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Ashley Giles: Things Starting To Look Up For Cook And Co

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If Alastair Cook had written the script for the third Test he would have struggled to include many more positives for his England side without it simply looking like a work of fantasy.

The greatest relief for Cook and the England management is the return to form of the England captain himself. Apart from being dropped at slip in the first innings on 15, off the bowling of the luckless Pankaj, Cook has looked much more himself.

He has definitely made an effort to get out of the crease and at the bowler during this match, almost baiting the opposition to bowl short at him. On the afternoon of the first day the Indians took this bait and Cook got into his stride with his trademark cut and pull.

He will feel unlucky not to have completed his century in that first innings, being caught down the leg side off Jadeja was a disappointing end, but after a sit down, a cup of tea and some reflection I’m sure he found some perspective.

After all, as he knows all too well recently, things could have been a lot worse. I’m not sure Cook has made any massive technical changes. His feet are definitely moving more fluently and his weight has moved much more up and down the wicket, as opposed to across his stumps, in this match.

Confidence alone is such a huge thing. Cook has had a slump before but never with the huge burden of captaincy to contend with as well. The England camp will be hoping that all of this worry about their leader will soon be a long and distant memory.

In a few weeks, with a clearer mind and more runs under his belt, Cook might even be able to sit back and say to himself: “What was all that about?”

The other major good news was the return to form of Ian Bell. While Cook played well and moved more fluently, the transformation in Bell during his magnificent 167 was like moving from the dark into the light. Bell has been criticised in the past for not getting ugly runs for England when they need them most.

But, do we really want him to get ‘ugly’ runs if he can look that pretty? I always think Bell looks ten feet tall when he is playing well and this week, once he found his feet, he was certainly pushing that mark.

Gary Ballance continues to impress, scoring his third century in six Tests. I was just as impressed by his second innings cameo. He clearly has a wide range of options to score but for the most part keeps them in his cupboard under the stairs. This is a sign that Ballance is extremely self-aware, of what he needs and when he needs it, and it also shows great maturity for such an inexperienced player.

Cook’s main strike force, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, have been brilliant in this match and Chris Woakes, without much luck, has looked more at home in Test cricket and a yard quicker. Chris Jordan has struggled a little for rhythm at the Ageas Bowl but has done enough on the international stage already to show great potential.

Moeen Ali? Simply, he is doing his job. Chipping away with important wickets and runs throughout this summer and on the final day he got the wickets he’s deserved.

Finally, Jos Buttler, arrived to bat in a situation built for him with the bat and a clean and tidy performance with the gloves. What a debut and what talent. I’ve got a feeling we will be seeing plenty more of Jos at this level….things are perhaps starting to look up!

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