sport news Alastair Cook fell straight into Australia's trap

It was some time after 4pm on Saturday and the Gabba was in tumult. Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman walked the long, slow walk to the middle and the denizens of the top tier, the most raucous section of this bear-pit of a stadium, slammed their plastic seat bottoms against their metal supports and added their yells, screams, jeers and whistles to a cacophony of chaos.

It was bedlam. The sun beat down and Aussie fans swathed in green and gold and painted with sunscreen that looked like warpaint, came and went in the stands, carrying trays of four glasses of beer, responding to incessant chants of 'skull, skull, skull, skull' by downing them in one and then placing them upside down on the tops of their heads.

Cook did not look up as he walked to the wicket for the start of England's second innings but he could hear the fervour in the crowd and sense their lust for victims. He knew for sure he was about to face cricket's version of being thrown to the lions.

England opening batsman Alastair Cook can only look back in anger as Josh Hazlewood celebrates dismissing him for seven

England opening batsman Alastair Cook can only look back in anger as Josh Hazlewood celebrates dismissing him for seven

Cook was out attempting to hook Hazlewood and was caught by a diving Mitchell Starc at long leg

Cook was out attempting to hook Hazlewood and was caught by a diving Mitchell Starc at long leg

Hazlewood is mobbed by his Australia team-mates after getting the prize wicket of Cook as England struggled in Brisbane

Hazlewood is mobbed by his Australia team-mates after getting the prize wicket of Cook as England struggled in Brisbane

He knew what was required of him, too. For most of the day, the former England captain had laboured in the field with the rest of Joe Root's team as 33,000 spectators watched an unbeaten performance of quite stunning determination and discipline from Australia skipper Steve Smith that had carried his team beyond England's first innings total.

England set traps for Smith. Ball after ball and over after over, they dug the ball in short at him, inviting him to hook, crowding the legside with a leg gully, a square leg, a mid-on, a deep backward square leg and a deep midwicket. Another former England captain, Mark Nicholas, observed that it was like watching a modern version of bodyline.

But Smith refused to take the bait. He watched the barrage of short balls fly past his head. He ducked under them. He did not take them on. England's research had shown them that Smith is rarely clean bowled or out lbw and so they tried to tempt him into a loose shot outside off stump to find an edge. Once more, he declined the invitation.

He was patience personified. He spent 56 minutes in the 90s before a glorious cover drive brought him his 21st Test century. It had taken him 261 balls. He went on to make an unbeaten 141. From the Gabba press room, Michael Atherton, who had famously scored a similarly indomitable century in Johannesburg in 1995, watched on in admiration. 

Cook knew he had to try to produce something similar. Smith had shown an iron will. Now it was Cook's turn. England needed him to display all the stoicism and skill that has made him one of the country's greatest batsmen. He might not be captain any more but how they needed his experience to lead them by example. Not so long ago, you would not have picked any other man for the job.

He had, after all, faced a similar situation at this stadium seven years ago when England went into their second innings of the first Test trailing the Australians by 221 runs. Cook responded by scoring 235 not out, the highest Test score recorded at the Gabba, in a remarkable total of 517 for one. England saved the game and laid the foundations for their series victory.

Cook looks on nervously after playing a shot during his brief innings of seven runs from 13 balls in 16 minutes at the Gabba

Cook looks on nervously after playing a shot during his brief innings of seven runs from 13 balls in 16 minutes at the Gabba

Hazlewood successfully managed to lure Cook into a hook shot, the ball hitting the top edge of his bat and looping to Starc

Hazlewood successfully managed to lure Cook into a hook shot, the ball hitting the top edge of his bat and looping to Starc

Contrasting emotions as Cook makes the lonely walk back to the dressing room as Australia's player celebrate jubilantly

Contrasting emotions as Cook makes the lonely walk back to the dressing room as Australia's player celebrate jubilantly

Cook's dismissal delighted the majority of the raucous 33,000 strong crowd at the Gabba on the third day of the first Test

Cook's dismissal delighted the majority of the raucous 33,000 strong crowd at the Gabba on the third day of the first Test

Cook had fallen cheaply in England's first innings on Thursday, caught in the slips off the bowling of Mitchell Starc for two. He was in scratchy form

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