England national selector Geoff Miller is confident Alastair Cook will battle through what he concedes is probably the most difficult stage of his career so far.
Miller and his colleagues stuck with out-of-form opener Cook when they broke with recent protocol on Sunday by naming not just a squad but their unchanged team, three days in advance, to face Pakistan in the third npower Test at The Oval.
The reasoning is that England, 2-0 up with two to play and 4/9 to make it 3-0 this week, are on a roll and have no need to drop anyone.
After Kevin Pietersen’s return to productivity with an important if scratchy first-innings half-century at Edgbaston last week, only Cook’s position was in the slightest doubt – and even then, no one seriously expected England to lose faith in their vice-captain at this stage.
It would, in fact, be especially inconvenient to be forced into taking him out of the firing line at the top of the order with the Ashes tour less than three months away.
Cook, 5/1 to score a century in the first innings, has long been identified as a front-runner to be Andrew Strauss’ eventual successor as captain, and duly deputised for him in the successful Test and one-day international series in Bangladesh last spring.
It is also true to say that, for all England’s strength in depth in other departments, contenders to provide cover for Strauss and Cook at the top of the order are less obvious.
“We back Alastair to come through this tough patch he is having,” Miller said. “He is a battler and will battle his way through it.”
How will Cook repay the selectors’ faith? He is 20/1 to be named man of the match in the third Test. See the full England vs Pakistan Match Betting Odds market.