London: Alastair Cook will be back on familiar ground leading the one-day side on Saturday but his recent promotion to England’s chief of staff in Test cricket will bring a new level of scrutiny to the decisions he makes against South Africa at the Oval.
Life has changed for Cook since the 80-run hammering at the Rose Bowl on Tuesday night, but one constant remains: stopping South Africa’s winning momentum.
It was on this ground that South Africa dominance began with one of the heaviest Test victories over England of recent times.
Little has altered since then but Cook’s side still have time to put a different gloss on the final weeks of the summer.
The eight wins over Australia and the West Indies this summer were built on a big individual score from one of the top four batsman and England’s ability to maximise the fact that a different ball is used at either end, giving their fast bowlers a lasting advantage.
Rain in south London on Thursday morning prevented England from netting outdoors and their practice session was delayed by a series of team meetings.
Cook and coach Andy Flower have a lot to discuss and it is clear they will have been some straight talking. “We’ve sat down, had a chat and thought about what we want to do and how we want to win this game,” said Steven Finn.
“That’s not too dissimilar to the way we’ve won all our ODIs this summer, so our plans aren’t going to change drastically.”
Finn has blossomed under Cook’s captaincy in one-day cricket and there was a sense at one time this year that Andrew Strauss did not fully trust his young Middlesex colleague.
But Finn echoed the sentiments of others by paying tribute to Strauss while believing little will change. “Cooky is a similar sort of leader to Straussy. He leads from the front as an opening batsman, going out there setting the tone is very good for a captain,” he said.
“He’s grown into his role as a one-day captain and we’ve played quite aggressive cricket, especially with the way we’ve attacked people with ball and bat. I have a slip quite a lot when I’m bowling which you don’t always see in ODI cricket. That can only bode well for the future.
“I think the transition between the two will be smooth in that Alastair has been used to working with Andy Flower as a one-day captain.
“Alastair may have his own plans and stuff he wishes to introduce to the Test team, but I would imagine the fundamentals day in day out will be very similar. We won’t see a drastic change and I think that’s good for us as a team.”