Cricket: Captain marvel

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Nasser Hussain applauded the mental strength of Alastair Cook after the England captain delivered a riposte to his critics with a determined 95 on Sunday.
Heading into the third Test with India at the Ageas Bowl, skipper Cook was coming under mounting pressure due to his performances with the bat and England’s 10-Test run without a win.
However, after winning the toss and opting to bat Cook set about compiling a morale-boosting total – albeit with the help of a drop from Ravindra Jadeja when on 15.
Although the opener failed to end his now 28-innings wait for a Test ton, Hussain says Cook will take great confidence from his knock, which drew a standing ovation from the crowd after finally being dismissed by Jadeja.
“It shows great mental strength,” said the Sky Cricket expert.
“The pressure he has been under for quite a long time, both with his own game and with England losing, is absolutely immense, so it was great mental strength to produce that innings.
“It helped him today that he didn’t have any of the burdens of captaincy – field settings, last-wicket partnerships – all he had to do today was toss the coin, say ‘we’ll bat’ and go out there.
“He’s still a work in progress and it’s whether he can carry this on but England and England fans want him to go back to being the run machine that he once was – and he was nearly there today.
“He will be England’s leading run getter. He was always going to get runs. But can he go back to being the player he was, with captaincy weighing heavily on his shoulders?”
Support Cook, who passed David Gower’s total of 8,231 to become England’s third-highest run-scorer of all time during his innings, acknowledged the support he received from the crowd in his post-match interview.
Hussain reckons the crowd’s reaction will mean a lot to the Essex man, but believes Cook was most likely his biggest critic during his lean spell.
“Cook’s been upset because he’s been having to go back to that dressing room and ask other people to do things he’s not done,” said Hussain. “He’s been upset because he’s not made the sort of contribution he knows he can make.
“It’s your own personal expectations that get you down in the end. Today will help him because he knows that the English public are still fully behind him and want him to do well. It will give him confidence in the field and he’ll feel a million dollars tonight.”
Hussain also had plenty of praise for Gary Ballance, who racked up 104 not out, his third ton in just six Tests.
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The Yorkshire ace began his innings cautiously but the 15 fours in his total so far demonstrate his ability to speed up his scoring – a trait admired by Hussain.
“It’s remarkable how quickly he’s taken to Test match cricket,” said the former England captain.
“Ballance had that one game in Sydney when no one could work out if he was a Test match player or not – it wasn’t an easy situation to come in, 4-0 down – but since he’s come back to England he’s played phenomenally well.
“He has his own method, which is to sit back and cut but I like the way he goes through the gears. When you see him in his first hour you think he’s a bit of a plodder, looking to occupy the crease, then he goes through a little spurt where he goes boundary, boundary, boundary and he’ll catch up very quickly.
“He’s learnt the tempo of Test match batting very quickly.”

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