-in-command-no-not-that-one/

and despite registering a century in that series, ‘The Proteas’ selectors soon lost patience and initially replaced him with Theunis De Bruyn in New Zealand before bringing in Heino Kuhn against England. Kuhn was selected on the back of an undefeated double hundred in a tour game but made only 113 fifty-less runs at a paltry average of 14.12 in the series. As we’ve seen from the efforts of West Indies batsmen, big runs against second string county sides don’t always translate into international runs.

Prior to the England Test series, Cook had been playing in England for Durham and had been steady in the County Championship without quite being outstanding but surely that experience and acclimatisation would have served him well. It was an odd decision to replace him with non-opener De Bruyn in the first place, only to then move onto another elder statesman in Kuhn. Kuhn (33) and Cook (34) are about the same age. Having invested in Cook it may have made more sense to have persevered with him. All this chopping and changing will sound familiar to England followers. Judging by his response in the A series Cook is, as we already know, a determined fighter. Back to De Bruyn, South Africa don’t really seem to know what he is (opener, middle-order bat, all-rounder?) and mucked him around during the Test series in England.

South Africa host Bangladesh next this September. They may see this as an opportunity to blood a young gun, the likes of Aiden Markram who was back-up in the summer and has struck a couple of 70s in the India A series. They may also decide that it’s worth sticking with Kuhn and good luck to him if they do. Having said that, if Cook is in the A squad then he must be in with a serious shout of a recall. He’s a gritty non-showy type of player, my type of player. I’ve always had a thing for stoic opening batsmen and would love to see Cook win a return to the international fold. He’d surely back his chances of closing in on 1000 Test runs at home against Bangladesh.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/southafrica/content/player/44656.html

Four Day Test Matches

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Four days, four innings, one innings of 100 overs per day, as simple as that… or is it?

You know about my plans to restructure world cricket…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/a-complete-restructure-of-international-cricket/

Well maybe to aid this, chopping a day off Test matches wouldn’t be a bad idea.

In the third Test between Australia and South Africa in Adelaide last November, centuries were scored in the first three innings of the match. Usman Khawaja used up 308 deliveries and 465 minutes in his first innings before the perceived to be rather attritional Stephen Cook, scored at a strike rate of 43.33 in compiling 104. Following that, debutant Matthew Renshaw faced 137 deliveries in making 34 not out to get Australia home… on the fourth day!

In conclusion, results can still be achieved and there would still be room for ‘old-fashioned go-slow’ players.

Say for example that in the first innings of a Test between England and Zimbabwe that England are 300 all out in 75 overs. Spectators who have paid their money deserve near enough a full day’s play, so Zimbabwe could acquire England’s lost 25 overs and therefore have 125 overs in their first innings, 25 of which would begin on day one. The exception to this could be that if a team only acquires 10 overs or less, they could have the option not to take them because of the risk of losing wickets late in the day and start with the standard 100 overs, not for example, 110 overs, the following morning. If England made 355-8 in 100 overs then so be it, wickets not lost would not be carried forward in any way. Innings could still commence at any point during the course of the day as we enter the third and fourth innings but the slate is clean at the halfway point. For example: England 300 all out in 75 overs, Zimbabwe 280 all out in 66, England would start their innings the 42nd over on day two but would not acquire Zimbabwe’s lost overs or if they did they would only acquire 34 not 59… or maybe they could acquire all 59, these are all possibilities to be considered.

Rain. Bloody rain! Why can’t things be simple?

Would it be only fair that both sides lose an over for every five minutes lost?

There’s definitely room for thought but as a starting point for trimming Test matches to four not five days, I don’t think that my idea’s that wide of the crease.

International Duck Watch!

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You big him up and what does he go and do?

South Africa’s opening bat Stephen Cook failed to brew.

All he could do…

… was head back to the dressing room and stew.

Cook lasted all of four deliveries against Sri Lanka in Cape Town, with the ever reliable IDW attention hogger Suranga Lakmal the bowler responsible.

Join us next time an international batsman is dismissed without scoring for more International Duck Watch.

Brooming Marvellous!

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A couple of weeks ago we advised followers of Neil Broom’s return to New Zealand national colours (See previous post: Room for Broom)

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/room-for-broom/

… and whilst I may have previously gloated a little about my confidence in South Africa’s Stephen Cook, you may have detected a little scepticism about my thoughts on Neil Broom’s ability to succeed at international level. However, credit the man, as having made a Silly Pointesque 22 in the first ODI on Boxing Day, today Broom struck 109 not out from 107 deliveries (8 fours, 3 sixes) to set-up New Zealand’s series clinching victory against Bangladesh in the second match of the series in Nelson.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/new-zealand-v-bangladesh-2016-17/engine/match/1019975.html

In the space of just two innings Broom’s batting average has soared from just 17.52 to a far more respectable 23.20 and his strike rate has also risen from 70.10 to 75.57.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/new-zealand-v-bangladesh-2016-17/content/player/36581.html

Of course his performances in this series don’t guarantee that he’ll go on to have a far more fulfilling international career than had seemed the case only a few weeks ago but whatever happens in Neil Broom’s life he’ll have a ODI century to his name and in the grand scheme of things not many people have one of those, so let’s celebrate that for a moment and not just sweep it under the carpet!

Cook in Command (No not that one!)

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Remember that time South Africa’s opening batsman Stephen Cook and his technique were getting torn to shreds by the Australian commentary box but he went on to score a hundred?

If you’ve forgotten then please have a perusal of the ‘just a few’ posts that kept you updated at the time below…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/27/anatomy-of-trying-to-save-a-test-career-3/

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/26/anatomy-of-trying-to-save-a-test-career-revisited/

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/anatomy-of-trying-to-save-a-test-career/

… then have a look at this scorecard…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/south-africa-v-sri-lanka-2016-17/engine/match/936147.html

… that’s centuries in back to back Tests and against 33.33recurring% (Eng, Aus and SL) of the opposition Test nations then. I’m not bragging (Really I’m not!) but I’ve got an eye for talent!

Anatomy of Trying to Save a Test Career: Re-Revisited

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Name: Stephen Craig Cook: Mins: 368 Balls: 240 Runs: 104

Stephen Cook scored a hundred on Test debut and now he’s scored one in what many would have suggested could well have been his last Test innings. In-between Cook hasn’t completely disgraced himself (One fifty against NZ) but neither has he set the world alight. His two centuries suggest that he is a player, a man that can dig deepest come the big occasion. His 104 in Adelaide may not have been the most aesthetic and some may argue that he put pressure on his teammates by scoring so slowly but that simply isn’t true. The third Test finished with more than a day to spare, if the likes of Jean-Paul Duminy and Temba Bavuma got out playing rash shots because they felt that their team were getting bogged down then that is their fault, not Cook’s. For now at least Test cricket still lasts five days and whilst many spectators wouldn’t pay to watch Cook but would rather see De Villiers and the like batting in a more aggressive (Attractive?) manner if all players were the same that wouldn’t be very interesting.

There is still a place in Test cricket for players like Stephen Cook.

International Duck Watch!

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Well if we thought that Australia’s Nic Maddinson had arrived on the Test scene in style then we hadn’t seen anything. Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan went golden in his maiden Test innings against New Zealand as his side slipped to 76-5 in pursuit of New Zealand’s first innings total of 271 in Hamilton. Neil Wagner (2-15) the bowler responsible.

Meanwhile down under South Africa’s opening batsman Dean Elgar fell for a duck which ties in nicely to our piece on fellow opener Stephen Cook…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/26/anatomy-of-trying-to-save-a-test-career-revisited/

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/anatomy-of-trying-to-save-a-test-career/

… and nightwatchman (Or not as it turned out!) Kyle Abbott also joined the illustrious International Duck Club today.

Anatomy of Trying to Save a Test Career: Revisited

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Remember how Silly Point wrote an article about England’s spin bowling options and then Cricinfo wrote a similar article a couple of weeks later…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/a-familiar-spin/

… and remember when Silly Point wrote an article about Shai Hope potentially being the West Indies new star and then he scored a hundred just few days after…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/19/hundred-for-hope/

… and remember how earlier this week Silly Point wrote an article about South Africa’s Stephen Cook trying to save his Test career…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/anatomy-of-trying-to-save-a-test-career/

… well check out the scorecard below…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia-v-south-africa-2016-17/engine/match/1000855.html

… we’ll touch base again tomorrow in the final trilogy of Anatomy of Trying to Save a Test Career, which rather ironically might end Dean Elgar’s!

Anatomy of Trying to Save a Test Career

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South Africa’s Stephen Cook had to wait a long time to play international cricket. Despite scoring run upon run at domestic level year after year the selectors had ignored him. Finally at the age of 33 the right-handed opening batsman made his debut against England earlier this annum. Representing South Africa A he had carried his bat for an unbeaten 53 in a warm-up match against the tourists before eventually getting the call-up to the full side following failures by the likes of Stiaan van Zyl.

He made 115 on his first Test outing and added 25 in the second innings. At home to New Zealand Cook recorded scores of 20, 56 and 4. He has struggled to get going down under registering contributions of 0,12 and 23 in the first two Tests. All this added up to Cook needing to deliver in the third and final Test, a pink ball day/night affair against Australia in Adelaide. Though South Africa have already won the series there is still much to lose… or gain for Cook. Remember that star batsman AB de Villiers is absent through injury and will almost certainly be immediately reinstated to the side. The other aspect that Cook is up against (Other than Australia’s bowlers!) is South Africa’s selection quota. Current regulations state that they must have six ‘black’ players in the XI. Stand-in captain Faf du Plessis certainly isn’t getting dropped and Cook’s fellow opener Dean Elgar probably has enough in the bank too. Basically Cook needed to go big in the third Test.

Did he?

I’ll admit that when I got up early doors to watch the Test I had hoped to watch a fellow Yorkshireman, Middleborough born debutant Matthew Renshaw opening the batting for Australia but it was the tourists that won the toss and chose to bat. Having got off the mark with a streaky boundary Cook was soon the very definition of plumb LBW to Mitchell Starc. He shook his head as Dean Elgar hinted at a review and marched towards the pavilion. But hold on!

Is it a no ball?

The big screen replays suggest that it might be. Cook is stopped from crossing the boundary rope. Had he done so he would not have been allowed to return. He looks up at the screen but he’s not sure, he looks rather bewildered and the episode goes on for what seems like an eternity. Part of you thinks that he doesn’t particularly want to go back. Almost with a sigh of resignation he returns to face Starc again. You sense that this is Cook’s moment. That dismissal could have been his Test career dead and buried but for an epic second innings century. He would have been stuck in the field for a day or two mulling over all that he’s worked towards slipping away from him when he’s barely had a sip. Now he has the chance to go on and make a score, plunder thousands of Test runs from this moment forth and look back on that no-ball as the moment that changed his entire life.

Before long Dean Elgar is out. Hashim Amla and Jean-Paul Duminy both follow soon after, all freakishly for five runs. This seems to be shaping up as a Stephen Cook type innings, it is everything that he is designed for, him to just stay there as wickets tumble at the other end. The commentators, nearly all past Australian players are tearing his technique to shreds but hold on, he’s the one that’s still there and runs are starting to flow. Cook is having a torrid time against Starc. He is averaging 46 against right-arm bowlers in Test cricket but just ten against left-armers, i.e. Starc & co. Josh Hazlewood is bowling really well too but Jackson Bird’s opening spell is a pressure reliever and when Nathan Lyon, wicketless for about a fortnight comes on, skipper du Plessis and Cook step to off and work singles on the leg-side. At lunch Cook has made it to 40 and soon after he and du Plessis register a fifty partnership but Cook just can’t get going again and following some not so subtle field changes he’s expecting a short one. He doesn’t get it and edges Starc to Steven Smith at second slip. Cook punches his bat in frustration.

In all probability he needed at least another ten runs to save his Test career, fine margins. One senses that at 33 once he’s gone he’s gone. Barring an Australian batting debacle he’ll have one more innings in this match but will need to get toward triple figures to ensure that it isn’t his last in Test cricket.

Hopefully he can cook Bird, starve Lyon, send Starc around the park and …err… get Hazlewood… err… stuck in the mud!