Sam Cook and the England Lions are hungry for a taste of cricket’s big time |  England cricket team

Sam Cook and the England Lions are hungry for a taste of cricket’s big time | England cricket team

Across the sea from the football and after a bellyful of white-ball cricket, England’s men turn their attention to red. Abu Dhabi hosts a three-day game against the Lions from Wednesday before Ben Stokes and his team travel to Pakistan for next week’s first Test at Rawalpindi.

In addition to a tune-up for the three-game series, this comes at an interesting time for the Lions. England cricket’s high performance review may have met with strong resistance over its proposed national structure, but among the recommendations that can be passed without county approval is greater investment in the second string.

As the report states, Lions should be ‘high’ with an ‘80%’ focus on the red ball. So camps like the one held over the past fortnight could well multiply, offering even more access to senior coaches and players – Jimmy Anderson, for example, has been absent from the start – as well as the chance to impress on field.

“It’s been a great journey in terms of development and that game against the Test team at the end is what you’re working towards,” says Sam Cook, the Essex tailor who won his first Lions call-up last week. last winter and hope for the green light. this week.

“You want to put yourself in the Test coaching showcase against the best players in the country, the guys you hope will be teammates in the future.

England have 30 players on the pitch – 15 in the full squad, 15 in the Lions – and with the match at the Sheikh Zayed complex not being top class, it can be a rolling cast. Among the hopefuls are Rehan Ahmed, the 18-year-old leg-spinning prodigy from Leicestershire, and three tested cricketers in Haseeb Hameed, Matt Fisher and Matt Potts.

Cook is another promising player who is pushing hard with just four rapids in the main group. In September, when he nabbed Yorkshire’s Tom Kohler-Cadmore at the third slide, the 25-year-old became the first England bowler since Alan Ward in 1971 to reach the 200 class first-class wicket milestone with a bowling average less than 20 (19.59).

A right-armor who combines remorseless precision with skill, Cook does something batters don’t like and England’s interest has been piqued. The pace tends to be high at this stage, but Cook, who has made progress over the past two years, is relaxed.

Another Lions player looking to impress is Rehan Ahmed, the 18-year-old from Leicestershire.
Another Lions player looking to impress is Rehan Ahmed, the 18-year-old from Leicestershire. Photography: John Mallett/ProSports/Shutterstock

“There are two sides to the question of pace,” says Cook, who has two county league titles in 2017 and 2019, a T20 Blast victory and was the man in the final with four wickets when Trent Rockets won the men’s Hundred this year.

“Personally, I’m not concerned about the pace in terms of releasing test players. I’ve done it before and on test sites, so I’m confident I can do it at test level. J I’ve built my game on consistency and I try to take the small bits of information to keep rounding up all aspects of my game whether it’s fitness, pace or skill.

“But then, if you can move the ball consistently at a higher rate, it will only make you better – maybe more little nicks to actually slip. I’ve added a bit over the past two years, but I’m not 100% focused on it. There’s no quick fix to adding 5 mph – if a trainer knew that, they’d have the keys to the sport. These are small adjustments. I will never be 90 mph, I just want to do what I’m doing as fast as possible.

In a reminder that hothousing Lions players are still dependent on the counties production line, Cook credits Essex for their rise and the constant encouragement of Alastair Cook – Chief of his little chef and the sage at 161 locker room capsules of Chelmsford since retiring from Test cricket. in 2018.

“He was amazing,” says Sam Cook. “He doesn’t care a bit about chivalry – ‘Can I buy you a drink, sir? He helped me enormously – a bit like an oracle.

Abu Dhabi is where Cook senior played England’s longest Test runs, an Olympic breakfast of 863 minutes from a vigil against Pakistan in 2015 that nearly set up a famous win. Under Brendon McCullum as head coach, England are doing things a little faster and the young Cook, like all of the Lions, got the message.

He adds: “My priority is Test cricket. As a fan – a bit of a badger – this summer was amazing to watch. Brendon also joined us in Lions practice. He was an amazing guy to chat with, but he also sent a message to the group about having fun and being aggressive. It only stimulates you.

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