Belfast Telegraph

The Ashes: Classy Cook proves that England can still pack a punch

It is easier to escape from Alcatraz than Fortress Gabba with dreams of the Ashes still intact.

England have spent almost a quarter of century being mistreated in the place, so badly bruised and tormented that recovery was quite beyond them.

And all concerned, deep in their souls, knew it. Their visas were for three months, which was at least two longer than strictly necessary.

Not this time. England did not win the First Test against Australia yesterday, but the draw they crafted with such profound resilience was a statement of intent. The way in which they batted in their second innings, declaring on an unprecedented 517 for one, said that they were fed up of being tortured in Brisbane.

England were still in a position of such peril on the third evening that finishing them off might have been as tough as putting a fist through a wet paper bag.

They responded by breaking a litany of records. The efforts of the captain Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook on the fourth day were followed on the fifth by more extraordinary batting from Cook and Jonathan Trott. They shared an unbroken second wicket partnership of 329, England's highest for any wicket in Australia.

Cook scored 235no, the highest score by any batsman at the Gabba. Although two English batsmen, Tip Foster and Wally Hammond, have made more runs, none has spent longer than Cook's ten hours and 25 minutes at the crease.

Andrew Strauss, his captain, was not of a mind to minimise the achievement. “I'm not great on cricketing history, but you would be hard pressed to think of a better innings in Australia,” he said.

“It must have been a long time ago that anybody batted as well as Cookie did. The situation in which he came in and the concentration he showed to see it through for a long period of time made it a very special innings.”

Much of the past year has been a struggle for Cook, yet he bettered Don Bradman's innings of 226, which had stood as the highest at the Gabba since the first Test at the ground in 1931.

“The night before I was probably the most nervous I have ever been,” said Cook. “The drive into the ground, the hype, the national anthems make it a nerve wracking time. It gave me a lot of confidence to get through the first two hours.

“I was very disappointed to get out in that first innings. When you get to 67 it's the time to cash in and I was ultra-determined to make it count in the second.”

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