Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Too good for the Aussies but Cook's technique is still not convincing

With over 5000 runs at an average of 47.50 and a triumphant Ashes Tour behind him, Alistair Cook has little to prove in the Test series against Sri Lanka starting tomorrow. Or does he?

A closer examination of his stats reveal an increasing gap between his performances in England and abroad. Whilst he averages 54 from 31 matches overseas, it drops to a still reasonable but hardly startling 41 from 34 home games.

Even without knowing these statistics, or even having witnessed Cook's performances, this is not a real surprise if you look at his technique. A predominantly back foot player, strong square of the wicket, he is likely to do well on the faster, harder pitches of Australia and South Africa. And even though the lower bouncing pitches of the sub-continent force him forward there is little lateral movement to worry about.

By contrast in England, his often leaden and stiff legged footwork has been shown up against the moving ball. When out of form he becomes at once an lbw candidate to the one swinging back in and, in particular, vulnerable to late movement in the other direction. In fact, as is often the case, his attempts to compensate for one problem seemed to exacerbate the other. Last summer, on admittedly not the best pitches, he struggled terribly.

It is clearly only a small problem - his first innings at Brisbane against a moving ball was an awful scratchy affair but, aided by some relatively placid pitches, we know what happened after that. But I am not yet convinced that the problem has been solved definitively.

No one can expect him to score 700 runs every series but the Ashes have raised expectations on England's new one day captain. No one doubts his temperament but if the ball moves around at Cardiff, Sydney may suddenly seem a long time ago.


Whilst I am dissecting batting techniques, a little word on Jonathan Trott. Although he is much sounder than Alistair Cook, the strategy of the Australians in bowling to him, particularly early on, played into his hands. Believing that they could trap him leg before as he moved across the crease they instead fed his strength and built his confidence. The lesson was actually there in the First Test at Brisbane.

For such a restrained, disciplined player Trott shares one trait with Kevin Pietersen, the desire to feel bat on ball at the beginning of his innings. And Trott is not content with the tip and run single, no he likes to feel bat solidly on ball, even if it is a little wide. In the First Test he was very nearly caught in the gully from a wide, full delivery. Several further times during the series he drove early on in the same manner, albeit more successfully.

The Australians missed a trick there. My advice to Tillikeratne Dilshan: post a couple of gullies and get your bowlers to throw it up and out there. My advice to Trott: leave it alone, one on your pads will come along soon enough.

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