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Key Ashes Battle: Cook vs Clarke

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Alistair Cook Michael Clarke
Age 30 34
Test Matches 114 110
Runs 9000 8511
50s/100s 42/27 27/28
Best 294 329*

If either England or Australia are going to triumph in this years Ashes series, then both sides are going to need their captains to be in top form. Both men know what it is like to win an Ashes series as captain, with Cook leading his men to victory in the 2013 series before Clarke tasted success six months later as Australia triumphed in the return series down under. While both men will be relying on their teams to produce big moments, both players will be hoping to lead from the front and inspire their sides to victory.

Cook, England’s leading Test run scorer, has experienced plenty of Ashes success in his career. After playing in Andrew Strauss’ side that enjoyed success in England and Australia, Cook guided England to a third successive victory two years ago. However, after the 5-0 thrashing in Australia, Cook came under pressure and only just managed to keep his job. Since then, he has returned to form and has scored centuries against both New Zealand and the West Indies this year.

While Cook may not be the most natural of leaders, he is one of the finest batsmen of his generation and will go down as one of England’s greatest ever players. Cook has recently become more adventurous with his field settings, and his removal from the ODI squad seems to have given him a new lease of life in the longest form of the game. If Cook can lead from the front with the bat, then this could be enough to inspire England to victory, and despite his recent poor record against Australia, he will be the man they fear the most.

Unlike Cook, Clarke is a much more natural captain and has been praised for his imaginative fields and ability to out think players to get them out. Clarke has long been Australia’s premier batsman, but in recent months that title has fallen on Steven Smith, who has found himself at number one on the batting rankings. Whether this will go on to inspire Clarke to better things or have a detrimental effect on his confidence and influence, remains to be seen.

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While his batting seems to have declined slightly in the past year, his ability to lead and inspire his Australian has not. Cook’s critics will argue that Clarke represents what a captain should be; innovative, forward thinking and ambitious. Clarke has a prestigious record as the Aussie captain, having guided them to success in both limited overs cricket and the longest form of the game. Clarke has suffered from back injuries in recent years and as he pushes the age of thirty-five, he may well consider this his last chance to hold the urn on English soil.

While many would agree that Clarke is the better and more natural captain, it is Cook who is the more prolific batsman and he will be hoping that good form with the bat will lead him being able to make big calls in the field more effectively. This series is crucial for both players, with the possibility that a series defeat will lead to the end of their reign as captain. Both men have enjoyed success before and victory in this series, which could be the closest in years, will be a career highlight for both skippers.

Tomorrow will see our final head-to-head as we look at the coaches for both sides, so keep an eye out for that article!

Alastair Cook ashes Michael Clarke

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