2-1 up. India utterly broken; plenty of runs at Southampton… “Role on Australia!”. Etc.
Let’s start this off by stating that England will probably win this Test. India don’t win Tests away from home very often, let alone get series’ results – and make no mistake, a drawn series here would be a huge result for a young Indian side.
However the big picture still doesn’t add up for Cook. By my reckoning this is the most likely Test for a captaincy change since the loss to Sri Lanka, and it feels almost as likely for it as the final Test of the drubbing Down Under did. If India manage to summon the spirit they showed just two Tests ago, and England again fold under pressure, I think it *will* be Cook’s last.
The sacking might not come immediately. In fact at this stage I would imagine it probably wouldn’t – the ECB have invested a fair amount in Cook, and a 2-2 draw is poor – but not necessarily that poor.
However what then comes next would be next to insurmountable for any England captain, let alone a man of Cook’s abilities. Even Cook’s best form still isn’t really suited to one day cricket. Even if he scores lots of runs in the World Cup, he’ll score them at a rate too slowly to be match-winning; and possibly at a rate which is match-losing. His captaincy won’t defy expectations in the field; his off-the-cuff intuition for the game is one of his weakest points. He doesn’t react naturally to things which deviate from the set plan, and the bowling attack at his disposal is going to be pretty poor – Anderson and Broad can only bowl 40% of the overs in ODI cricket.
If England have a nightmare World Cup – and I cannot remember the last time they had anything else, Cook will surely be removed from his post for the 50 over format with immediate effect. If they’re considering his role in ODIs, they will surely also cast a long glance at his record in Tests – which could theoretically look like this:
- No Test centuries for 33 innings
- Three Test series without victory, including hosting two ‘weak’ subcontinental sides
- Complete disintegration of Strauss’s successful side
This is why the Oval could be Cook’s final act as Test captain. So it is now over to you, India. All you have to do is turn up.
English Test Century Makers since May 2013
- Sam Robson
- Gary Ballance
- Joe Root
- Ian Bell
- Jos Buttler
- Moeen Ali
- Ben Stokes
- Kevin Pietersen