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Farewell to the Chef

• Posted in Cricket • By JoeBaker

There are truly momentous moments in sport where fans look back and think ‘wow, I was there.’

It is the rarity of these occurrences that makes them so special. Which is why the rest of England’s cricket fanbase were looking on in such envy at those gawping spectators at The Oval in the final match between England and India, as they were spoilt with not one but two history-making moments that will be scrawled firmly into the annals of the English game.

Firstly, Jimmy Anderson became the leading Test match fast bowler of all time, surpassing none other than Australian Glen McGrath by reaching 564 wickets. That he reached this landmark by scattering an opponent’s stumps to win the game for his country was beyond fitting. However, this was still somehow surpassed by a man who has been a constant in this English side for over 12 years – opening batsman Alistair Cook. In the last of his 161 caps, England’s leading run-scorer in Test matches struck a century in his final ever innings. You really couldn’t script it.

His country’s most capped player, Cook hit a total of 12,472 Test runs, including a record 33 centuries. Here we list the most memorable batting performances from a player whose greatness and consistency at the crease is unlikely to ever be replicated by another Englishman.

104no v India, Nagpur, 2006

It seems a lifetime ago, but at one-point Cook was an international rookie looking to prove he was good enough to make the grade. His moment arrived against India, when he made his debut in place of an ill Marcus Trescothick. A first-ever innings of 60 would be deemed a success by most batting mortals but not for Cook as he went one further during his second stint at the crease, memorably hitting a century that could have been more if not for the declaration that was made. The factors Cook had to overcome said everything about the characteristics that would enable him to become a great – intense heat, alien batting conditions and high-quality spin bowling. Oh, and don’t forget about the jetlag after having to fly over last minute from an England A tour of the Caribbean.

110 v Pakistan, The Oval, 2010

The Essex man quickly became a linchpin and focal point of the side with some match-winning, and saving, performances. Nonetheless despite such efforts, including 12 centuries, and the fact he was still only 26, Cook was under pressure for this Test. The scrutiny only increased when he got out for 6 in the first innings. This meant an average of only 13 for the series and a high score of 29 – the axes were being sharpened and it felt a last-chance saloon for Cook ahead of the Ashes that winter. It should not be a surprise that he responded to this adversity and pressure with a magnificent century. Although England lost the match he stuck to his tried and tested method and ground out a hundred when all those around him were falling, arguably saving his England career.

235no v Australia, Brisbane, 2010

Has there ever been a more impressive England series performance away from home than the famous 2010/11 Ashes triumph against Australia on their own patch? It was well known how much England had suffered at the famed Gabba ground in Brisbane and it was going the same way after the first innings left Andrew Strauss’s men 221 runs behind. Step forward Cook, hitting an epic 235 runs before Strauss, who Cook had shared 188 runs with, declared with his side on 517. To face down a dangerous Australian pace bowling attack in conditions they thrived in and bat for the 625 minutes he did was remarkable – with even the Aussies on the field applauding when he reached his double century. This innings was crucial in England saving a match they looked certain to lose and was a platform for the series win. And Cook’s impact on the rest of the tour? Two more centuries in Adelaide and Sydney and a total of 766 runs for the series.

190 v India, Kolkata, 2012

Cook had a habit of hitting his milestones with style. During this tour of India, he was again integral to another celebrated series win overseas and surpassed the likes of Geoffrey Boycott with what was his 23rd Test century and 3rd of a spectacular tour. Not only did he become England’s leading centurion but at just under 28 years of age became the youngest ever Test player to hit 7,000 runs. And the person he beat? The very greatest of them all, Sachin Tendulkar. Cook’s attitude and unquenchable thirst for runs was revealed in his devastation at falling so close to a double-century, unbelievably getting run out for failing to ground his bat. Nonetheless he had yet again given England the foundations for victory.

 

244no v Australia, Melbourne, 2017

There were few highlights for England during such an unforgettable Ashes in Australia, as they were thrashed 4-0. With the series already over a whitewash was on the cards but for Cook. A dull drawn game was lit up by this staggering innings of 244no off 409 deliveries. It was the highest score by a visiting player at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, his 11th score of 150 or more – the most by an England batsman – and the highest score while carrying the bat in Test cricket. It was Cook at his obdurate and classy best, against a flying Australia team with his back against the wall, with even the man himself fearing his England career was close to being over after his struggles in the first 3 matches. It did end up being his last Ashes, but he went out on his own terms – during the final Test in Sydney becoming the youngest player to score 12,000 Test runs.

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