Is Alastair Cook really that reliable?

Michael Frawley Roar Pro

By Michael Frawley, Michael Frawley is a Roar Pro

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    We are blessed to be able to watch two opening batsmen who average close to 50 in Test cricket; Alastair Cook (46.0) and David Warner (47.4).

    What is perhaps unusual is that both do it in entirely different ways. Cook knows his limitations and has perfected the art of playing within them. Warner plays like he has not heard of limitations. Most cricket fans have strong views as to who they would prefer in their team.

    The perception is that Cook’s style leads to more protection for the middle order, a crucial part of opening the batting, while Warner has more upside when things go well. I was curious to see if this was actually the case.

    I’ve defined protecting the middle order as getting to 30 runs. Anything less than that is considered a failure. A century is considered a success.

    Looking at Cook’s career, he has failed (scored less than 30 in an innings) 53 per cent of the time compared to Warner’s 51 per cent. Therefore Cook and Warner have failed approximately half of the time over their careers.

    Warner scores a hundred 15 per cent of the time; Cook 11 per cent.

    Every cricket fan knows that Warner has not been successful playing away from home, though. Warner averages only 37 away, whereas Cook has a marginally higher average away than at home.

    The statistics reveal the reason Warner struggles away from home is not his rate of failure but the fact he has not capitalised on starts.

    Away from home Warner fails 57 per cent of the time, which is not too different to Cook’s 54 per cent. Cook scores a hundred or more 14 per cent of the time away from home; double Warner’s seven per cent.

    At home Warner fails 46 per cent of the time and scores a hundred nearly once every four innings. Cook fails 52 per cent of the time and scores a hundred once in every 11 innings.

    Summarising the above, both Cook and Warner get to 30 runs about half the time, regardless of whether it is home or away. In the sense of getting their teams off to a good start, both are about as reliable as each other.

    The differences come from how much they capitalise on their starts. If Warner gets a start in Australia he is very likely to score a hundred, but it is rare for him to tonne up away. Cook is more likely to convert a start into a century away from home than in England.

    Of course one factor to consider is Warner scores runs about one and a half times faster than Cook. Cook, therefore, soaks up more balls for the same amount of runs scored.

    You could mount the argument that a 30 from Cook offers more protection to the middle order because it is likely to have taken longer and therefore taken more shine off the ball.

    Likewise, a couple of thumping boundaries from Warner could take more shine off the ball than 30 carefully placed glides through point from Cook.

    The psychological impact of an aggressive opening batsman flaying the opposition’s strike bowlers is another factor to consider. Similarly, a relentlessly disciplined opening batsman can wear down an opposition team.

    I have tried to steer clear of these unquantifiable issues. Take the numbers as they are. Perhaps they do not change your original view as to you would prefer in your team – maybe they reveal the two are not so different.

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    The Crowd Says (43)

    • August 14th 2017 @ 4:21am
      Brasstax said | August 14th 2017 @ 4:21am | ! Report

      I am a patriotic Aussie but it is an insult to Cook to compare him to Warner in the test arena. Cook has succeeded everywhere while Warner is a walking wicket any time the ball spins or seams or swings.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 14th 2017 @ 5:30am
        savage said | August 14th 2017 @ 5:30am | ! Report

        Agreed,Cook has certainly achieved more than warner in test arena.”is cook reliable”No if you’re considering last couple of years.To be fair to him,i want to make 2 points in his defence.
        1.cook has’nt been great lately but he has been WAY better opener than any other england opener.So his place in side cannot be questioned at this moment.whereas,warner place will be questioned when he will tour england and sub continent.
        2.there is NOT a single batsmen who is reliable for england(with due respect to bairstow,root).we all know Root is class act who can perform in all type of conditions.But,to get his team over the line,he has to improve his conversion rate.He scored lots of fifty in india but still could’nt prevent his team from innings defeat.Imagine,if he had converted his 50s to 150s in india,he most probably would’ve atleast drawn the match for his team instead of innings defeat.Again,to be fair to him,he is only 26 yrs old,i believe he will remove this weakness in future.

      • August 14th 2017 @ 10:28am
        jameswm said | August 14th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

        Is that right?

        Cook has done well in India, Warner hasn’t.

        Cook has done poorly in SA, Warner has killed it over there.

        Cook does well at home (like most batsmen, Warner has been so so (ave 37) in England.

        It’s hardly a big difference.

        • August 14th 2017 @ 11:19am
          spruce moose said | August 14th 2017 @ 11:19am | ! Report

          Warner has done well in one region outside Australia: South Africa.

          Cook has done well in several. Australia, India, West Indies, UAE, Sri Lanka (he’s done okish).

          Warner has gone to the West Indies twice, and still can’t cash in.

          Cook does better away than home. Telling.

          • August 14th 2017 @ 12:46pm
            Brian said | August 14th 2017 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

            Cook has been a crucial part of English teams that have won in India and Australia. Warner has never been part of an Aussie team to win a big series away from home.

          • August 14th 2017 @ 1:45pm
            jameswm said | August 14th 2017 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

            Telling what?

            If Cook has done so much better, why does Warner have a better overall average?

            And where is this series being played again?

            • August 14th 2017 @ 3:42pm
              James said | August 14th 2017 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

              Because thats how averages work, if you score enough runs in one place it brings your overall average up. Maths.

              • Columnist

                August 14th 2017 @ 7:15pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | August 14th 2017 @ 7:15pm | ! Report

                Cook’s been more consistent overall than Warner, no doubt,

                But Cook has significant chinks in his Test record too. Against the pace-strong teams (Aust/SA/NZ) Cook has had 11 poor series out of 16 series. That is a very ordinary record.

                In those 11 Test series he had averages of 23, 24, 24, 26, 27, 28, 32, 32, 33, 36, 37.

              • August 15th 2017 @ 2:49am
                Brasstax said | August 15th 2017 @ 2:49am | ! Report

                Nice try Ronan, but Cook would have faced at least half if not more of those attacks in difficult to bat conditions unlike Warner who would have faced them on our roads half the time.

                I cannot even believe we are having this conversation. Warner is a certified flag track bully while Cook scores runs in difficult conditions when most needed.

              • August 14th 2017 @ 7:38pm
                DavSA said | August 14th 2017 @ 7:38pm | ! Report

                Interesting stats …Thanks Ronan . Actually in the past SA vs England series almost all the openers struggled on both sides. Quite unusual I thought . Did that go to great bowling ? …or maybe something else.

              • August 14th 2017 @ 10:37pm
                James said | August 14th 2017 @ 10:37pm | ! Report

                Sounds bad but its still stats taken without any comparison, not disagreeing but what are Warners last 16 series outside of Australia and South Africa, how do those stats compare to other openers against their least favoured competition. Without them stats taken like this are interesting but pointless for a debate.

              • Columnist

                August 15th 2017 @ 6:44am
                Ronan O'Connell said | August 15th 2017 @ 6:44am | ! Report

                Here’s a Warner v Cook stat for you ……. these are their records in the 13 Ashes Tests they’ve played against each other:

                Cook ………… 770 runs at 31
                Warner …….. 1079 runs at 45

              • August 15th 2017 @ 10:58am
                James said | August 15th 2017 @ 10:58am | ! Report

                Good grief man, we know you hate England but again you are cherry picking stats. You take 13 tests as a whole over what 5 years? That tells us nothing, stats taken over that amount of time against one nation are almost useless. Not to mention no one is saying that Cook is as good as Warner in Australia or hell even that Cook is any good against Australia, the discussion is about their efficacy overall. You ignore this and pick probably Warner’s best stats and probably Cook’s worst. It proves nothing except you are not trying to be fair. Im not disagreeing with you im just saying the stats you offer are deliberately one eyed.

              • Columnist

                August 15th 2017 @ 6:29pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | August 15th 2017 @ 6:29pm | ! Report

                No need to get so distressed James.

                Cook and Warner have played 13 Tests against each other – comparing their stats in those 13 matches is not the be all and end all just an interesting addition to the discussion.

              • August 15th 2017 @ 11:52am
                Jake said | August 15th 2017 @ 11:52am | ! Report

                “That tells us nothing,”

                Yes it does. It tells that when they have played against each other, Warner has scored more runs.
                Ergo, Warner is the better player.

              • Roar Guru

                August 15th 2017 @ 2:06pm
                Chris Kettlewell said | August 15th 2017 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

                I don’t see any issue with Ronan’s stat of Warner v Cook in matches they’ve played against each other, because, while this article is comparing overall stats, it’s being brought up ahead of an Ashes series in Australia. So while it’s trying to talk broadly, it is in that context, so bringing in more specifically telling stats are reasonable. Just as doing all the comparisons purely based on tests in Australia would be reasonable, as that’s what is about to happen.

              • August 15th 2017 @ 7:13pm
                DavSA said | August 15th 2017 @ 7:13pm | ! Report

                James and Brasstax taking stats over the last 13 tests are is hardly irrelevant . It goes to recent form which arguably can be more important than a full spectrum . Hashim Amla for example has a test average of over 50 but if his last 13 tests are reviewed I think it would not exceed 30 runs .

            • August 19th 2017 @ 5:02am
              FunBus said | August 19th 2017 @ 5:02am | ! Report

              ‘If Cook has done so much better, why does Warner have a better overall average?’

              Because it’s much easier to be an opening batsman in Australia than England.

    • August 14th 2017 @ 8:15am
      Ben said | August 14th 2017 @ 8:15am | ! Report

      I wonder if Warner’s performance will change when the bat regulation kicks in….

    • August 14th 2017 @ 8:50am
      The Fatman said | August 14th 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

      Cook is the best batsman of the last decade for England

      the only way England wins the Ashes this summer is if Cook averages about 80.

      • August 14th 2017 @ 10:34am
        Ouch said | August 14th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        Better than Joe Root or KP? Nope

        • August 14th 2017 @ 8:35pm
          Samuel Honywill said | August 14th 2017 @ 8:35pm | ! Report

          Not in terms of natural talent certainly, but I’d argue he has a much harder job in fairness – opening the batting virtually anywhere outside of the subcontinent is tougher than batting down at four or five, and for the last five years he’s had to do it with a revolving cast of opening partners.

        • August 15th 2017 @ 10:14pm
          DavSA said | August 15th 2017 @ 10:14pm | ! Report

          Sorry The Fatman but I agree with Ouch ..Nope !

    • Roar Guru

      August 14th 2017 @ 8:51am
      Chris Kettlewell said | August 14th 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      In Australia, where the next meeting between the two sides will be held, Warner definitely has the edge, just about everywhere else he doesn’t.

      However, if you are determining success being protecting the middle order, I would suggest that you need to base it not on number of runs scored, but number of overs into the innings before they are dismissed. ie Seeing off the new ball. Warner doesn’t always get off to a flying start, but he often does, and that helps that stat. As such, he could potentially “succeed” on your terms of reaching 30 runs, but still be dismissed at a time when the ball is still pretty new and moving around simply because he scored those runs so quickly.

      Now, scoring runs quickly like that can help with seeing off the new ball too. The more you smash it off the middle of the bat, the quicker you get rid of the hardness and shine. So the runs v time thing isn’t necessarily without merit.

      Either way, as we are talking about this ahead of an Ashes in Australia, the pertinent stats are the ones in Australia, and for that Warner wins hansomly in most categories. If we were talking about this ahead of an Ashes tour of England, then Cook would win handomly, in most categories.

      • August 14th 2017 @ 9:17am
        James said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        Yeah i agree, whilst number of runs scored is a very important barometer thats only half of an openers job, the other equally important part is seeing off that new ball. Im more concerned that the idea of scoring 30 runs by an opener is considered job done tolerabley enough.

        • August 14th 2017 @ 9:43am
          AGordon said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

          When I was a puppy dog, opening the batting, I was coached that if you got to 30 and/or lasted the first hour, you’d seen off the new ball. I’m guessing that’s the standard being applied here.

          • August 14th 2017 @ 3:44pm
            James said | August 14th 2017 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

            The author must think Shane Watson was the greatest opener ever.

    • August 14th 2017 @ 9:41am
      AGordon said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

      I’m not sure about the point of this story, comparing two current opening batsmen, because both are at different stages of their careers.

      If you go back 5 or 6 seasons, when Cook was in his prime and had another quality opening batsman at the other end, he was cranking out the runs in record numbers and was up there with the best batsmen in the world. Fast forward to the past 3 or 4 seasons, since the departure of Strauss and I get the impression he is way more fragile these days.

      I think the author should have focussed on recent series and recent batting efforts from both players for this article, rather than how they’ve performed across the course of their careers, with the Ashes fast approaching. The rest is best left for an article when they’ve both retired.

    • August 14th 2017 @ 9:42am
      Derek Murray said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:42am | ! Report

      Yes, he is. Whatever his average was in the recent SA series the worth of his runs far outweighed the actual number. His top order runs were extremely hard fought and no other top 3 player in either side occupied the crease for as long or as convincingly. His middle order teammates reaped the rewards but Cook set them up. He’s the second big England wicket after Root.

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