England captain Alastair Cook displayed a timely return to form as he scored 181 in Essex’s Division 2 County Championship encounter with Derbyshire, helping the opening batsman put a difficult winter of discontent behind him and prepare for the summer of optimism ahead.
Cook – whose last Test ton came against New Zealand at Headingley in May 2013 – was in fine form as he helped Essex recover from being bowled out for a measly 94 in their first innings.
Approaching a year since his last century for England, the left-hander certainly put the Derbyshire bowlers to the sword, scoring 19 boundaries during his 335-ball occupation of the crease.
This impressive knock comes at a great time for the national side, who start their summer against Sri Lanka in just over a month’s time. The hosting of India will subsequently follow those Test and One Day series.
After being decimated by Mitchell Johnson and co. down under, England are looking to recuperate on home soil and improve on their current fourth place standing in the ICC Test rankings.
The last time that India toured, an England whitewash promoted the three lions to the top Test team in the world. A lot has changed since the dizzying heights of 2011, with Alistair Cook’s side not having anything to celebrate in Australia – except for perhaps the progression of Ben Stokes.
A solitary century for the all-rounder in Perth was the only time an Englishman made it to three figures last winter, as the Test side suffered something of an identity crisis.
With retirements and depositions on and off the field, they are still experiencing a time of uncertainty. There was a time when you could name an England XI comfortably, but nowadays that is a difficult feat.
Nevertheless, if the form Cook has found is carried through to this summer’s Tests, then the skipper will help his side through any potentially troublesome times ahead.
At the top of the order, the Essex man can be a leader by example, showing the rest of the team how to bat. At the age of 29, England’s most prolific procurer of centuries – he now has 25 to his name in Test matches – still has plenty to offer on the international stage.
And with both finalists from the recent World T20 tournament in Bangladesh visiting, Cook will need to rediscover some of the form that served him so well in Australia three years ago.
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