Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Ever-evolving Sam Cook eyes higher honours. "I'm not blowing my own trumpet but I think I have definitely added pace this year," Cook
"I'm not blowing my own trumpet but I think I have definitely added pace this year," Cook
By his own admission, Sam Cook, the Essex fast-bowler, is not an in-your-face type of guy. There is not much he does for show. Sledging opposing batsmen is not his thing – Cook says he is rubbish at it anyway – and a play and miss or a dropped catch is often met with just a wry smile or a grimace rather than a temper tantrum. Cook prefers to let his performances speak for themselves so it was no surprise that when asked if he had called Chris Silverwood, his former coach at Essex, to press his England claims, there was horror in Cook's voice. “I wouldn't dare do that. No, I wouldn't call Spoons.”
With a first-class record that currently reads 162 wickets at an average of 20.35 with ten five-wicket hauls and two ten-wicket games in just 47 matches, Cook doesn't need to be calling anyone up to lay his credentials on the table. This term was another successful one. He finished the third highest wicket taker in the Championship, with 58 scalps in 13 matches at the remarkable average of 14.43, and supplemented his red-ball success with white-ball excellence, ending up fifth in the Vitality T20 Blast wicket taking charts and getting a late call-up to play for Trent Rockets in The Hundred.
It has been the continuation of a theme for Cook. Ever since he made his first-team debut for Essex in 2017, he has churned out consistently excellent performances, taking to professional cricket like a duck to water. That is why the 24 year-old should be a contender to be named as part of the England Lions squad for the tour to Australia later this winter. The party is set to be announced towards the end of this week and Cook would love to be part of it having tasted Lions action as a replacement on their tour down under at the start of 2020, just before COVID struck.
When he first entered the Essex team, Cook says he was a “skinny 70mph bowler”, the sort that might do well in county cricket but goes the distance in international cricket. Now though, he is a far more rounded operator. He is a shade over 6 foot tall but looks noticeably stronger and more athletic in his frame than he did a couple of years ago. With that has brought extra speed. “I'm not blowing my own trumpet but I think I have definitely added pace this year,” he tells Cricbuzz. “I felt like the nicks have carried a lot more and I've been chatting to the guys in the slips and the guys that I've been playing against, and they have noticed an increase in pace too.”
Skill wise there has been development as well with wobble seam and swing now part of Cook's armoury, following the example of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, while his accuracy continues to be a mainstay of his gameplan. “I've always had a good inswinger but my stock ball away from the [right-handed] bat is something that I've worked on,” Cook says. “I have worked on my seam position a lot and having the ability to change from seam to swing is something that, as I've got older and more experienced, I have learned to switch.
“The wobble seam, especially with the new ball, is so useful because the movement is so late. You play against those real, high quality batters and they can sometimes play swing relatively easily. But if you can move the ball off the seam in that last quarter third of the pitch, you're just reducing the batter's reaction time, especially when the ball is new and the seam is hard. I just learned that watching Jimmy and Broady and how they do it and trying to replicate that.”
During the summer's Test series against India, Anderson said he doesn't know which way the wobble seam will move once it pitches. Does Cook? “You can angle it slightly off for an in swing or slightly in for an away seam, but at the end of the day it's coming down with a wobble seam, it's a bit of a 50 50. That's the beauty of it, and that's where the skill comes into it, is landing it in an area where, if it moves away, it's challenging the outside edge and if it nips in it's challenging LBW and the stumps.
“That's what Jimmy does incredibly with his areas. He never misses. We always talk about having as many dismissals in play as possible, whether it's outside edge or inside edge. The wobble seam, the real skill in it obviously is, for one, feeling it out of hand and being able to actually feel the wobble seam, and then putting it in the area where you're going to challenge with those dismissals. That's what I think is the biggest skill behind it.”
This summer's early season pitches in the County Championship certainly put Cook's skills to the test. Contrary to the oft-trodden refrain that domestic pitches are too bowler friendly, a couple of early matches at Chelmsford were played on roads while away from home too, the Essex bowlers found things tough going. In all, the club drew five of their ten group matches and failed to secure a position in Division One for the final stage of the Championship.
For a side who won two Championships and the Bob Willis Trophy in the previous four seasons, it was a disappointment. Running away with Division Two at the back end of the summer was no real consolation. “It shows how far we've come and the success we've had and where we're at as a team, mentality wise, that we were not happy with winning Division Two,” Cook says. “We wanted to be fighting in Division One and seeing those teams at the top going for it on the last day, it was a case of that's where we think we should be and where we belong and want to be.
“Players around the game spoke about that first month a lot as the pitches were flat. There were good wickets and a couple of the draws at home ended up hurting us when it came to qualification for Division One. Normally we back ourselves to bowl teams out twice at home but a combination of good batting, flatter pitches, and possibly not taking our catches here and there probably resulted in missing out.”
Even so, Cook says playing on those batsman friendly pitches was a good learning experience. Despite picking up ten wickets against Northamptonshire in the final Championship match, he says his red-ball performance of the season was his six wickets from 41 overs at New Road against Worcestershire in April. The surface was a batter's dream yet Cook kept plugging away, picking up three quick wickets in the first innings with an old ball and plenty of overs in the legs.
“I always enjoy the challenge and want to play on flatter pitches,” he says. “If you have aspirations to play at that next level you want to play on good wickets and challenge yourself That game away at Worcester, where I think there had been 12 wickets or something in the match the week before, to take six wickets in all, I was pretty chuffed with that. Maybe adding a bit of pace to my game and learning how to bowl on flatter pitches more has helped.”
That sort of mentality will certainly come in handy should Cook get a Lions call-up for Australia. Playing for England is something he says he is “desperate” to do and while he does not want to get too het up in worrying about whether a call will come for this winter, Cook does feel ready for it. “I've got confidence in my ability and I think if I got the chance I'd always back myself. I guess you never really know until you make that step up. But from getting Test cricketers out in county cricket on good wickets then I don't see why, if I did take that step up, it would be any different.