Alastair Cook on The Hundred, ‘freak’ Jos Buttler and the challenge of facing Pakistan

In his latest Sky Sports column, Alastair Cook looks forward to the start of another Test summer, lauds Jos Buttler’s freakish talent and reflects on The Hundred…

The first Test of the summer is always great, everyone is buzzing to be back.

England vs Pakistan

May 24, 2018, 10:00am

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The guys are desperate to start afresh after the winter, where we didn’t win a game, and try and play better. We want to build towards the next really big thing which is India this summer and then the Ashes again next year.

We all know that, obviously, the Ashes is what English cricket revolves around, so without looking too far ahead, you have to look at the overall picture and we’ve got to improve as a side.

It’s been an interesting start to the summer. I’ve never been as cold as I was playing for Essex at Hampshire, I think the field temperature was minus one!

Peter Siddle bowled in a beanie, it was deeply unpleasant and at times you were wondering what the hell we were doing out there. But actually, it was the best batting wicket we’ve played on this summer – maybe the pitch was frozen, I don’t know, but it was an absolutely belting wicket.

I’ve played in a fair few games and I’ve never seen 20 wickets by tea as there were at Chelmsford when we played Yorkshire, which was an extraordinary game.

When you bowl a side out for 50, more often than not you should win the game, so to lose it was disappointing. We bounced back with a good win at Worcester – albeit in a very close game that could have gone either way – on a good cricket wicket if you were watching, there was always something happening.

Less so as a batsman, there was always a ball in there for you, so it was good to win there and it was good to be back with Essex.

It was a very different three weeks and so turning up here was a bit strange and gave me a real appreciation of how good Lord’s is. When the sun shines it is fantastic and there was a real sense of it being great to be here.

The ground looks fantastic. You go to Australia and they are all fantastic stadiums but the one thing Lord’s has, and I think The Oval as well, is that it still feels like a cricket ground. The SCG and the MCG, for example, don’t quite have that, they feel more like stadiums for AFL.

Lord’s is a very special place and it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve played, you always look forward to the week of a home Test match here, and this time we’ll be up against a mercurial Pakistan side.

They are very talented cricketers but it is a bit like the French rugby team back in the day, you’re not quite sure which side is going to turn up. They’re great frontrunners, they love getting their noses ahead and we’ve got to start well and not let that happen.

Mohammad Amir is obviously their danger man and he’s a very skilful bowler. I know Mohammad from his time at Essex, he’s a very proud Essex player now and it’ll be good to have that battle with him. When Pakistan were here in 2016 we played him pretty well and we’ve got to do the same this time around.

It’s good to have Jos Buttler back and, put simply: he’s a freak, his talent is unrivalled.

I first came across him when I was playing for Essex against Somerset and he scored 70 or 80, he was one of those players that made you stand up and take notice.

Jos Buttler hit six boundaries in an over for Rajasthan on the day he was recalled to England's Test squad

There was something different about him and he’s obviously gone on and done some amazing things for English cricket, he’s had a really good IPL and you can’t ignore people with that much talent. It’s really exciting for him and he’s always spoken about how desperate he is to succeed in Test cricket and this is a great opportunity for him to do that.

Dom Bess is also in the squad for the first time. He bowled at us over the winter and he gets a good shape on the ball, he’s a young spinner and he’s been very impressive so far.

Coming into the group for the first time when you’re selected is daunting, there’s no way around that, but he seems to be handling it very well and has shown a lot of confidence.

Dom Bess believes Pakistan's batting style could play into his hands if he makes his Test debut at Lord's

You can see that excitement in his eyes that he is going to realise a dream on Thursday and how special that is for him and his family. It is a reminder for all of us in the squad that it is special every time you do pull on the cap for England, whether it is the first time or the 100th.

Since my last column, plans for the new 100-ball competition have come out. I’m not against the concept of it. You don’t want the sport to be standing still, times change and T20 has been very successful.

It’s still a short form of the game and very similar to T20. There is a chance to be very proactive with the rules, you can change a few things, you don’t have to be quite so rigid and you can turn it into a tactical game.

Cricket must continue to innovate to attract a wider, younger audience to the game, says ECB chairman Colin Graves

There has been a lot of people being very critical about it but I think if Twitter was around in 2003 when T20 first came in, I think it would have been the same kind of reaction.

We have to be careful because we are very fortunate to have unbelievable support in this country for the game of cricket. Participation levels are going up, there is absolutely no reason why they can’t go up more and there are elements of that that need addressing.

Nasser Hussain and Mark Butcher debate the ECB's proposed new 100-ball tournament, saying it's vital that the best players in the world take part

The fans who love cricket will hopefully love this new concept as well, if it goes ahead. We know that participation levels can improve and in any sport, you have to look after the grassroots. It is a very interesting time for cricket and it is exciting to see how this new idea will develop.

Watch the first Test between England and Pakistan at Lord’s from 10am, Thursday on Sky Sports Cricket.


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