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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 September 2005, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK
Cook gives glimpse of future
By Martin Gough

Alastair Cook made a small contribution to England's 2005 Ashes success but when it comes time to defend the prize in a year's time he could have a much larger role.

The Australia team visited Chelmsford to play Essex earlier this month looking to turn their fortunes around before the deciding Test at The Oval.

Instead, they were treated to a dominant batting display by Cook, who made 214 at almost a run a ball against Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and Shaun Tait.

Rather than a gentle warm-up, the tourists spent a day chasing leather, with the left-handed opener Cook the chief tormentor.

Unfortunately for Cook, that two-day match did not count for the first-class records.

But with 2,567 runs, including six centuries, from 36 matches for Essex and England A, he has already established his pedigree at that level.

An uncomplicated batsman he is particularly strong off his legs and enjoys hooking and pulling but is not often exposed on the off-side either.

He was typically modest when presented with his second major award of the summer - the Young Player of the Year at the PCA Awards on Monday.

He received the young cricketer of the year award from the Cricket Writers Club on the eve of that innings against Australia.

ALASTAIR COOK FACTFILE
Full name: Alastair Nathan Cook
Born: December 25, 1984, Gloucester
First-class matches: 36, 2,567 runs at 43.50, 6x100, 15x50
But Cook had been marked down as one to watch even before his debut in the Essex side as an 18-year old in 2003.

He took a place in the Bedford School 1st XI as a first year, having already hit an unbeaten century against them for the MCC, who arrived to play a match a man short.

"From the age of 13 I wanted to be a professional cricketer," he told BBC Sport last year.

That was just the first instance of his stepping up a level with success. His 63 against Sri Lanka A in a baking Colombo last March was another.

He played like a man among boys when captaining England in the 2004 Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, scoring two centuries as his side reached the semi-finals.

Cook's school coach Derek Randall, who played 47 Tests for England, is just one of the world stars who have helped Cook on the road to success.

One of Cook's first memories is sitting at home watching television during the summer of 1990 when Graham Gooch scored 333 against India at Lord's.

Now Gooch is his batting coach at Essex, passing on the tricks of the trade learned while scoring 8,900 runs in 118 Tests.

And a fellow left-hander, former Zimbabwe captain and world number one batsman Andy Flower, is also on hand in the Chelmsford dressing-room.

If England were in a less successful period, Cook might already be in the Test side.

Even if a batting space does become available it is likely to be in the middle order, rather than in his preferred opening spot, where left-handers Andrew Strauss and Marcus Trescothick are already resident.

However, Cook is one of the 17 players who will spend the winter training at the National Academy at Loughborough.

And should England need a replacement for either of those men in Pakistan or India, a promising Test career could begin sooner rather than later.




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