Alastair Cook is widely regarded as one of England’s greatest ever batsmen, while his career with the ball is best known for his comical dismissal of Ishant Sharma in 2014.
Mimicking Bob Willis’ approach to the crease, Sharma feathered a ball that strayed onto his pads to Matt Prior behind the stumps. That was to be Cook’s sole Test wicket but his lack of bowling opportunities in England whites throughout the rest of his career meant that he ended his illustrious career with a Test bowling average of just seven.
What’s less known, however, is that Cook once changed the course of a County Championship match with the ball all the way back in 2005. On the latest episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, Ben Gardner told the story of how the former England captain turned a game against Northamptonshire in Essex‘s favour.
Ben Gardner: First off, Essex hit 506 – Alastair Cook 66. Northants made 247 and are asked to follow on but it looks like they might get away with a draw when they get to 202-2 in their second innings. Who do Essex bring on to break the partnership? None other than Alastair Cook, who proceeds to take three wickets in three overs as Northants slide from 202-2 to 207-5.
A great crop of wickets as well. First Usman Afzaal, lbw bowled Cook. Finishes the spell off with Riki Wessels, caught Andy Flower bowled Cook. And in the middle, stumped by James Foster, top scorer Bilal Shafayat. One Ashes legend gets another. Essex go on to win at a canter.
Jo Harman: Earlier in his career, he bowled a bit of off-spin. Was he bowling off-spin or was it his ‘Bob Willises’?
BG: I think it must have been off-spin, considering Foster was standing up… although Foster could have stood up to Cook’s ‘Bob Willises’ pretty comfortably. But from the look of the scorecard, Monty Panesar took a seven-for in the first innings, Danish Kaneria took six in the same innings as Cook took those three, so I think it must have been a little bit of slow tweak.