Friday 22 September 2017

Cricket: Cook feels the strain as England wilt under pressure

Derek Pringle

Beginning play with their teams close to parity, the second day at Adelaide proved a contrasting one for rival captains Michael Clarke and Alastair Cook, with England's leader scoring 145 runs fewer than his opposite number, who had the added satisfaction of declaring Australia's first innings at 570-9.

Poor Cook. After being praised widely for his captaincy on the opening day, he and his team had something of a stinker on Day 2.

It might have been worse too in the final over of the day's play bowled by Mitchell Johnson, when Michael Carberry should have been out twice – run out by Chris Rogers when Joe Root called him through for a risky run and lbw to the last ball of the day which Hawk-Eye had hitting but Australia did not review.

Exceeding 90mph with most of his balls, Johnson bowled fast and furious, but without the bounce of the Gabba pitch, his range of dismissals was altered, with lbw and bowled more prevalent than in Brisbane, where the gloves and bat edge were the main target.

Cook fell to Johnson's 10th ball. Beaten for pace and by a failure of judgment that comes from marshalling a wilting side for 158 overs in the field, he had his off stump knocked back.

Trying to face bowling that quick after you have been straining your brain for solutions over five sessions in the field is arguably the most difficult challenge in cricket and one Cook was forced to flunk by a 92mph length ball.

If that was an understandable failure, Cook and his team will have plenty of regrets when considering what might have been.

With four catches dropped and four other wicket-taking opportunities not taken (two run-outs and a brace of miscued shots that should have seen better attempts made), England's captain saw his team squander a decent position, a decline partly of their own making and partly due to the swaggering intent shown by Clarke and Brad Haddin as the pair added 200 for the sixth wicket.

The pair pummelled England's five-man bowling attack into near submission, both men scoring hundreds before Ryan Harris weighed in with a hard-hit fifty.

Clarke's captaincy has veered from the inspired to the wacky in the past but there was no doubting his intent to lead from the front here.

Skewing his first scoring shot of the morning, off Monty Panesar, just over Ben Stokes' head to bring up his fifty, his desire to take risks to speed his team along was obvious.

He enjoys a strong symbiosis with the Adelaide Oval, its sluggish low-bouncing pitch suiting his style of batting based on timing and playing the ball late. This was his sixth hundred at the ground, equalling the total scored here by Ricky Ponting. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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