Cow Corner

Tasty appetiser for Cook’s captaincy

Cow Corner

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Before
Alastair Cook's appointment as England one-day international captain is fully
embraced, there are two trivial - piffling, really - question marks over him
which need to be resolved.

Namely,
those are his ability to be a one-day batsman, and his ability to be a one-day
captain.

The concern
about Cook's elevation has somewhat dissipated with every towering Test ton he
has notched in the last few months, but the feeling remain sthat his promotion is
undeserved.

At best,
most fans are prepared to give Cook a chance to make the role his - and to that
end, all eyes were on The Oval for the first look at Chef in leadership action
since a unbeaten tour of the less-than-mighty Bangladesh last spring.

As far as
the batting was concerned, it took only three balls to witness the beginning,
middle and end of Cook's innings.

Lasith
Malinga sent down three deliveries to the man whose strike rate in ODIs is a
credible (and slow-paced belying) 71 per 100 balls.

We didn't
learn much. Cook middled the first two balls as if he were still dressed in
white, timing the second away with class. A faint tickle down the leg side to
the third, and what we learned - or rather, were reminded of - is that Kumar
Sangakkara, who took a sharp catch, is a fine wicketkeeper.

So far, so
inauspicious - although at least the strike rate, a whopping 166.6, was good.

But just
about everything that could have gone Cook's way thereafter did.

The effects
of his captaincy began to tell in the rain break. He revealed after the match
that the correct decision had been taken to attack the rest of the innings as
if it was a T20 match.

The players
responded to the decision (always a good sign when your players do as they're
told) and the decision to take the batting powerplay immediately after the
bowling play - with more than a third of the innings still remaining - had a
hint of innovation rarely seen in England one-day international strategy.

A decent
total on the board gave Cook a chance to be bold on the field, but in truth the
Sri Lankans, who had already decided to treat this match as a testimonial the
moment they let veteran Sanath Jayasuriya play, dished out some 'good luck in
your new job' gifts to the 26-year-old.

Tillakaratne
Dilshan fell on his sword with a lazy flick to fine leg, Jayasuriya followed
unsurprisingly soon after, and thereafter there's only so much captaincy
expertise which goes into giving an in-form James Anderson the new ball.

For all
that, though, there were still moments which pointed to a bright future in the
role for the Essex choirboy turned run-machine.

With the
wickets tumbling, it would have been easy to stick with Graeme Swann when Sri
Lanka somewhat unexpectedly called for the batting powerplay at 67 for seven.

Cook
changed the plan, brought on Tim Bresnan and Jade Dernbach, and saw his call
pay dividends with the wicket of the last recognised batsman, Thilan Kandamby,
seven balls into the powerplay.

He did his
job in the field too, holding a smart low catch as Anderson outfoxed Nuwan
Kulasekara.

Perhaps
Cook could have attacked a little more - perhaps the second slip could have
been deployed as England cut through Sri Lanka like a knife through butter -
perhaps Cook could have thrown Dernbach into the fray with the tourists at 15
for four to give him a chance to settle the nerves on his debut.

In the end,
it mattered little.

It will
take time for a more-rounded picture for Cook the limited-overs batsman and Cook
the leader of men to emerge - but with a thumping of the side who, lest it be
forgotten, thumped
England in their last one-dayer, the World Cup quarter-final in Colombo
- to
his name, it's a bright enough start.

+++++

PLAY OF THE DAY: Shots be damned - the champagne moment in
today's play was Anderson's catch to hand Dernbach his first wicket. Anderson
was as brilliant in the field as he was with the ball in hand.

STAT OF THE DAY: Stuart Broad's barren spell continues. He was
the only bowler of the five England used to go wicketless, and with alternative
options such as Steve Finn and Chris Tremlett not getting a game, his place
surely cannot continue being an automatic one, T20 captaincy or otherwise.

SNAP OF THE DAY: Farewell, Sanath Jayasuriya. Although the final
appearance should never have happened, it hardly takes the gloss off a
magnificent career in which he rewrote the textbook on how to play one-day cricket.

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