Given the timing of this column, it probably ought to eulogise a maiden Test century from the assured looking Nick Compton. From all accounts a gritty, composed knock which helped England bat through the vast majority of Day Four with the loss of just a solitary wicket, it was just what was needed to settle Compton’s international nerves after a succession of promising ‘starts’ with no notable ‘continuations’ in India.
However the wrong’un is no immediate match reporter at the best of times, let alone when the action is occurring through an English Friday night when pubs are open and beds are comfortable. News also tends to occur quicker than one types, so I’ll leave that for another day.
Instead it was worth noting that Alastair Cook notched up yet another remarkable statistic by completing his 24th Test century: He has now scored a ton against all eight of the Test playing nations and also scored a ton in each country bar Pakistan, which is a little tougher to do since no-one tours there anyway.
The surprise is that it took until his 7th match against New Zealand to complete the set; New Zealand have traditionally loitered among the weaker of the Test playing nations and Cook scores his tons at a rate of better than one in every four games. His ton, a typically patient 116 from 252 balls, joins his 5 centuries against India, 4 apiece against the West Indies and Australia, 3 against Pakistan and Sri Lanka and twins against South Africa and Bangladesh.
Why’s it taken so long to notch against New Zealand? It could be to do with the types of bowlers faced and in what conditions. Whilst Cook’s knack of playing late shows he was obviously schooled in England, his footwork tends to begin slowly and he has always had an early weakness against movement off the pitch from off stump (unlike every other batsman in world cricket, obviously). The types of bowlers who have tended to exploit this weakness are the taller, probing bowlers who hit the seam – think Glenn McGrath and Umar Gul, or more recently Vernon Philander. New Zealand certainly haven’t had bowlers of the consistent quality of those three but they do have a number of opening bowlers who are useful in hitting that awkward line and length – Chris Martin and Kyle Mills spring to mind, each scalping him thrice.
It also doesn’t help that Cook hasn’t played New Zealand for almost 5 years – in which period Cook has evolved into the most brutally unforgiving opener in world cricket. To insert another statistic into the mix: Since August 2010 when a horribly off-colour Cook eeked out a grotty ton against Pakistan, he has twelve centuries and three scores above ninety in just thirty matches. It is difficult to imagine Cook not notching a second century against New Zealand over the next few Tests.