As Alastair Cook exits international stage, England won’t know what they’ve lost until it’s gone

Alastair Cook brings to an end his illustrious
Updated 04 September 2018
0

As Alastair Cook exits international stage, England won’t know what they’ve lost until it’s gone

LONDON: As Alastair Cook gets ready to exit the international stage, one cannot help but be reminded of the old adage: “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”
This writer called for Cook to step down earlier this year after a disastrous Ashes campaign. And as soon as England’s leading Test run-scorer announced his retirement from the international scene on Monday, this writer got his wish. But it comes with a definite tinge of sadness.
Cook’s ability was not a natural one — he worked hard at his game. Anyone who knows cricket could see his was not an inherent technique, but one crafted by hours in the practice nets and sheer determination.
That hard work earned him the England captaincy, numerous famous wins and a position among the game’s pantheon of greats. With more than 12,000 Test runs, a host of records broken throughout his career and almost universal respect, Cook will leave the game as one of its legends.
But his retirement, while arguably coming six months too late, has arrived at a good time for Cook personally, as well as the England team. The Essex left-hander has been in bad form in recent months. While cruel to call him a “walking wicket,” he has not contributed enough to warrant his position as opener for a while. The England selectors, too, will no longer have to nod to his past achievements and will be able to fill his place with a handful of County Championship players currently far more deserving of an England call-up. By stepping down before he became a shadow of his former self, Cook has ensured that his considerable legacy will not only be remembered and appreciated on English shores from Chester-le-Street to his home ground of Colchester, but also by cricket fans from the Caribbean to Christchurch.
Worryingly for England, for all his recent faults, Cook represents one of the last examples of an ever-more-extinct breed — cricketers untainted by the T20 era, who understand the meaning of “digging in” and protecting a wicket, something the current crop of youngsters clearly do not. Although it will be a winning series, England’s recent matches against India have brutally highlighted how inadequate the batting order is at staying in and building decent scores.
In Cook, England had one of the last bastions of an orthodox technique, of mental resolve, of old-school batsmanship. With his departure, it remains to be seen if England will produce a player with the same fortitude and dedication to the craft of Test cricket batting, simply because there is not the talent of his kind coming through.
England’s upcoming fixtures against Sri Lanka and the West Indies should not challenge the frailty of their top order too much. But, looking beyond next year’s ODI World Cup and in the face of much tougher Test series against the likes of Australia and South Africa, one has to wonder how much England will miss a player of his caliber, stature and class.
In this writer’s humble opinion, it will be quite a lot.


Pakistan beat Afghanistan in last over finish

Bangladesh's Mahmudullah, right, bats during the one day international cricket match of Asia Cup between Bangladesh and Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (AP)
Updated 22 September 2018
0

Pakistan beat Afghanistan in last over finish

  • Hashmatullah Shahidi missed out on a maiden hundred by a mere three runs but still steered Afghanistan to a challenging 257-6

DUBAI: Experienced batsman Shoaib Malik hit a six and a boundary to pull off a sensational last over three wicket win for Pakistan against a spirited Afghanistan in the Asia Cup in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Malik pulled the second ball of the final over by paceman Aftab Alam over the deep square leg boundary and then whacked the next to deep fine leg for a boundary as Pakistan pulled off a nerve-wracking win in 49.3 overs at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Pakistan, cashing a stiff 258-run target, were home and dry to start the Super Four Stage with a much needed win and now face arch rivals India in Dubai on Sunday.
Hashmatullah Shahidi missed out on a maiden hundred by a mere three runs but still steered Afghanistan to a challenging 257-6.
Pakistan were off to a disastrous start when opener Fakhar Zaman was trapped leg-before off the sixth ball of the innings by spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman for nought.
Imam-ul-Haq scored a 104-ball 80 with five boundaries and a six while Babar Azam knocked an attractive 94-ball 66 with four boundaries and a six during their innings repairing the 154-run stand for the second wicket.
But both fell within the space of four runs as spinner Rashid Khan (3-46) brought Afghanistan back in the game with the asking rate getting stiffer, as Pakistan needed 42 off the final five overs.
Despite losing skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (eight), Asif Ali (seven) and Mohammad Nawaz (ten), Malik kept his cool to sop Afghanistan from posting their third straight win after beating Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the first round.
Earlier, Shahidi hit three consecutive boundaries in the final over off Usman Shinwari, but failed to get to three figures off the last delivery after Afghanistan won the toss and batted.
Shahidi finished with a brilliantly-paced 118-ball 97 not out, and added 94 for the fourth wicket with his skipper Asghar Afghan, who smashed five sixes and two fours in his 56-ball 67.
But it was Shahidi who held one end against Pakistan’s bowling in an innings which featured seven boundaries after left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz (3-57) had put the brakes on Afghanistan’s early progress.
Shahidi had added 63 for the third wicket with Rahmat Shah who scored a measured 36.
The total is an improvement by Afghanistan after scoring 249 and 255 in their previous two wins against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Pakistani fielders dropped four catches — three off debutant paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi who finished with 2-38.
India beat Bangladesh by seven wickets in Dubai and now meet Pakistan on Sunday, also in Dubai. Afghanistan and Bangladesh meet in Abu Dhabi on the same day.
Top two teams from the Super Four Stages will play the final in Dubai on September 28.