Next time Ill try and hit three sixes, said Alastair Cook,glowering back at the journalist who posed him a rather sarcastic question. Are you aware,the scribe had said,that the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff witnessed some history when you smoked two sixes in the same one-dayer for the first time in a seven year long career.
The England captain,however,was in no mood for jokes. Especially not for some wit on a touchy subject such as his and his countrys one-day record. The smile drained from his face as he rifled back his answer.
Cook had scored 64 that day against New Zealand in Englands final group game. With this most unorthodox of knocks (he even dug out a scoop; I knew youd enjoy that, he told another journalist) Cook had joined his teams top order party just in time for the knock out stages of the Champions Trophy.
That party was whistled off by Cooks fellow opener,Ian Bell,with 91 solid runs against Australia in the campaign opener at Edgbaston. Then,in the second match,against Sri Lanka at the Oval,England number three Jonathan Trott scored 76,only to follow up Cooks Cardiff effort with an unbeaten 82 against the South Africans in the London semi-final. Each of Cook,Bell and Trott then took turns to sneer back at us sneerers,laughing aloud at all those who still believe that England cannot play the 50-over game.
Despite having been one of the accidental participants of the first ever one-day international,England have no major trophy in the format to prove their pedigree in the game. The other team from that maiden one-dayer,on the other hand,have four World Cups and two Champions Trophys to boast of,defining the gorge between great and mediocre in this game. The current England one-day set up,however,seem hell bent on bridging that divide. And with the current top order shining through in this tournament,coupled with the emergence of Joe Root,English cricket is witnessing something of a renaissance period in the 50-over game.
In this calendar year,the top four ODI run-getters from around the world are Bell (632 runs),Root (583),Trott (563) and Cook (558). And in this Champions Trophy,the England top three of Cook,Bell and Trott have scored a cumulative total of 509 runs,second only to their counterparts in the side they meet in Sundays final,India. Shikhar Dhawan,Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have piled on a total of 633 runs.
On paper and going purely by talent,there isnt much to separate Dhawan-Rohit-Kohli from Cook-Bell-Trott. Dress them in whites and stretch the game to five days,the scales tip heavily in the England triumvirates favour. But slap on the blue and red uniforms and the margin of the tilt towards India is less than what one would have come to expect. And this levelling of the scales began when England came visiting for a five match one-day series earlier this year.
Loss and profit
Yes,England lost that series 3-2,but it was here,in this bilateral,that the seeds to a better future were sown. In the first game at Rajkot,Englands win and a 300-plus score were set up by the newish opening pair of Cook and Bell (they were slotted together at the top only in 2012),who scored 75 and 85 respectively and added 158 runs for the first wicket. And in the fourth match in Mohali,when the series was still alive,Cook cracked another 76 to give England the best chance to square the series. When they couldnt,Bell wrapped up the final game with a big one,an unbeaten 113,his first one-day century away from home.
The name missing from that series and the above passage is Jonathan Trott,who was rested along with James Anderson for a gruelling few months ahead. When picked for the New Zealand series,he promptly scored 68 and 65* in Hamilton and Napier respectively. And when the Kiwis came visiting for a three match series,it took Martin Guptills 189* to cast a shadow over an otherwise spectacular innings,Trotts 109*.
Despite this resurgence,Englands top three have continued to cop some serious flak for their presumed slow scoring rate. Trott,especially,had found himself on the wrong end of a few jokes (Heres one: Why is Hotel California like Trotts batting crease? Because he can check out any time he likes,but he can never leave. Heres another. Why was the pizza boy late? Because he was on the Trott) in the British tabloids. But in this tournament,or this year for that matter,these allegations couldnt be farther from the truth.
In 2013,Trott has not just been averaging 80.42 in one-dayers,but he has been scoring at a strike rate of 86.61,nearly 10 runs per 100 balls quicker than his career strike rate of 77. And in this event,that strike rate goes up to nearly 90. This,followed by the ground-clearers in Root,Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara,and preceded by a running Bell and a Cook who hits multiple sixes is what really makes Englands batting a force to reckon with.
Looking to seize the chance: Trott
Birmingham: Jonathan Trott hopes Englands Champions Trophy final against India at Edgbaston on Sunday can lay the platform for the remainder of a successful season. England have been trying for nearly 40 years and 16 previous tournaments to break their duck and success on Sunday could act as a springboard for their defence of the Ashes starting next month.
You always have a little cheeky sneak at the fixtures,and where the final is going to be played,and I was very excited about getting here and its happened, Trott said at Edgbaston. Its been a fantastic tournament (for England),with regards to coming back from a loss against Sri Lanka.
He added: I hope we are peaking. Theres obviously still a lot of cricket left this summer,and I hope it will be a great one for England.
Victory over India would be an ideal start and Trott added: To walk out at Edgbaston will be extra-special. The guys are looking to seize the opportunity. They dont come around very often. afp