Alastair Cook hits back at AB de Villiers over his England jibes

This article is more than 5 years old

Cook backs Jimmy Anderson after De Villiers questions pace
South Africa captain also highlights England’s ‘weaknesses’

in Centurion

Last modified on Wed 21 Feb 2018 13.41 EST

Alastair Cook has said it takes “a brave man” to call out Jimmy Anderson before a Test match after the South Africa captain, AB de Villiers, appeared to suggest England’s record wicket-taker has lost his pace. De Villiers, whose side are 2-0 down going into Friday’s dead-rubber finale, claimed England’s batting was not “best-in-the-world material” and “some of the guys” with experience remained skilful but no longer bowling at their quickest.

The latter critique, which looked to be aimed at Anderson in light of Broad’s six-wicket steamrollering of South Africa at The Wanderers last weekend, left his opposite number somewhat bemused. “He’s obviously trying to wind everything up and, if Jimmy reads it, he’ll have a word,” said Cook. “I actually think his speeds have been quite good in this series. It’s a brave man to call Jimmy Anderson out but I guess it will spice up the match a little.”

De Villiers, when asked to appraise the series winners, had said earlier: “There’s no hiding from the fact they seem to know what they are doing. But there’s also no doubt in my mind there are weaknesses; we have exposed some of them but not enough.

“The batting is not 100% the best-in-the-world material, there are areas we can expose if we start well with the ball. The bowling is experienced but some of the guys have lost some pace over the years. They are smart and skilled, so there are other angles to cover, but they are not unbeatable.”

While Anderson was the slowest of the eight quicks on show in Johannesburg, his average speed of 83.4mph did not stick out in a career of 429 Test wickets that has been built on skill, not express pace.

The 33-year-old, who bowled well in South Africa’s second innings for only one wicket, has not got into the series since missing the opener in Durban with a calf strain, taking only three wickets at 54.

Cook was happy to concede the point on the batting, with his opening partner Alex Hales, Nick Compton and James Taylor in need of runs in the fourth Test to cement their places before the visit of Sri Lanka in May, their next assignment in the longest form of the game. He said: “A lot of runs have been scored by Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow in this series which is great but other guys haven’t quite contributed – myself included – and we’ve got a chance to do that in this game.

“Hopefully Alex, James, Nick, myself, we can end the series well. The guys are desperate to shore up their spots so when the selection meeting comes for the Sri Lankan series, they’ve earned that right. I’m really looking forward to this week to see how people respond to that.

“We’ve got an opportunity to see how far we’ve come.”

On Hales, who has only one notable score in the series – 60 at Cape Town – and is the captain’s eighth opening partner since Andrew Strauss retired, Cook added: “Alex has done OK. He will be one of the guys desperate to get a big score to get his Test career up and running.

“You have to play the way you’re selected for.

“I’d love to see him get past that first hour and play the cricket he plays for Nottinghamshire because he’s capable of big hundreds.”

Both Cook, who has averaged only 17 in the South Africa series but is 117 runs short of 10,000 in Test cricket, and the head coach, Trevor Bayliss, have been keen to avoid a drop in intensity from their side after losing the final Ashes Test of last summer having already completed the series win.

Cook said: “It hasn’t quite happened for me this series so it would be lovely to score a hundred and get that milestone. But I will just try to score a hundred and set the tone for England and, if you get to these milestones along the way, then it’s all well and good. I’m not setting out to score 117 runs, just set up the Test.

“It would be great if we can end the Test tour unbeaten and put in a good performance. We have got a lot to play for. I have no doubt the attitude of the guys will be fine. Win, lose or draw, it won’t be down to our attitude.”