The Final Test

Alastair Cook is retiring from International cricket. My son is a keen cricketer and is 13 years old. That means "Chef" has opened the batting for almost all of Angus's life, and certainly Angus has known no other England No1 in his own development as a cricketer. 

 

We all know the remarkable cricketing records Cook presently holds, if you need to reminding go here  but what many commentators have highlighted, on the news of his departure from the English team, is his character. Cricket and test cricket in particular, I suggest, is unique in this respect. Yes many sports allow for some insight into the player. Those old enough will remember the antics of John McEnroe contrasted with the inscrutable Bjorn Borg, but a mammoth Tennis match still ends in a result, in closure. A cricket match can end in a draw, a tie, a win or a loss. A test career can end in triumph or tragedy. A test series, such as the current one against India, has something of the epic novel about it, a narrative, an ark, heroes and villains, layers of meaning, individual efforts in a team framework. 

 

The current situation of; a series already decided, a final hurrah for a Titan of the game at the Oval,the good character of the chap in question, turned my mind to an English Comedy-Drama film from 1954 called "The Final Test"  written by Terence Rattigan. Starring Jack Warner, as a fictitious batsman Sam Palmer, the film also includes players of the time in it's cast.

 

I watched it again. It is available to buy or rent from Amazon prime if you are interested- Click

 

The love story element is very dated, the class aspect also, but what struck me was the cricket part was remarkably similar. Yes, the players kit has evolved but the ethos of the game and the reflection of the central character, played by Jack Warner, seemed to fit the Alastair Cook story very well. In some respects it is the cricketing equivalent of Sullivan Travels, the American movie exploring the value of comedy v tragedy . The comparison of Cricket and Literature is particularly interesting as are the cameos of cricketers and commentators past. I also enjoyed the music, score by Benjamin Frankel. Coincidentally I often bump into Frankel's step son at Hampstead Cricket Club as he is a Playing member of the sister organisation  the Cumberland Tennis club. I won't spoil the plot but the denouement brought a lump to my throat as I thought of the moment Alastair Cook will leave the international  field of play sometime next week. 

 

So whatever the result, however many runs Cook makes, it will be a fitting epilogue to the mammoth tale of the triumphs and failures, the peaks and troughs of this almost Arthurian hero. Many greats of the game have been knighted and it seems a fitting tribute to those who have welded their blade in the service of their country to the honour of the game and the nation. If ever there was an embodiment of the noble spirit of Cricket surely Alastair Cook is it. 

 

Thank you Sir for your commitment to the game, your County and your Country.

 

Addendum

 

Alastair Cook made 71 runs in  265 minutes from 190 balls in the first innings.

 

In the second innings, on the fourth day,  he passed 100 on over throws to the delight of his team mates and to a standing ovation from an adoring crowd, amongst them his 2 daughters and his Wife pregnant with their third child. He went into lunch  on 103 not out. He finally fell on  147 in 389 minutes from 286 balls striking 14 fours in the afternoon session contributing 218 in his last test match. The whole  indian team shook his hand as he left the field of play probably one of the most liked cricket players in recent memory. England won the test match after a very fine effort from India who were given hope by a gritty 149 from opener Rahul and enthusiastic  114 from wicket keeper Pant pushing England to a 5.30 finish but what a finish. James Anderson got the final wicket of the day Match and series knocking the middle stump out of the ground to go one ahead of Glenn McGrath and take the honour of most test wickets for a seam bowler. The close long time friends Cook and Anderson left the field of play, after some gentlemanly " know after you" action , to the adoration of a 5th day crowd.