England back Cook to save series and job

Frank Dalleres
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ENGLAND cricket chiefs have ignored the clamour to end Alastair Cook’s torturous reign as captain and backed him to engineer a dramatic change of fortune in the current Test series against India.

Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler’s call-up in place of Matt Prior, who bowed out of the series citing fitness concerns following Monday’s second Test defeat at Lord’s, and the omission of unused spinner Simon Kerrigan were the only changes for the third match announced by selectors yesterday.

Cook keeps his position as skipper for the contest at Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl on Sunday, despite losing seven and winning none of the last 10 Tests, and continues as opening batsman, even though he has gone 27 innings without a century.

England lost by 95 runs at Lord’s to fall 1-0 behind in the five-match series and hand India a first overseas Test victory for three years, a result that national selector James Whitaker acknowledged had been “very disappointing”.

He added: “One or two of our players had encouraging performances, however it is vital that the squad learns quickly and arrives in Southampton this week refreshed and ready to perform well in what will no doubt be another tough Test match.”

Former England captains Michael Vaughan, Sir Ian Botham, Alec Stewart and Michael Atherton have all called for Cook to step down or be dropped at least temporarily after two years leading the team.

Geoffrey Boycott, the ex-England batsman and now outspoken pundit, accused the Essex opener of being too stubborn to resign.

“He is obviously not going to move unless you get six wild stallions to pull him out,” he said. “It’s that stubbornness about him. He’s only interested in what he sees.”

England received a boost of sorts yesterday, however, when key bowler James Anderson was cleared to play in the third Test.

Anderson is under investigation following India claims that he pushed and verbally abused Ravindra Jadeja during the first Test, but the hearing has been set for 1 August, after the third Test.

The paceman faces a possible four-match ban, meaning he would miss the end of the series if found guilty.