TELFORD VICE, Adelaide
LOSING is supposed to hurt. But, despite Australia’s seven-wicket win over South Africa in the third test in Adelaide on Sunday, Stephen Cook emerged victorious.
And that even though, for the first time in his six tests, he was in the losers’ dressingroom – which of course housed the team who had won the series.
The short version of why Cook had reasons to be cheerful despite the Adelaide result is that he scored 104 in the second innings.
The long way round is that he finally made his efforts count after, in his other four knocks in the series, he looked like a man risen from a sick bed to go out and bat. Worse, he scraped together only 75 runs.
Not that he made a better aesthetic impression in Adelaide, where he trod the crease like a tortured soul for more than six hours.
“I’ve had a tough time the last couple of weeks, that’s plain and obvious to say,” he said.
“Before the series I knew things were going to be tough. I knew the Aussies had a good bowling line-up.
“And I got tested. By hook or by crook, I suppose – or by hook or by Cook, there’s a line for you – I managed to come through it.
“I knew Australia is a place you can be made or broken. I’m leaving with people perhaps being able to see that I can bat better than I have these last few weeks.”
Some of those people are the selectors, who before the second innings would have asked themselves whether Cook was the man to open the innings when Sri Lanka tour South Africa next month.
That question has now been answered. But, for Cook, who played his 183rd first-class match in Adelaide, struggling for survival was nothing new.
“There have been a lot of times in my career where I’ve gone on streaks longer than this without scoring runs,” he said.
“I suppose you work out how you can get back. The nice thing is that I never felt like I was playing that badly.”
How something feels, Cook didn’t say, can be different to how it looks. But looks have never mattered much to him.
“It wasn’t a pretty show but I’ve never been a pretty cricketer,” he said of his technique.
“I know it’s not classical. I know it’s a little bit ugly. I know I crab across the crease.
“I’ve heard many descriptions of it. Unfortunately it’s the one I’ve got and the one I’ve used for a long time.
“But it’s gotten me so far – yes, I’ll do little tweaks and try and make amendments – and by and large I stick with what I’ve got and try make it work for me.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to jump onto the front foot like Ricky Ponting or move in and behind the ball like some other players. For me it’s about getting my gameplan going and keeping my disciplines going.”
That was good enough to earn Cook the praise of his captain.
“He’s a fighter; I’m proud of the character he showed,” Faf du Plessis said.
“It’s hardest when you’re under pressure to score a big innings like that.”
Cook and Du Plessis are tough guys both, but perhaps the secret to Cook’s success in Adelaide was a pair of smiles.
They belong to his wife and young child, who joined him in Hobart, where the second test was played.
“It’s a massive help,” he said of having his family around. “It’s amazing how your spirits lift when they arrive.
“That’s when I felt things turned around for me on this tour on a personal level.
“My family doesn’t care whether I’ve scored nought or a hundred. My little daughter looks at me the same way today as she looked at me three weeks ago.
“It shows you what’s really important. In the end it’s just a game of cricket.”
Even when winners lose.