Focus moves from Cook to Ajmal's action

Alastair Cook was under a huge amount of pressure during his second innings of the third Test at the Oval, and his 110 was a massive individual achievement.

For the England team, though, it would have been good if he could have gone on – as the subsequent collapse against Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Aamer underlined.

Despite what was being said in the media and by a lot of former players, I would have always taken Cook to Australia for the Ashes series. To me, he was a shoo-in for the Ashes, regardless of his form in this English summer.

Cook has clearly struggled for confidence, but the England hierarchy have shown a lot of faith in him, and quite rightly so because he has an outstanding record for a 25-year-old at Test level and he is England’s designated vice-captain and obviously a strong candidate to take over the captaincy itself at some stage in the future.

If he had failed at the Oval in the England second innings, as well as in the first, I would personally have left him out for the final Test of the series at Lord’s.

I would have told him he was going to Australia, but I would have wanted to give Michael Carberry – or whoever the selectors feel is the next batsman they want to have a look at – an opportunity in the fourth Test against Pakistan.

But now, with Cook’s hundred, and whatever the result at the Oval, the debate about England’s opener is over. Cook stays in for Lord’s – where he must also score runs, in my opinion – and then it is off to Australia.

The only thing I am uneasy about, in the whole Cook saga of these past few weeks, is that it illustrates how the England team has now become almost a closed shop.

It is now so difficult to break into the England squad, let alone the final eleven, and that is to take nothing away from Cook’s obvious status within the group and how important Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss feel he is to the squad.

To me, though, Cook’s struggles throughout the summer merely underline that you really have to perform poorly over a long period these days to find your place under threat, or to be left out.

Some people, meanwhile, will say that it is good that Pakistan have shown some much-needed fight in the Oval Test and that it is good that England have been tested and stretched at last in this series.

I’m not sure that this is how Flower will see it. He wants England to be beating their opponents and dominating them. That is the message he wants the team to put out to the rest of the world – whether that be the Australians or whoever.

Pakistan have played very well in this game, and the presence of Mohammad Yousuf in their middle order has brought a calmness and a quality that has clearly rubbed off on others.

As a former Test off-spinner myself, though, I cannot help but query the action of Ajmal. There is obviously a kink in his arm when he bowls his doosra especially, and whether that is within the permitted 15 degrees has to be established.

I for one would not be surprised if the umpires are not totally happy with his action, and therefore report it to the authorities.

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