Alastair’s Ashes glory

THE East Anglian cricket club where Ashes hero Alastair Cook scored 64 on his senior debut at just 11 years of age has spoken of its extreme pride as the opening batsman celebrated retaining the coveted urn.

Cook has been one of the stand-out performers in Australia with his 82 helping England beat the hosts by a crushing innings and 157 runs in the fourth Test.

But while the Essex opener admitted he went into the Ashes under some pressure, his former club-mates at Maldon CC admitted they knew he would come good.

It was at Maldon where Cook made that amazing debut and then went on to produce a 168 batting average by the time he was 20 – just six years before scoring an incredible total of 577 runs in his six Ashes innings so far.

Alan Coker, chairman of the Essex club, said: “We are extremely proud and honoured and it is fantastic for cricket in the area. There are not many local sides who can boast an opening batsman for England among their past players.

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“We are very fortunate to have had Alastair pass through the club and we never had any doubt about his determination and will to succeed.”

The player himself was yesterday revelling in England’s fantastic success which has seen them secure the Ashes on Australian soil for the first time in 13 years.

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Cook said: “It has been an amazing few weeks. The lads have put in some serious hard yards from the moment we got here and we have got our rewards.

“At the beginning of the tour, a lot of people didn’t think I should be in the side and it is nice to prove some people wrong.”

Any queries over Cook’s selection were quickly over from the moment he scored 235 not out in the second innings of the drawn first Test. His ten-and-a-half hours at the crease saw the Essex batsman surpass Don Bradman’s batting record at Brisbane before he went on to notch 148 in the dominant second Test win.

But while savouring the triumph, Cook said his focus was still very much on winning the Ashes outright with a fifth Test victory in Sydney, starting on Sunday night.

Speaking after yesterday’s victory, he said: “We will enjoy today and then come back working over the next couple of days before we go to Sydney. It would be great to finish the tour on a great note.”

And his former club had no concerns about Cook and his England team-mates resting on Ashes retention alone.

Coker said: “He (Cook) will want to go out and win and do his best for the team – without a shadow of a doubt. He still stays in touch with people at Maldon and he hasn’t changed a bit. I think he is pleased that he is still associated with Maldon and we are proud that he is an honorary member of the club.”

The mercurial talents of a young Cook was obvious to all at Maldon from the moment he made his debut in the senior thirds at the age of 11.

His batting average went up to 50 by the age of 15, by which time he had progressed to the second XI, before improving year-on-year in Maldon’s first X1. Unsurprisingly, it was while playing at Maldon that he was spotted by former England coach and captain Keith Fletcher, then at Essex where Cook joined the academy before moving into the first XI.

“It was an exciting time for Maldon Cricket Club,” Coker recalled, “At that time, we had two young lads about the same age, Alastiar and David Randall, and both were exceptional. They would open for us and I can remember some opponents laughing at their age - but they didn’t laugh when they had finished with them.”

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