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Jonathan Agnew column

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

In Adelaide on Saturday, England took a huge step towards securing what they came to Australia to do - retain the Ashes.

They are on course to build an enormous lead and the best Australia can hope for is a draw. If they don't manage that, it leaves them needing to win two of the last three Tests to regain the Ashes and that would be a very tall order indeed.

Once again Alastair Cook was England's main man and the Essex opener is in the form of his life. He has been England's rock and deserves all the praise that comes his way.

He is racking up the records and the beauty is that he does not even know he is doing it. He is not interested in that sort of thing. He just wants to bat, and he is doing that pretty well.

Alastair Cook
Cook has batted for over 1,000 minutes without being dismissed

Everyone who plays international sport for their country goes through dips in their form and technique.

Cook experienced that last summer when he was planting his right foot in front of his stumps and having to play round his legs to hit the ball, which is very difficult. He was getting out lbw a lot and caught in the slips a lot.

All he is doing now is moving his front foot down towards the pitch of the ball and coming forwards to the ball rather than across his wicket.

He has started playing the cover drive, which is a shot he hardly ever plays. The reason he can play that shot is because his front foot is out of the way.

Australia had not bargained for Cook playing that shot. I think they had him down as a back-foot player so they have bowled quite full at him, which is the right thing to do. But because Cook's footwork is so perfect, he is just smacking them for four.

Australia need to do their homework on Alastair Cook and work out how they are going to bowl at him.

Cook was ably supported by Kevin Pietersen, who put together a very important innings for himself and the team.

He had to wait a long time to get out there and was a little bit wild to begin with but he played really straight, which is something he hasn't been doing.


He's now 15 runs away from breaking that unhappy sequence of 18 Tests without a hundred.

England's primary objective on day three on Sunday must be to see off that new ball and bat for the rest of the day. With eight wickets still in hand, they should be able to build a colossal lead, and take it from there.

There is some bad weather around, which could come in on Monday and Tuesday and have an impact on the game, but England have put Australia out of this match, which is exactly what they set out to do.

Australia will face the same situation as England did at the Gabba and I certainly wouldn't back them to do it.

Finally, a word on Australia spinner Xavier Doherty, who had a really poor day. He bowled 15 overs for 70 and I would be surprised if he keeps his place. He had no control, bowled far too short and was regularly punished, by Cook and Jonathan Trott.

If he is dropped, Australia will have changed their two lead bowlers and their spinner, which tells its own story.

Jeff Thomson has said this is the weakest Australia attack for 30 years and it is certainly the weakest for a generation. You have to go back to the 1980s really to find them so short of quality in the bowling department.

They need to take a long, hard look at themselves and work out where they are going to get some new players from.

Jonathan Agnew was talking to BBC Sport's Sam Sheringham

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see also
Cook ton puts England in command
04 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Second Ashes Test in photos
04 Dec 10 |  England
England dominate in Adelaide Test
03 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Australians drop paceman Johnson
02 Dec 10 |  Australia
Records fall as England draw Test
29 Nov 10 |  Cricket
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket

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