By Aman Huda
On September 10th 2018, the second to last day of the English cricketing summer, Alastair Cook walked out to bat for the final time of his England career. He walked out with his bat and his batting partner, Captain Joe Root, and looked to close a book of 12,000+ test runs at just the age of 33. Despite the young age, in a press conference before the fifth test against India, Cook said he had ‘nothing left in the tank’. However, this retirement wasn’t a surprise in entirety. In his last 17 innings prior to this match, Cook averaged just 17.53 runs, only one of those 17 innings being a half-century.
One thing we all would’ve missed from that press conference is that Cook might be a psychic. If he had ‘nothing left in the tank’, you wouldn’t expect him to be able to do much in the next match, but he must’ve known he had something left and used it all in the fifth test versus India. In the first innings, Cook scored a relieving 71(190), the first half-century of the series by an opening batsman. Just when we thought Cook had given us all we could’ve ever wanted from him, he gave us more. Much more. In the second innings, Cook put up a massive 147(286), only to be dismissed caught behind by debutant Hanuma Vihari.
From there, the entire Oval Cricket Ground in Surrey, London applauded for minutes on end, knowing that it was the last time they could do such. Along with his half-century and half-century in his final test, from just a 21-year old boy, Alastair Cook has provided many moments of joy, pride, and happiness, five of which I would like to share.
Alastair Cook’s Debut Against India
On March 1st 2006, Alastair Cook became the second (far there is no third) player to score a half-century and century on debut. Opening with Andrew Strauss, Cook held off nicely against the Indian attack, surviving 160 deliveries and scoring an impressive 60 runs off it. When it felt like Cook was a promising prospect for English cricket, he forever set his foot in the England team in the very next innings when he scored his maiden ton from 243 deliveries. From there, centuries just became simply stepping stones for the name of Cook.
Cook’s Record 294 (Also Against India)
After bowling India out for just 224 in 64 overs, Cook and Strauss took the crease, five years after Cook’s debut against the very same team in Nagpur. This time in Birmingham, Cook dominated the defense, batting for almost 13 hours, 545 deliveries, 294 runs, and 33 fours. After three days on the field, Cook’s record innings took England to 710-7d after 188 overs. It took until that very last ball to dismiss Cook when he played it straight to backward point and Suresh Raina took the catch off of Ishant Sharma’s bowling. After receiving a long applause from all 25,000 people at the Edgbaston in Birmingham that day, England went on to bowl India for 244 and winning the match by an innings and 242 runs.
Double-Century Under Lights vs the West Indies
Once again in Birmingham, in England’s first ever day-night test match with the pink colored ball instead of red, Cook made the West Indian bowling attack look like school children with his 243(407). Batting past the first day into the second, Cook seemed to drive every kind of delivery that came his way, before becoming out lbw to a rather easy ball from Roston Chase. However, Cook’s fourth double-hundred was enough for England that England didn’t need to bat a second time, defeating the West Indies by an innings and 209 runs in that match. Just like his innings against India, Cook scored 33 boundaries, but in much quicker time, batting for 588 minutes. Alastair Cook was given Man of the Match yet again for an outstanding performance, and after this, he had just one more double-century to come.
Cook Rescues England Against Australia in the 2017 Ashes Series
Unfortunately, by this point in time, England had already lost the series to a dominating Australian home side, but Alastair Cook, who failed massively in the series so far (averaging just 15.5 in six innings prior to) stepped up and silenced the Australians by producing 244* in the fourth Ashes test. I have to say myself, this was the innings of Alastair Cook which I enjoyed the most, having to stay up till three AM every night to watch him play in Melbourne from Atlanta, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Every drive he played looked like a refreshed, yet original Alastair Cook we’d all enjoyed in the past Unfortunately, a result of a draw is not what England nor Cook deserved from this test.
Finishing it off With the Pride of a Lion: Cook’s 147 vs India in his Final Test
It was impossible to hold back the tears in my eyes (even as I was watching the match during class trying not to get caught by the teacher) when Cook came to the crease knowing that after a few days, I’ll never get to see him stride to the crease again, play his beautiful straight drives or on-side flicks, or wear the Three Lions shirt ever again. Despite fearing we’ve all seen the best of Cook, he saved his best innings for last, putting 147 runs on the board to his name for the last time. With each drive he made, the city of London seemed to cry in joy and it seemed England fans had reached heaven.
Upon making his century, along with English fans, all fans of Cook and his work hugged each other in joy, being thankful we hadn’t seen the last of Cook yet. Upon reaching 150, Cook somehow edged a straight delivery from debutant Hanuma Vihari to the keeper and Cook could only depart with a smile. Every Indian player on the field rushed to shake his hand and all of England stood to see their hero depart. Alastair Cook, after scoring 12,000 test runs, thirty-three test centuries, and five double-centuries could finally sit back, close his eyes, and smile with nothing but pride.