Southampton, Jul 31: England skipper Alastair Cook today praised the efforts of his team’s senior members for their contribution in the 266-run victory over India in the third Test here. The seniors received a lot of a flak after England lost the second Test at Lord’s on a green top, but they came back strongly in the third game with Cook scoring two fifties, Ian Bell getting a century and James Anderson taking his 16th five-wicket haul in Test cricket, to help the hosts level the five-match series 1-1 in an emphatic fashion.
“The guys who were questioned really delivered. It’s great to see Ian Bell score a big hundred. When you set the game up like we did, you get ahead of the game and can dictate it. The weight on me is lifted,” said Cook at the post-match press conference. “Certainly if I’d scored nought and five, and we’d lost the game, it would have been a whole lot different. As I said at Lord’s, I felt I’d turned the corner there and under that sort of pressure, the first innings’ fifty meant a lot,” he added.
Cook said his team was determined to turn the tables. “We were relentless in this game. We never let India off the hook, we kept them under pressure and it takes a lot of skill and determination to do that. We did not let up. “We have been playing to our potential for some time. This summer we’ve played good cricket for one or two sessions out of three every day. But here, when we were bowling, we’ve managed to keep that pressure for the whole session. And with the bat we got greedy – that set up the game,” said Cook.
“We had as good a game as we could have had. Now everyone knows what it is like, the challenge is to repeat it at Old Trafford and try and win the series,” he insisted. The captain was also all praise for the youngsters in the side, particularly Gary Ballance, as England achieved their first Test win in 11 matches. “For the guys who experienced a Test win for the first time, it was amazing. Ballance ran to collect the stump and I had forgotten they did not know what it was like to win a Test. The important thing is we back it up and take it on to Old Trafford,” said Cook.
“Ballance is doing well at number three, Joe Root at number 5. I am going to mention Chris Woakes as well…to bowl at the pace and have that control was fantastic. To have guys like Ben Stokes and Liam Plunkett who have done well, we have a 13-man squad,” said Cook. Of course one man was reserved for special mention, and that was Moeen Ali for his figures of six for 67, which helped England crush India in the second innings. This performance came after he received a smack from the ICC for wearing wristbands that had political undertones.
“Given Moeen’s level of improvement as a bowler, I haven’t seen it from a bowler in such a short space of time. He didn’t bowl that much at Worcestershire behind Saeed Ajmal. To adjust from county cricket to a holding role in international cricket he has done well. And then to get on a wicket like that he’s proved he is an attacking option as well — that’s great. The challenge now is to be as consistent as we can be,” said Cook.
Asked about the wristband controversy, the English skipper said, “I don’t think he was affected as he took 6-for and still had the same smile. I didn’t notice any difference. Only at the end of the day, I knew he was wearing them but I didn’t realise the impact it was having.” The series is now well poised at 1-1 with two Tests remaining. The fourth Test is scheduled to begin in Manchester on August 7.
“It’s been a better week — we’ve won a game and I’ve scored runs. The criticism was that we were losing games and I wasn’t scoring runs. So people won’t say that today and we’ll enjoy this feeling. It’s been 353 days since we won a Test and that’s a long time. We’ll enjoy that, go to Old Trafford and if we maintain this standard we’ll do well,” Cook signed off.