No more gloom for England, Cook

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iol spt aug18 Cook-drenched AP Drenched in champagne and surrounded by jubilant teammates, England captain Alastair Cook held his arms aloft and savoured the feeling of winning a Test series again. Photo by: Alastair Grant/AP

Drenched in champagne and surrounded by jubilant teammates, England captain Alastair Cook held his arms aloft and savoured the feeling of winning a Test series again.

It had been a while.

Following the humiliation of a 5-0 Ashes whitewash in Australia and the dejection of a last-gasp home series loss to Sri Lanka, England found itself 1-0 behind to India after two Tests of a five-match series against India.

And Cook, whose own form with the bat was wretched, faced calls to resign.

“I'm quite stubborn, I believe in my ability and I'm a resilient guy -that was when I needed it most,” Cook said.

Some straight talking from his wife also helped Cook get through his darkest days as captain.

“You can bear your soul to Alice,” Cook said, “and she's very good at getting you back on the straight and narrow.”

It clearly worked. Cook's form returned, senior teammates like Ian Bell, James Anderson and Stuart Broad also stepped up and England won three straight Test victories to beat the Indians 3-1.

After a stunning transformation, England can suddenly look forward to the visit of arch-rival Australia for the 2015 Ashes with renewed optimism.

“England, with so many players coming through, are a team to invest in,” former England captain Nasser Hussain said in his column in The Daily Mail. “They are on an upward curve.

“Australia, meanwhile, have got some older players who might be going in the other direction. Let us see.”

One of cricket's oldest adages is “catches win matches.” In Cook's case, one particular catch could have ended his time as captain.

In England's first innings in the crucial third test, Cook was dropped in the slips by Ravindra Jadeja when on 15. Cook went on to make 95 - one of the most important knocks of his career - and England and their captain never looked back. For most pundits, it was a turning point in the series.

England's joy will be tempered by the knowledge that the Indians put up weak opposition. Away Test series are never their forte but even by their standards, not scoring above 178 in their last five innings of the series is a poor effort.

There is also concern over some departments in England's lineup. There are still doubts about Sam Robson as Cook's opening partner, and worries about the dependence on Broad and Anderson and whether Moeen Ali can keep up his surprisingly good form as the team's part-time spinner.

But Cook will point to the resurgence of middle-order batsman Joe Root, who scored 518 runs an average of 103.50 this series, the seamless introduction to the team of wicketkeeper Jos Buttler and the blossoming of Chris Jordan as the third fast bowler.

The India series also showed that in typically English conditions, England's bowling attack can be unstoppable with their tails up. The Ashes series should at least be competitive now England has some confidence back. Something many neutrals likely feared would not be the case when Cook's men were at rock bottom a month ago.

“I'm glad I stuck through the tough times,” Cook said.

Before the Ashes, however, England will put the whites away and slip into one-day mode for the next eight months in preparation for the 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand early next year. – Sapa-AP

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