Captain Cook desperate to banish woes

 
Ross McLean
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England captain Alastair Cook is without a Test century in 33 innings, dating back to May 2013
ENGLAND skipper Alastair Cook insists he is “desperate” to stoke his side’s bid for batting dominance despite his barren spell overshadowing preparations for the second Test against the West Indies, which starts in Grenada today.

Cook mustered scores of just 11 and 13 in the attritional and drawn series opener at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua last week, stretching his run without a Test century to 33 innings, in 21 of which he has failed to surpass 25.

Head coach Peter Moores believes Cook found some rhythm in the first game, although the burdening statistic remains that the 30-year-old has failed to notch a Test ton since May 2013, against New Zealand at Headingley.

But the under-fire opener remains the country’s leading century maker with 25 and is only 454 runs shy of becoming England’s highest Test run-scorer of all time, and Cook is adamant his batting remains on an upward curve.

“I’m desperate to set the tone well at the top of the order. It’s always important, every time you play for England,” said Cook, who has three scores of 70 or more in his last four Test matches.

“I’d like to think my game has improved over time, I definitely believe it has, it’s just different.

“You’re always constantly trying to tinker with technique. You might fall into certain habits at times throughout your career, that is the batters’ charter in one sense, you’re always tinkering a little bit.

“But the most important thing is that when you’re out in the middle you’re not concentrating too much on technique, you’re concentrating on what is important: the ball coming down to you in the situation and conditions you’re in.”

All-rounder Moeen Ali is set for a recall after being added to the squad on Saturday having recovered from the abdominal injury he suffered during England’s humiliating World Cup defeat to Bangladesh last month.

Moeen is expected to replace James Tredwell despite him claiming five wickets in the first Test, although the off-spinner also hurt his arm in the field during the dying embers of the Antigua clash, while Cook remains open to playing two slow bowlers.

“That is a thought,” added Cook, who aims to lead England to their first five-day victory in the Caribbean for 11 years. “We’re going to have a look at the wicket and try and pick the best side. But it’s great to have Mo back. He was a big part of our success in the summer, with his wickets, and it certainly adds competition for selection.”

COOK REPORT

■ Since scoring his last Test century against New Zealand at Headingley in May 2013, Cook averages below 29
■ His current Test batting average of 45.65 is lower than at any time since the start of the 2010/11 Ashes series
■ Cook has notched 8,447 runs in 196 Test innings, trailing only Graham Gooch and Alec Stewart in the all-time list of England run-scorers
■ The 30-year-old is England’s leading century maker with 25