Ashes flame no longer burning as brightly for Alastair Cook

England's Alastair Cook leaves the ground after being dismissed for another low score. (AP)
Updated 17 December 2017
0

Ashes flame no longer burning as brightly for Alastair Cook

LONDON: Before this Ashes series started, Nathan Lyon made bold predictions about the current crop of Australians “ending the careers” of some English players and getting England captain Joe Root dropped. As the Baggy Greens close in on a series-clinching victory in the third Test, it appears the off-spinner’s pre-match fighting talk was more than prophetic. The soul-searching will undoubtedly have already begun within the England camp as they face the prospect of a third 5-0 whitewash in Australia in a little over a decade.
But contrary to Lyon’s suggestion, the player who should be looking hardest in the mirror is Alastair Cook. The England opener is on his first Ashes tour since relinquishing the burden and pressures of captaincy to Root, which should have given him the freedom to do what he does best: batting at length and piling on the runs. There is no doubting the former captain’s ability; he is the only English batsman to accrue more than 11,000 Test runs and his 766 runs in the 2010/11 Ashes at an average of 127 was instrumental in England winning the urn Down Under for the first time in a generation.
Instead, this time around Cook has managed just 83 runs in six innings. His latest showing at the WACA, in his 150th Test appearance for his country, was a paltry seven and a shaky 14. He has spent just shy of five hours at the crease to amass his 83 runs at an average of 13.83. Compare that with the 426 runs in just four innings of Australia’s Steve Smith and you have some idea of the shambolic series Cook has had on pitches perfect for batsmen.
There are visible technical frailties on show against this Australian attack too, but the truth is Cook’s form has been on the slide for some time now. Aside from his 243-run knock at Edgbaston in August against a weak West Indies side, he has scored just one century and three half-centuries in 27 innings.
This is not the form of a player who should be leading England’s batting attack in the pressure-cooker intensity of an Ashes series. Or any series for that matter. Root himself has had a poor time of it, but as captain will be forgiven his shortcomings. Cook no longer has that excuse to fall back on and he now looks a shadow of the run-machine he once was. Each time he steps up to the crease it is increasingly obvious the Australian team have his number.
By carrying on beyond this tour, Cook runs the risk of tarnishing his legacy. The idea of him going on too long for England is becoming more and more of a nightmarish reality. In an ideal world, Cook would have quit on his terms while he was ahead, on a high-note and as a legend of the game. Unfortunately, his end looks like arriving with a whimper at the hands of his greatest cricketing foes.


LIVE: Saudi Arabia vs Egypt — El-Hadary set to make history

Updated 3 min 51 sec ago
0

LIVE: Saudi Arabia vs Egypt — El-Hadary set to make history

4.15PM: This must be some sort of record because there is 45 minutes to go until kick-off and we have not spoken about Mohamed Salah yet. The news El-Hadary will start and enter the record books has taken the spotlight away from the "Egyptian King". We reckon that both for him and the rest of the squad that will come as a huge relief. Cominginto this match there were reports Salah was ready to quit international football, such was the circus that his playing/non-playing created — the latest episode of which saw both player and team management deny that rumor.

4PM: EL-HADARY SET TO MAKE HISTORY —  So the last matches of Group A have arrived and while hosts Russia will be battling it out with Uruguay to see who goes though as group winners, the Green Falcons and Egypt have little but pride to play for in Volgograd.

The big team news that has come out so far is that Hector Cuper has had a heart and will start Egypt goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary. That means El-Hadary will become the oldest player ever to appear at a World Cup. Aged 45 years, five months and 12 days he will smash the record currently held by Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, who was aged 43 years and three days when he played against Japan in Brazil in 2014.

This may be a dead rubber, however, both sides will be keen to get a win. Saudi Arabia are looking for their first World Cup victory since 1994, while the Pharaohs are searching for their first win in the tournament ever.

Kick-off is at 5PM.