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    England need Cook to quickly rediscover his best


    All the hullaballoo in the lead up to the second Test at the Adelaide Oval won't have affected Alastair Cook. He's about as unflappable a character as you could find in any walk of life and he's heard it all before too, the talk of sledging and hostile, short-pitched bowling that dominated the captain's pre-match press conferences on Friday (December 1). Talk is cheap, runs and wickets are what matter. And England need Cook's runs more than ever.

    It has been a quiet start to the tour for the 32-year-old. He looked horribly out of form during the warm-up matches, scoring just one half-century in four innings against attacks which wouldn't have tested most county teams, and failed twice in the first Test, too. The manner of Cook's second innings dismissal at the Gabba - caught at fine-leg, hooking Josh Hazlewood - led some to suggest that the opener's motivation for the fight was waning.

    Cook has, after all, been at the coal face for 148 Test matches now and opening the batting in Test cricket is the most taxing role of all. Every innings, Cook has to repel opposition bowlers at their freshest, a new ball in their hand, plenty of catchers ready to pounce on any little slip up. It takes as much mental fortitude as it does skill to thrive as a Test match opener.

    Cook has done pretty well, though: 11,638 Test runs, ninth in the all-time list and with plenty of scope to move higher. And all the while, he has been battling his own technique.

    That looks to be the case now too. Cook, simply, looks out of form. His dismissal in the first innings in Brisbane was perhaps more illuminating than the second. Mitchell Starc bowled a decent ball to him, just outside off-stump, shaping away. In form, Cook would have defended it neatly down the pitch or left it. Instead, he pushed at it with his hands, his feet not moving anywhere, and nicked it. It was ungainly.

    It is also an area of weakness for Cook which has troubled him throughout his career. You can tell when Cook is playing well because he will leave well and drive anything overpitched between cover and mid-off fluently. When he's not, his weight doesn't get over his front knee and he plays at balls he shouldn't. The Australians have generally been better than most at exploiting that weakness. Against them, he averages 37.96 from 31 matches with four hundreds.

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