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Cook done, Australia cooked

14 September 2018 4:53 AM
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Alastair Cook caught the Tube to his last few days as a Test cricketer. On the Central Line, he was not recognised, on the Northern Line only dimly. Make of that what you will about the status of Test cricket, remembering that Cook's entire career was behind a pay wall in England. It is the note that Australia should take, but won't.

At The Oval, there was warm and lavish recognition. Cook choked down two last times on the opener's eternal fear of making a new-ball fool of himself to play inspired innings of 71 and 147. "The trick is to play the next ball as if the last one never happened," he said to Mark Nicholas one morning. This he did more than 25,000 times in Test cricket.

Australia first met Cook when as an uncapped 20-year-old, he made 214 for Essex against the touring Ashes team. Six months later, he made 60 and 104 not out on Test debut, against India. Never fluent nor flash, Cook simply had a faculty for making runs. For all the science applied now, it's still an indefinable but essential quality. Some make more runs than they look like they should make, some less.

It's what Australian coach Justin Langer meant this week when he said it wasn't just runs that mattered when it came to selection, but centuries. As it turned out, his calculus was wrong, but his principle was sound enough. Langer's own career was a study in it.

If there was a stat for least offence given or taken, Cook would also lead that. "A great competitor," tweeted his Mitch Johnson, his severest antagonist, "and probably the nicest guy I've played against." Compare that with teammate Moeen Ali's reflection on the Australians in The Times this week: "The only team I've played against my whole life I've actually disliked. Not because it's Australia and they are the old enemy, but because of the way they carry on and their disrespect of people and players."


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