Cricket Expert & Columnist
England should dedicate Oval Test to Alastair Cook, says Bob Willis
Last Updated: 04/09/18 11:01am
England should designate their final Test of the summer at the Oval as a tribute to Alastair Cook, according to Sky Cricket analyst Bob Willis.
Cook, who is England's record Test run-scorer, announced on Monday that he would retire from international cricket following the Oval clash against India, which gets underway later this week.
England have already clinched the five-match series after completing a 60-run victory over the tourists at Southampton on Sunday - which Willis feels should allow the departing Cook to take centre stage in his final Test.
"It's been a phenomenal career and happily the stage is now set at the Oval, with this series decided, that the whole Test can be dedicated to Alastair Cook and what he's done for England," said Willis.
"I'm sure the ECB will mark his retirement with a presentation of some sort. The ground will be sold out for the first four days so the 'live' cricketing public who are at the ground can pay their tribute to him.
"It'll be a very emotional occasion for Alastair and I wouldn't mind betting that there will be a tear in his eye when he eventually walks off that field for the last time.
"He's certainly given his all for England. Recently the ECB organised a poll among cricket fans and Alastair was voted in that best England team of all time to open the batting with Sir Leonard Hutton.
"That's high praise indeed when you think of players like [Jack] Hobbs and [Herbert] Sutcliffe from those golden years, who didn't make that team. Alastair Cook's right at the top of the list."
Although Cook has struggled for form against both Pakistan and India this summer, he goes into his farewell appearance at the Oval with 12,254 Test runs and 32 centuries to his name - far more than any other batsman in England's history.
That represents a daunting void for the selectors to fill, but Willis believes Cook's decision to quit could reprieve his current opening partner Keaton Jennings - whose place in the side has been under scrutiny after a run of low scores.
And the former England fast bowler would also like to see Surrey skipper Rory Burns, the leading run-scorer in the County Championship this season, handed a chance at international level.
"It is a very tough job. We've seen in both Test series against Pakistan and India how tough it's been for the batsmen at the top of the order," added Willis.
"Alastair was always a perfectionist. He hasn't got the runs he wanted this summer and I'm sure that's gone towards his decision to retire.
"Keaton Jennings is probably breathing a sigh of relief that he'll probably get another opportunity and hang onto his place for the winter.
"And they must call on Rory Burns now, who's been prolific for Surrey and scored nearly 1,000 runs in the County Championship. He will get his opportunity.
"That's the problem area for England - one, two and three. The rest of the batting line-up is all-rounders - it's a powerhouse of batting but the hardest job is at the top of the order against the new ball. That's going to be hard for England to replace."
Watch day one of the fifth Test, Cook's last, live from 10am on Friday on Sky Sports Cricket (channel 404) and Main Event (channel 401).
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