Cricket: 'Unlucky' Cook happy to help Essex attack
PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 June 2019
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Sam Cook must be the unluckiest bowler on the county circuit at the moment.
He has beaten the bat on numerous occasions already this season without finding the edges that turn 'oohs and aahs' into wickets.
Not that the 21-year-old Essex seamer, with five wickets in five Specsavers County Championship innings at 49 apiece, is fretting unduly.
He accepts that his role is to soften up the opposition batsmen and send them scurrying down the other end where Simon Harmer is waiting like an off-spinning praying mantis.
"I'm not unlucky," he says. "We're winning games. That's the most important thing. You might say I deserve a few more wickets than I've got, but I'm not bothered, not when you're winning games of Championship cricket. That is by far the best feeling that you'd ever ask for as a player.
"Yes, you can say I'm unlucky not to pick up the numbers [of wickets] I may or may not deserve, but I think you make your own luck, so I'm not too bothered."
The number of play-and-misses he induces really ought to be rewarded in four or five-wicket hauls.
"That's the thing, though," he says. "The play-and-misses, the pressure that you create coming from the other end. It's not about individual performances, it's about creating pressure from both ends.
"Yes, individually those kind of things are nice, but I'm sure if I keep putting the ball in the right areas that will come. I'm just happy we're moving in the right direction.
"I think our attack has been pretty successful over the last 12 months or so in bowling teams out consistently around the country - and I think we'll continue to do that."
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Cook's cupboard may be relatively bare, but it matters little when Harmer is feasting gluttonously from the opposite end.
Essex's back-to-back Championship wins against Nottinghamshire and Kent have been underpinned by the man Cook calls 'The Wizard' and 'The Genius'.
"I think not only are we seeing the best spinner in county cricket by far, but definitely one of the best in the world," says Cook of the South African who has taken 29 red-ball wickets at 18.75 each this season.
"To bowl that quality off-spin consistently week-in, week-out, 30 to 40-over spells - chuck him the ball on the last day and he continually performs.
"You'd like to think that the pressure built from the other end, and the yards we put in, allows 'Harmy' to bowl those long spells. He comes into his own on day three and four. To consistently bowl teams out and take five-fers and eight-fers, as we've seen, is something pretty special.
"He's an incredible player. I'm pretty lucky to have one of the best seats in the house watching it unfold at mid-off or point. From there you can see the way he goes about his business.
"It's just the consistency, the way he sets batters up continually. You talk to any batter around the country who's faced him, and he is easily the best spinner and the hardest to face. It's not just the magic balls, he hardly goes at any runs an over - and that creates more and more pressure as well."
Cook has been on the receiving end too, adding: "When I've faced him, it's been pretty challenging - and it's not pretty to watch. He's just as good in the nets as he is out there in the middle."
Essex start a run of three games against the teams above them in Division One, kicking off today at Headingley against Yorkshire.
"Championship cricket is all about momentum," says Cook. "If we can keep doing what we do well, and not straying too far from our game-plans, which have been so successful over the last 18-24 months, then we can build up a head of steam.
"When we won the league [in 2017] we probably went under the radar for much of the season as well. It's still pretty early in the Championship [season], but I think we'll be really happy with where we are now. We're nicely placed to make a charge."