An illustrious international career which has spanned more than 12 overs years is about to come to an end with Alastair Cook set to bid goodbye to England colours following the completion of the final Test against India.
England’s all-time record run-scorer has endured criticism for his patchy form over the past two years but there is no doubt that he will go down as one of the greatest openers to have played the game.
Over his 12-year international career spanning 160 Tests, Cook has played with some equally illustrious team-mates.
Here, we look at the best England Test XI the 33-year-old has played with during his international career.
Cook’s partnership with Strauss at the top is something England have struggled to replicate ever since the latter’s retirement in 2012. The opening pair became only the fourth in history to complete 100 innings together in Test cricket during England’s away series against Pakistan in 2012.
Of course Cook features in the list himself given his contributions to English cricket. With 32 tons and over 12,000 runs to his name after 160 Tests, there aren’t many openers in the history of the game who have stayed at the top for so long as Cook.
With 118 Tests under his belt, Ian Bell was for long a stalwart in the Cook-led England side. The technically sound batsman was the hero of England’s Ashes victory over Australia in 2013 registering centuries in each of his side’s three wins. He also played a big role in England’s first overseas Test victory over India since 1984-85.
Cook’s successor as England captain could be the man who overhauls his run tally by the time he hangs up his boots. The England Test skipper recently breached the 6,000-run mark in Test cricket, taking 127 innings to get there compared to the 131 taken by Cook himself. He is Cook’s successor in more ways than one and is set to be the bedrock of England’s batting for some time to come.
Controversial though he might be, there is no doubt that Kevin Pietersen is one of the best middle-order batsmen to put on the England whites. He registered 23 Test tons over the course of his career but perhaps none was as important as his first-ever Ashes ton at the Oval in 2005 which sealed the return of the urn to England after a gap of 17 years.
The man for the big occasion, they don’t quite make them like Freddie anymore. The England all-rounder’s numbers with both bat and ball are nothing out of the ordinary but he had that rare ability to lift the spirits of the entire team. His most lasting contribution to English cricket came in the 2005 Ashes series win.
With a Test batting average of over 40 after 79 matches, Prior was another vital cog in England’s rise to the top of the Test rankings. A no nonsense batsman, Prior was England’s chirpy cheerleader from behind the stumps. His solid contributions with both bat and gloves saw him awarded England’s cricketer of the year award in 2013.
It is hard to believe that a man who made his Test debut at the age of 28 would go down as one of England’s greatest spinners but that is exactly what Swann achieved. He retired five years later but by then he had picked up 255 wickets in just 60 Tests. During that prolific five-year spell, the off-spinner was the highest wicket-taker among all active bowlers in Test cricket.
The veteran will probably feature in any England Test XI or World XI for that matter. With 559 Test wickets to his name, Anderson is currently on the verge of overtaking Glenn McGrath as the all-time leading wicket-taker among pacers. For long, he was Cook’s trusted lieutenant with the new ball and it is testament to Anderson’s longevity that he has been able to outlast his former skipper in the Test arena.
If Anderson has been one half of the pace attack which has accompanied Cook and England’s rise to the top, Broad is the other. The 32-year-old has gone past 400 Test wickets already and his new-ball partnership with Anderson remains one of the most prolific in the history of the game.
The Ashington-born pacer blew hot and cold but when on song, he was one of the most difficult bowlers to face up given the pace and bounce he generated. His most important contribution in England colours came in the 2005 Ashes series at Edgbaston where his wicket to dismiss Michael Kasprowicz sealed a thrilling two-run win to level the series.
His inconsistencies aside, Harmison’s 226 scalps in 63 Tests is enough to warrant his selection as the designated third seamer in the playing XI.
The 33-year-old will call time on his Test career after the final match of the current series against India, which starts at The Oval on Friday.
Here Press Association Sport looks at some of the left-hander’s options once his 12-year England career comes to an end.
Cook’s increased availability last summer was a key component in Essex claiming a first County Championship title for 25 years in 2017. The opener made seven appearances for the Chelmsford outfit, hitting 667 runs at an average of 66.7 and notching up three centuries to set Chris Silverwood’s side on their way to success. Cook’s Essex appearances have been few and far between over the last decade due to England commitments, and he may relish the prospect of a full season on the county circuit.
NON-PLAYING CRICKET ROLES
Cook worked closely with former Essex and England opener Graham Gooch early in his career, and could follow his mentor into coaching. Cook’s former opening partner Andrew Strauss is now the England and Wales Cricket Board’s director of cricket, and could presumably find a more administrative role in his set-up for Cook should he decide against a future as a coach.
Cook once appeared on BBC One‘s Countryfile to discuss his love of farming, and he regularly works on a farm near Leighton Buzzard to escape the pressures of cricket, saying in 2016: “I think farming does help my cricket in the way that I’m not lying on my sofa thinking ‘what’s my technique doing here?'”
Cook has always appeared at ease in front of the cameras, even during some of his more difficult moments at England captain, and could follow other former skippers Mike Atherton, David Gower, Sir Ian Botham, Nasser Hussein and Michael Vaughan in choosing to move into broadcasting.
Cook sang in the St Paul’s Cathederal boarding school choir as a child and even performed in front of the Queen. He also played clarinet in the school orchestra, and could follow in the footsteps of former England batsman Mark Butcher, who released an album in 2010.
Cook, who has announced his impending international retirement after this week’s Oval Test, was Gooch’s protege who went on to far surpass even his revered mentor’s record run-making achievements.
Four-time Ashes-winner Cook passed Gooch’s historical high of 8,900 Test runs just before regaining the urn as England captain four years ago, on the way to the 12,000-plus he has racked up in his 12-year, 160-match career.
For almost the duration, since Cook first moved on to the playing staff at their county Essex, Gooch has been a guiding force in his fellow opener’s unmatched career.
Gooch said: “Alastair has been the rock of England’s batting for the last 12 years since he made his debut – and while we are all sad to see him retire, we must rejoice in what he has done for our country.
“He is a genuine legend of English cricket.
“He is a legend not only because of his performances, but because of his attitude, his sacrifices, the way he has carried himself and the example he has set.
“Alastair is a perfect role model and is the image of the game we want to project. He is a great ambassador for his sport; he is a great person as well as a great cricketer.”
Gooch was speaking in his role as Professional Cricketers’ Association president.
In the tribute statement, the 65-year-old added: “His record is unsurpassed in terms of runs and the commitment he has showed for every team he has played for, and has been a beacon for our sport as a person and as a cricketer.
“He has been his own man all the way through.
“He has his own views and he knows what he wants to achieve and what he wants to get – and he has pursued that all the way through his career.”
Gooch was impressed by Cook from the outset.
He said: “It was evident from the very first time I met him when he came to Essex that he was a smart lad – and he knew how he could play, he knew how he could manage his game, even at a young age.
“Throughout his career, he has developed his game to improve, and the results are there for all to see.
“To achieve what he has in playing 160 Test Matches, scoring over 12,000 runs and 32 centuries is an incredibly special achievement from a special person.
“It all stems from being strong of mind, being committed to hard work on his game and focusing on what’s in front of him.
“He has accepted every challenge and has achieved everything he wanted to achieve – so we have to be sad that he will no longer be representing our country, but we must rejoice in the fact he has been a rock for us for 12 years.”
Gooch points out that graft, as well as ability, is necessary to succeed at the highest level.
He said: “To be a successful sportsman it is not just about the skills or talent – it is about hard work, commitment and desire.
“All of those parts complete the make-up of you as a person and help you be successful, and he has been determined … stubborn sometimes but always somebody you can depend on, and always the first name on the team sheet.”
Cook has indicated he intends to play on for his county next summer, and Gooch said: “For Essex it is a dream come true.
“Knowing Alastair like I do, he will give the same commitment as he did for England.
“He has decided he has run his race at international level, and I can understand that as he has done it for 12 years.”