Cook eyes improvements for second win on spin in India
23:39 04 December 2012
Alastair Cook believes England will have to raise their game again at Eden Gardens to stay in with a chance of an historic Test series win in India.
Confidence and self-belief are naturally bolstered after a famous second-Test victory in Mumbai, but the captain warns there is no room for satisfaction at what England have so far achieved.
They will begin the third match of four with the score level at 1-1, and many beginning to sense Cook’s team could become the first from England to win a series in India since 1984-85.
But to beat their hosts by 10 wickets at the Wankhede Stadium, they needed four outstanding individual performances - from Cook himself and Kevin Pietersen with the bat, and spinners Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann.
They, or others, will all need to excel once more if England are to head for the final Test in Nagpur with series victory still on the agenda.
“It’s given us a lot of confidence, certainly,” Cook said of last week’s success.
“It’s given us some belief that what we’re doing is the right stuff, but that doesn’t mean it’ll count to anything when it comes to this game.”
England have been bombarded with confusing chatter and newsprint about the likely pitch conditions here, where it seems another used surface may offer up a challenge more akin to the one they fluffed in the first Test in Ahmedabad than the one passed in Mumbai.
It will doubtless pose a tough test of Steven Finn’s credentials, in the likely event that - after recovering from his thigh injury - he replaces the off-colour Stuart Broad as one of just two front-line seamers.
Finn demonstrated his fitness for the Performance Programme last week - a manoeuvre which might have contributed to the need for an England and Wales Cricket Board apology to their counterparts at the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
It transpired the correct administrative procedure, in obtaining full agreement for the shadow squad tour, was not followed to the letter.
Relations do not, however, appear to have been significantly damaged between the two boards - leaving the tourists to concentrate, as they must, without distraction on their match preparation.
“All the training we’re doing, all the practising we’re doing against spin, is the right stuff,” Cook said.
“We hope, this week, we can continue that improvement. We’re going to need to if we’re going to win.
“We’re going to have to have some other outstanding performances, like we did in Mumbai. I don’t think you can ever be satisfied.”
While the captain himself has made successive hundreds, and he and Pietersen are level on 22 as England’s most prolific all-time centurions, runs have been in short supply on this tour from the remainder of the top six.
“We’ve had some good runs and we’ve had some people who have struggled to score some runs, but the beauty of a good side is that you can dovetail,” he said.
“I hope the guys who haven’t had the luck you need at the start of an innings can have it this week and put in a match-winning performance.
“If we’re going to win another game, we’ll need those outstanding performances. We had four of them in the last game and we managed to win.
“We didn’t do that in Ahmedabad.”
Among those who have been unproductive is Jonathan Trott, with two ducks in his three innings here. But Cook retains faith in England’s number three.
“I think he averages 50 in Test cricket,” the skipper said.
“I think he’s scored 700 runs this year alone, and yet everyone is talking about him not having a great year.
“He’s not having the year he’d probably like to have, but you can’t write off people with the quality like that.”
As well as his previously prolific record, Trott is renowned for a near addiction to batting - in the nets, as well as in the middle.
“I’ve seen him practise; I’ve seen how determined he is,” Cook added. “You have to stay tough, and you have to stay true to the way you play.
“The runs will come. We know that quality players do score runs, and he is a quality player.”
With the ball, Broad’s struggles have been conspicuous.
It will be a shock if he does not make way for Finn, but Cook has no doubt his vice-captain will be back to his best soon.
“They’ve been tough wickets for seamers,” he said. “I think the majority of wickets have fallen to the spinners, and he’s been slightly unlucky in that he hasn’t been fully fit with some illnesses.
“It’s been a tough couple of games, but I’m very glad he’s English.
“I’m glad he’s in this squad. He’s a fantastic player and he’s put in fantastic performances this year and over his career.”
Finn is nonetheless set to take his place in a line-up which will probably show two changes to a winning team, with Ian Bell available again in the middle order after missing the second Test because of the birth of his first child.