Monday, November 16, 2009

Cook enjoys captaincy debut

Alastair Cook was a proud man after leading England for the first time despite losing the match to South Africa.

The Essex opener, thrust into the role after regular Twenty20 skipper Paul Collingwood was ruled out this morning due to a stiff back, saw his side taken apart by 84 runs at Centurion.

It came after a world-record 170-run opening partnership between Graeme Smith (88) and Loots Bosman (94) helped the Proteas reach 241 for six - the second-highest 20-over total ever.

The response was a painful one for England and they were always behind the game before eventually finishing with 157 for eight, thanks largely to a half-century from Jonathan Trott.

Despite the loss that helped the Proteas square the series at 1-1, Cook was pleased with the honour.
"I don't think it comes much tougher than that, so credit to how Smith and Bosman played at the top of the order," he said.
"Everything we tried didn't really work and they punished us.
"It's tough, I was trying to keep the emotions as calm as you can. You try everything to keep calm, but it was hard.

"Everyone was busting their gut to try and bowl to the plan, but as I said the margins were quite small today and our skills were probably not good enough to deal with it.

Asked when he found out he would be captain, he added: "This morning. Obviously we knew last night it was touch and go with Colly. Unfortunately he didn't make it.
"Whatever happened today, I actually enjoyed it. I'll go to bed very disappointed with the result, but I tried my best and I captained my country today for the first time."

Apart from Trott's 51, there was also another major positive for England following the return of Kevin Pietersen, who took the place of Collingwood.
It was the first bit of action for England's star player since the second Ashes Test in July, after which he underwent surgery to his troublesome right Achilles.
Pietersen was only scheduled to return in a warm-up game on Tuesday, but due to the shortage of batsmen in the squad and regular captain Andrew Strauss' decision to no longer play the shortest form of the game, it meant a quick return for the Hampshire batsman.

Cook said there was no doubt that he was fit to return, adding: "He's made some great progress over the last few days, in the last week after coming over here.
"Ideally he probably would have had another match and more match practice. Since the Ashes Test match he hasn't batted, but with Colly going out he had to come in.
"He's 100% fully fit. The only thing was the match practice - he would have liked a knock in the middle before, but it wasn't to be.

"He's been itching to get back since that second Test match. Obviously he's had a real tough problem with his Achilles, which he has thankfully got over.
"He was desperate himself. Straussy, he said himself he doesn't want to be part of the Twenty20 plans, so there was no question of him coming back in."

South Africa coach Mickey Arthur was pleased with the win, especially after the one-run Duckworth/Lewis loss in the first game on Friday.

He said: "We were obviously very frustrated the other night. You never know what could have happened, we could have lost a couple of wickets down the line but we backed ourselves to actually get over the line.

"We were really keen to make amends today and it's really satisfying."
Arthur also felt his side would gain more out of the two matches despite the series ending level at 1-1.

He added: "I think the emphatic way in which we won, I guess we come out of the weekend I think far better than England have. That's if it does count for anything down the line because we go into a different format (50-over one-day internationals).
"But we probably do take a little more from it. I think we're probably a little more settled and a little more unpredictable."

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