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Alastair Cook: Farmer, nurdler, hunter, and Test-match survivor

Alastair Cook emerges from the Lord's pavilion Getty Images

Alastair Cook is awkwardly squatting at slip. His legs are too far apart, his hands are already together as if someone is about to pour soup into them, and it's as if he's standing over some imaginary obstacle, making his legs buckle weirdly. Cook was never a natural slip fielder, so he's made this technique to survive.

Cook was out of fashion before we even knew who he was. He made his first-class debut in 2003, the same year that T20 burst onto the county scene. He's the Jacob Rees-Mogg of English cricket, except that none of it is put on for effect. Cook's batting is from another era, untouched by the modern world.

The modern world, according to the ECB, thinks T20 is too long. The modern world doesn't even know of Ben Stokes or Joe Root. And Jos Buttler has just been picked for a Test match because the modern world liked his performance in a competition whose format and conditions are from another dimension.

Cook - Test nurdler, farmer, right kind of family, deer hunter - is still England's Test opener. And despite the many calls to drop him, Cook remains.

Since Cook's debut, opposition openers in England have averaged 32; Cook's averaged 44 in that time. English openers, including Andrew Strauss, have averaged 32 as well. Strauss has averaged 38, the only one close to Cook. In England's worst-ever opening partnerships of ten innings or more, Cook appears five times among the top ten. Since Strauss, only Root has averaged over 32 when opening for England. Dropping Cook would be like replacing a working washing machine with a bucket of mud.

Cook's made huge scores and series-winning ones in Australia and India. He has flaws; he often bats at one pace, he can suffer significant dips in form, and is almost anti-box office. But he's been an incredible opening batsman for English cricket.

Who cares if on Pointless - the English game show - he's a prized answer (the less famous you are, the more valuable you are to the contestant). He's made over 12,000 Test runs; today he went past Mike Atherton in facing the most balls as an opener in England (since balls have been counted), and now is joint with Allan Border for the most consecutive Tests, 153. All done without sweating.

Today England lost their fifth wicket at 149, at which point Cook had made 70. England would add another 35 runs without him.

Some suggested Cook was more attacking in this innings, and there were things in his cricket you rarely see. After 15 balls, Cook had made 17. This is a man with a strike rate of 77 in ODI cricket, so 17 from 15 was like watching your nan watch Childish Gambino's This is America on her phone. There were actual real-life cover drives, four off the seamers. Cook's wagon-wheel usually has a hole where cricket's classiest shot is played. He also went on the front foot to the seamers 74% of the time, even allowing for Pakistan's fuller length. That's a lot of front foot for Cook.

But, he still is Cook. After reaching 17 that quickly, he then scored one run from his next 29 balls. It took 96 deliveries to bring up his fifty, which was pretty quick considering the level of bowling he was facing. But then straight after that, he sat on 50 for 21 balls. Even when he's attacking, he isn't.

But Cook's method is perfect for days like this. Pakistan bowled full and accurately, with constant movement. To survive all that and the slope, you need to be patient, to understand the ball will beat the bat. According to CricViz, Cook usually leaves 18% of his deliveries, today it was 34%. When he played, he often played and missed. But he kept fighting, and was in control of 79% of his balls, the rest of England were at 75%.

Despite the brilliant bowling from Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ali, it was Cook's old nemesis Mohammad Amir who had him most in trouble. His control against Amir was 69%. But Amir has dismissed him six times in 15 innings and had him dropped almost as many times. And it was finally Amir who took him, with a ball handcrafted to dismiss him.

Until then there had been no counter-attack from Cook, just his standard counter-defence.

During Cook's first fallow period, Mohammad Abbas was bowling around the wicket, and the ball was still moving. The slope and angle dictated that the ball should come back in. But Abbas got the ball to go against gravity and slant, and both balls flew past Cook's outside edge. For the next seven deliveries from Abbas, Cook went back to defend, came forward to smother and left the ball alone. It was two straight overs of tests from Abbas.

But one ball was shorter, and Cook went back, dropped his hands, and steered it through slips for a boundary. It was the last delivery of Abbas' first spell, and Cook handled it through a combination of avoiding all-out defence, avoiding playing shots, and connecting well enough with an ungainly, effective steer. Cook survives; he often does.