Poll: Support for Cook in question as Moores admits possible rethink

England coach Peter Moores still wants Alastair Cook as his World Cup captain – but may yet be persuaded otherwise in the coming days.

England coach Peter Moores (left) and captain Alastair Cook (right).
England coach Peter Moores (left) and captain Alastair Cook (right).

There was “100 per cent” support for “unique leader” Cook, according to national selector James Whitaker two months ago, to take his country to Australia and New Zealand in the new year.

Subsequent events in Sri Lanka have been a debacle for the captain, however, culminating on Saturday in his fifth successive one-day international series defeat.

Moores has responded by voicing his personal faith in Cook, but warning there can be no “guarantee” he will retain the consensus when he consults his three fellow selectors in a series review.

That will come after the final match of this tour, in Colombo tomorrow, when Cook will have one more opportunity to put a score on the board and reduce the margin of defeat to 4-3, and before England announce a 16-man party to travel to Australia next month for a tri-series against the hosts and India.

The squad will be a World Cup one in all but one name – that of an extra bowler – and must be trimmed to 15 on January 7.

If Cook, already listed as captain in a provisional 30, retains that status on Saturday, all further discussion will surely be redundant.

Moores’s mind, in any case, remains made up, and he said: “For me, I think Alastair’s the right man to move us to the World Cup.

“But ... I’ll go into a room with the other selectors, and we’ll talk about it.”

It is a moot point whether the coach is following protocol, or senses one or more of his three colleagues is beginning to have doubts.

“A lot’s happened over the last six ODIs – a lot of good has happened,” he said. “You have a panel of selectors to talk about stuff. So why wouldn’t you use that?”

It will be a stark about-turn from Whitaker if he is voicing concerns – leaving Angus Fraser or Mick Newell as the source of disquiet, if indeed there is any.

Moores added: “What James Whitaker said about Alastair being captain in the World Cup – nothing has changed on that.

“At the end of every series I’ve been involved in, we’ve always sat down and looked at everything and asked if we are doing the right things – because nobody has a crystal ball to look into the future.

“Alastair has said very clearly that he is very keen to carry on, and wants to remain as captain of England.

“He knows nobody has got the guarantee of that.

“I hear people say someone’s unsackable. That would be a ridiculous comment.

“We’ve got four selectors, and we always pick what we think is the best team – and that will be no different, moving forward.”

Moores’s adherence to process is nothing new, and it was only after a review of the summer defeats against Sri Lanka and India that Whitaker gave Cook his glowing reference.

England had no effective answer to Kumar Sangakkara’s 20th century, in his last one-day international on his home ground, as they slumped to a series defeat.

Sangakkara was badly dropped by Cook at mid off, on 41 off Ravi Bopara, then proceeded to a virtuoso hundred – in which he shared a second-wicket stand of 153 with Tillakaratne Dilshan (68) at the Pallekele International Stadium.

The consequence, once Sangakkara was done with a run-a-ball 112, was a total of 292-7.

Cook had much leeway to make up with the bat, but was gone in the first over to England’s old adversary Sachithra Senanayake – and despite some resilience from in-form Yorkshire batsman Root (55), the tourists were all out 90 runs short.

The game was up for good once the Yorkshireman was bowled attempting an audacious sweep at the pace of Lakmal in powerplay.

Wicketkeeper Sangakkara took four catches for good measure, and the bowling honours went to Suranga Lakmal (4-30) as England left 8.3 overs unused.

Sangakkara, Sri Lanka’s all-time great who will retire from ODIs after the World Cup, was born in nearby Matale and is a hero for a generation in this country of cricket enthusiasts.

He did not disappoint them, first of all passing his fifth successive 50 and then pressing on to three figures.

Sangakkara hit 11 fours and a six en route – and the moment he posted his century, with a routine single into the off-side, his crowd went wild.

He departed in minor anti-climax soon afterwards, carving Chris Jordan to cover, but made his way off with arms aloft acknowledging the adoration.

Cook said: “It’s tough at the moment – not scoring the runs I’d like is not a great place to be as a captain.

“You want to lead from the front, and when it’s not happening for you it is incredibly frustrating.”