12,472 runs in 161 Tests at an average of 45.35, his country's highest run-getter and century maker in Tests, the first cricketer to receive a knighthood since 2006 - Sir Alastair Cook's career had its ups and downs but there is no denying that he is one of the best opening batsmen to have ever played the game.
On this day, in 2016, Cook aged 31, five months and five days became the youngest batsman and the first Englishman to scale the 10,000-run barrier in Test cricket. He achieved the milestone on the fourth day of the second Test against Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street with a leg-side clip for four off Nuwan Pradeep.
Cook went into the Test needing 20 runs to reach 10,000 runs. He missed out in the first innings falling for 15 but made sure he got to the mark in the second dig. England needed just 79 runs to win the Test and three-match series against Sri Lanka and Cook remained unbeaten on 47 to take them through by nine wickets.
"The 10,000 has been a milestone that has driven me over the last few years," Cook had said after reaching the mark. "You get tested at the top of the order in all conditions against the best bowlers bowling with the new ball and I'm glad I have hung around long enough not to get dropped."
Cook had in May 2015 surpassed Graham Gooch's Test tally of 8990 runs to become England's highest-scorer in Tests. He was, in fact, at one time in line to take over Sachin Tendulkar's overall run tally of 15,921 before retiring at a relatively young age of 33, in September 2018. He finished as the fifth-highest run-getter in the history of Test cricket at an average of 45.35 which included 33 centuries and 57 half-centuries. Cook however still plays for Essex in the County Championship.
Cook was not the most elegant or attractive left-hander to play the game, but he got the job done for his team and that is what mattered. The fact that he scored all his runs as an opener mostly in English conditions which is often considered one of the toughest places to open the innings speaks volumes of his talent.
It was not just in England that Cook was successful. Barring New Zealand and South Africa, Cook aggregated in excess of 44 in every country he played in. In Asia, conditions where the best of foreign batters have failed repeatedly, Cook averaged a colossal 53.14. He was thrown into the deep end when he was flown halfway across the globe two days before the first Test against India, in 2006 and he immediately made a mark.
LOVE AFFAIR WITH ASIA
Cook started off his Test career in India with a 60 and a 104* and his love affair with Asian conditions began. In 28 Tests in Asian conditions, he has scored 2712 runs, the most for any non-Asian batsman. The next best here is Jacques Kallis who is almost 700 runs behind Cook on the list. He has played 10 series in Asia and has averaged more than 50 in more than five of those.
Cook often reserved his best for India. He scored 2431 runs in 30 Tests against the Indians averaging 47.67 which includes 9 half-centuries and 7 tons. However, it was his effort in India that stood out. In 13 Test matches in India, Cook scored 1235 runs at 51.46 which included 4 half-centuries and 5 centuries. No other visiting batsman has managed as many centuries as Cook in India.
His biggest achievement probably was during the 2012-13 series when England defeated India in India for the first time in 28 years. He amassed 562 runs in 8 innings during the series aggregating a strong 80.28 as England took the series 2-1.
Another striking feature of Cook's batting in India was the way he tackled the spinners. He faced a total of 309.4 overs against spin in India where he averaged 53.73 as compared to 160 overs against pace at 53.63.
THE STRAUSS-COOK PARTNERSHIP
Cook began his Test journey with Andrew Strauss as his opening partner and through the course of the next six years or so until Strauss' retirement the duo forged one of the best opening partnerships Test cricket has seen. The third-most successful opening duo (in terms of runs) in the history of Test cricket and the best-ever for England, both seemed to understand each other really well which clearly showed how well they operated between the wickets.
Strauss and Cook opened together in 117 innings where they averaged a high 41 while sharing 4711 runs between them. Only Matthew Hayden-Justin Langer (5655 runs) and Desmond Haynes-Gordon Greenidge (6482 runs) are ahead of Strauss and Cook on this list.
The void left at the top of the order was such that after Strauss retired in August 2012, Cook had as many as 12 different opening partners for the next six years but not one with whom he could forge a long-enough stand. With Cook having retired, England are still looking for answers at the top of the order but have not been too successful in their attempts.
It was not just Cook's stubbornness at the crease that got him through. He was a thinking cricketer, and an astute captain. There were a few fallouts, the one with Kevin Pietersen being the most highlighted but overall Cook was a cricketer admired by one and all. That was noticeable in his last Test against India where his century in the second innings was greeted with an ovation lasting several seconds.
One of just five cricketers to score a century in his opening Test and a century in his last, Cook's legacy as an opener in Test cricket will be there for ages to come.