Alastair Cook’s first Ashes century since 2011 has been described as arguably the best of his career by former England team-mate Graeme Swann.
Cook put aside his disappointing form and questions about his long-term future at the highest level to score an unbeaten 104 on day two of the fourth Test at the MCG.
It is the first time Cook has reached three figures against Australia in 19 Tests and helped leave England in a healthy-looking position at 192 for two, replying to the home side’s 327 all out.
Ex-England spinner Swann told BT Sport: “I’m so proud of him today, that’s possibly the best hundred of his career because of the situation.
“Everyone’s just saying ‘he’s going to retire’, ‘he’s not any games left’, ‘his desire has gone’. Imagine having your desire questioned when you’re in the middle of a bad run.
“I think you saw with his hundred celebration, that’s the most relieved hundred celebration I think I’ve seen from Alastair Cook in a long long time.”
Swann says the former England captain was wounded by the comments being made about him but believes being around family over Christmas may have helped him.
He added: “Anybody would be hurt by that and I know Alastair was.
“I saw him at the end of the Perth Test and he was all smiles, he had his kids around his feet and that could be a thing - having the families out gives a bit of perspective.
“Having your kids around for Christmas may have just reminded him it’s just a game, go out and enjoy yourself and hasn’t he just today.”
Cook has now scored 32 Test centuries and his overall tally of 11,816 runs is not only comfortably the most by an Englishman in Tests but puts him eighth in the all-time list of runscorers.
The 33-year-old now has West Indies duo Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brian Lara in his sights, needing another 138 runs to overhaul both.
Swann insists he never had doubts about Cook’s desire to keep on churning out the runs for England, but admits he can understand those who did.
“No, I didn’t really. Only because I know him, so I have a sort of inside line to him,” he said.
“But had I not had that, I think I would have been like everyone else thinking ‘is he really still full of the fire’?
“But he’s just been brilliant.”
Swann added: “I’m so happy for him. I’m so happy for England as well. Stuart Broad with four wickets has really come to the party, the whole team, the way they battled back.
“Joe Root as well, on 49 not out, it’s been an exceptional day for England.”