ALASTAIR Cook’s appetite to lead England to the World Cup remains undiminished, despite their most chastening defeat yet as India wrapped up the Royal London Series a match early.
Only a near unmissable catch by the captain himself, to end Ajinkya Rahane’s fun on a mere 106, stopped England losing by ten wickets at Edgbaston.
The hosts mustered only 206 all out, despite Moeen Ali’s 67, and were then powerless with the ball as Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan (97no) put on 183 for India’s first wicket in a chase that lasted only 30.3 overs.
It is hard to imagine a more one-sided contest and, after India had gone 3-0 up to inflict England’s fifth series defeat in their last six, pointed questions about Cook’s future as one-day captain were asked. He did not shirk the inquiries – and made it clear he intends to stick around for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand early next year.
Asked that very question, he said: “If I’m allowed to be, yes. I don’t have a say on selection, but I’ve captained for three-and-a-half years with the goal to try to win the World Cup in Australia.
“I know that seems a bit far-fetched at the moment when we’re losing games of cricket, but there’re a lot of really good players in that changing room. If we can improve at the rate we need to improve, we’ve got a chance and that’s what we have to believe in.”
For the third successive match, England were not just beaten but trounced.
“It was a tough performance to take, to lose by nine wickets,” Cook added. “They’re playing better than us at the moment and they’re the number-one ranked side in the world for a reason. So we’re testing ourselves against a very good side and at the moment, coming up very short.”
Cook acknowledges his fate may be decided by others, such as England and Wales Cricket Board managing director Paul Downton, but insists he won’t be leaving his post of his own volition. “They’re the guys at the top of English cricket and if that’s their decision then I have to take that on the chin,” he said.
England lurched to 23 for three after being put in on a glorious morning, and stumbled again to 114 for five in the 33rd over. Birmingham-born Moeen, in his first ODI of the summer, responded with England’s only half-century of the series to date, coming in at number seven and needing only 37 balls to pass 50 with three sixes and three fours. Unfortunately for England, he played at a level conspicuously above all his team-mates.
Opener Cook’s was the second of three wickets to fall for eight runs, as Bhuvneshwar Kumar put England on the back foot with a skilful new-ball spell of 8-3-14-2.
The captain played out two initial maidens from Kumar before seeing the same bowler strike immediately with his first delivery to Alex Hales.
Three balls later, Cook sliced an attempted cut straight to gully – and then number three Gary Ballance popped a simple catch to cover off Mohammed Shami. Joe Root and Eoin Morgan limited damage in a much-needed and hard-working stand of 80, but both then went to spin in the space of four overs.
Moeen and Jos Buttler bagged a handy 41 before Buttler fell lbw on the back foot.
After Moeen was bowled England’s tail were left trying in vain to bat the overs and the upshot was that the hosts had not set a remotely competitive target.
Both India openers reached their 50s with sixes, Rahane first – sweeping Moeen – and then Dhawan hoisting James Anderson high over long on. They were still greedy for more, Rahane racing to a 96-ball hundred containing nine fours and four sixes and Dhawan finally putting England out of their misery with his fourth six.