Alastair Cook tipped to step down as England captain

December 20, 2016

Cricket fans booking corporate hospitality for the Kia Oval Test match between England and South Africa next summer may be watching a home team with a different captain, after England slumped to another innings defeat in India to lose the Test series 4-0.

Having piled up 477 in the first innings at Chennai, England had hoped they would do no worse than draw the match, but on a slow patch their tired bowlers were flogged around the park by the Indians, with Karan Nair making the most of his first Test century by going on to a mammoth 303 not out.

India's total of 759-7 declared was their highest in Tests and also the largest Test score England had ever conceded. With KL Rahul making 199, it was almost the second time two Indian batsmen had made double centuries in the same Test innings, on the ground where the only English pair to achieve the feat - Mike Gatting and Graeme Fowler - did so in 1985.

Sadly for England, nobody was to come close to matching that pair. Although Cook and Keaton Jennings put on 103 for the first wicket, two collapses lost the game, with the first four wickets falling for 23 and then the last six for only 15 after Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes had added 63 for the fifth wicket.

A flurry of rash shots did for the tourists and afterwards it was suggested that Cook, who recently said Joe Root is "ready for the captaincy" and hinted he might step down, is likely to quit.

Speaking on the BBC Test Match Special radio programme, former opening batsman Geoffrey Boycott reiterated his calls in his Daily Telegraph column for Cook to step down, suggesting the captain's recent hints show the idea "has been on his mind for some time".

"Normally, they sack losing generals, and he made a comment before the tour about how it might be his last.

"After we've lost the series, he says Joe Root is ready for captaincy, and nobody forced that out of him."

Cook himself told the BBC: "It's got to be a decision I've used a bit of time to make.

"If you sit here now after the nine weeks we've had you might make the wrong call. I'm going to give myself a bit of time to think about it and try to make the right decision."

Boycott suggested now would be a good time for a new captain because it would give him seven Tests in the coming home summer against South Africa and the West Indies to settle in before leading England's Ashes defence in Australia.

The South Africa series could be a good one to bounce back in, with England having enjoyed a series victory against them at the start of this year. However, the South Africans recently won in Australia, suggesting they are getting stronger.

India's series triumph extends their lead at the top of the ICC world rankings and their recent form may provide some perspective for England. They are now unbeaten in 18 Tests, winning 16 of the last 19 at home. Australia face the prospect of a tough tour there themselves in the early spring, having been spun to a 3-0 whitewash on their last subcontinental tour in Sri Lanka early this year.

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