The Cook of records
Alastair Cook has what it takes to become England's all-time leading Test runscorer, says Bob Willis.
Last Updated: 04/12/10 8:25am
Everything is going perfectly to script for Alastair Cook.
He's looking in the best form of his life - his front knee is bending beautifully, his driving is as good as I've ever seen it and he's perfectly poised on the back foot.
He's making up for those thin times against Australia four years ago and why not? The flat pitches in Brisbane and Adelaide are ideally-suited to scoring big runs and he's up against an Australian attack that is all but threadbare.
He's 136no overnight - who's to say he can't surpass his personal best of 235no on day three?
To score 15 Test hundreds before the age of 26 is an incredible achievement and he could easily go on and become England's run-scorer of all time if he stays fit.
He's already well on track to surpass Graham Gooch's tally of 8,900 and I'm sure that Gooch, who has been Cook's chief mentor over the years, would love to see that happen in his dotage.
Cook's fitness and powers of concentration in the series so far have been almost beyond belief; to be able to stay in the zone follow up his mammoth 235no in the first Test with another hundred in temperatures of 37 degrees is quite staggering.
Australia started the day as well as they could have hoped, removing Andrew Strauss in the first over, but as time wore on they once again looked short of options.
Ryan Harris ran in gamely and performed reasonably well, bowling some quick deliveries along the way, but the vagaries in the pitch that Michael Hussey spoke about after day one were all but non-existent.
Strauss' downfall owed as much to individual error as anything else; he misjudged the length and the bounce of the ball badly and is probably still kicking himself.
But Cook and Jonathan Trott, who admittedly did survive a few close misses, did their captain proud.
Australia's decision to pack the leg-side and try to bowl to Trott's strengths was palpably wrong and by the time they changed tact he was speeding towards another fifty, which took the pressure off Cook completely.
What Ricky Ponting must be thinking after seeing England rack up a collective total of 834-3 in Brisbane and here I can't imagine.
There's no sign of any respite for his side because the second new ball failed to have an impact before stumps; Australia badly need some magic on day three but I'm struggling to see where it will come from.
Ponting has yet to turn to the spin of Michael Clarke or Simon Katich, which I can only imagine is due to injury concerns, and Xavier Doherty looks increasingly out of his depth on pitches like this.
To make matters worse for Australia they have a rejuvenated Kevin Pietersen to deal with.
Pietersen has happy memories of Adelaide after scoring 150 here four years ago and the biggest threat to him repeating the feat is over-confidence.
This innings could be the turning point for Pietersen after a thin run that goes back to when he lost the captaincy.
We're seeing the face of the bat a lot more in his strokeplay - a definite sign that Pietersen is in good order - and he looks a lot more authoritative as a result.
There are mixed reports about what the weather might do over the final two days of the Test; experience tells me it would be quite strange for rain to follow a hot spell in Adelaide, but the weather is pretty strange all over the world - England included - at the moment!
So England must crack on on day three, establish a healthy lead and then press hard for the victory that will put them in a great position to retain the Ashes.