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.


Mickey Arthur calls on Pakistan to prove India defeat was one-off

Updated 17 min 17 sec ago
0

Mickey Arthur calls on Pakistan to prove India defeat was one-off

  • Pakistan coach wants improved performance when side next face big rivals India on Sunday in the UAE.
  • Asia Cup now down to Super Four stage.

LONDON: Mickey Arthur is confident Pakistan can bounce back from their big defeat against India in Dubai on Wednesday.
Arthur’s side lost by eight wickets to their arch-rivals in the final clash of the group stage at the Asia Cup, taking place in the UAE.
It came less than 24 hours after India struggled to beat Hong Kong, but Rohit Sharma’s side hit the disappointment of that performance for six to easily beat Pakistan.
Despite the defeat Arthur is sure his side can turn things around in the Super Four stage and go all the way and win the tournament.
“Whenever we go head-to-head with India, I am comfortable that we’ve got a dressing room of players who can stand up to it,” the Pakistan coach said.
“I am comfortable we’ve got a dressing room of players who, on any given day, can win. So I still think it’s a 50-50. Lucky this game was inconsequential in the tournament.”
Pace spearhead Bhuvneshwar Kumar (three for 15) and part time off-spinner Kedar Jadhav (three for 23) sent Pakistan, who won the toss and batted, collapsing to just 162 all out in 43.1 overs at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Skipper Sharma then struck three sixes and six boundaries in his 39-ball 52 while fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan hit a six and six fours in his 54-ball 46 as India romped home in just 29 overs.
Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik both finished on 31 not out as India exacted some revenge for their humbling 180-run defeat against their arch-rivals in the final of the Champions Trophy in London last year — the most recent match between the teams until Wednesday.

Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur was not a happy man after watching his Pakistan side soundly beaten by India in Dubai. 


Both Pakistan and India had already qualified for the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup and will meet again in Dubai on Sunday. When they do Arthur will doubtless be looking for a response and for his side to stick to the set plans.
“On a wicket like that you need to strike really if you’re going to defend it. We didn’t strike early enough,” Arthur said.
“We went away from our plans too quickly. We said that our batters batted outside our roles and that wasn’t acceptable. With our bowling, we went outside our plans far too quickly. We wanted to bowl hard lengths, hit the top of off stump.
“It was tough to score then. We did that in the first six, and then (Usman Khan) Shinwari decided to come around the wicket and bowl a bouncer with fine leg up. And from there it just tumbled.
“We’re going to sit down and talk about that. It’s not good enough. We went outside our plans.
“That’s not acceptable. I think there was a bit of panic when they didn’t strike early.”
Also of concern to the Pakistan coach is the form of Mohammad Amir. The side’s main bowler has looked out of form recently and has struggled for wickets since last year’s Champions Trophy win.
“I’d be lying if I sat here and said there wasn’t (any concern about Amir),” Arthur said.
“I had a really good, long hard chat with him last night and I thought he came out and bowled really well. He hit the crease really hard. He ran in well. He’s been decelerating to the crease, but he didn’t do that today.
“He seemed more fluent, there was a little bit more pace there. And I was comfortable (with what he did), he bowled well. 
There is pressure on him, of course there is.”
There was much hype surrounding the clash, as there always is with any India vs. Pakistan match, but once Pakistan’s unpredictable batting crumbled, Wednesday’s showdown turned into a damp squib for a near-capacity crowd in the UAE. They will all hope that Sunday’s rerun will dish up more drama and entertainment.