PORT-OF-SPAIN // Alastair Cook is a relieved man after having put his century drought behind him as England head into the must-win final Test starting at Queen's Park Oval today. The opening batsman struck an unbeaten 139 in the bore draw in Barbados earlier this week, which ended hopes of a series victory for the tourists and means they need to defeat West Indies here to salvage a 1-1 stalemate.
It was his first hundred at Test level since Dec 2007 and halted a string of 11 unconverted half-centuries, including a score of 94 in the first innings at Kensington Oval. "To finally get one was certainly a relief after 14 months of not scoring a hundred, and 12 months of not scoring one in any form of cricket," Cook said. "No matter how many times you talk about it, until you actually do it the doubts are still there."
Jitters got the better of him when he reached the 80s on day one, but he was able to reach an eighth hundred at Test level on day five as the match meandered to its inevitable conclusion. "I got anxious about it in the first innings. I was that desperate to do it," Cook said. "The second innings was under slightly different circumstances, and I definitely changed the way I played leading up to the 90s and in the 90s."
England are hoping for an improvement - or, more accurately, a reduction in quality - in the pitch in Trinidad, having been presented with two batting surfaces since losing in Jamaica. "I think pitches should offer a bit of everything, whether they're flat for a couple of days and then deteriorate or start off with a bit in and become easier," Cook added. "We want to watch exciting cricket, and that's when all results are possible rather than just one."
Meanwhile, England's practice yesterday was switched away from the Queen's Park Oval to a school ground because of unsatisfactory net facilities. Hugh Morris, the England Cricket managing director, said Graeme Swann will play in the final Test while being relieved for the one-day series during which time he will undergo surgery on his right elbow. "It was clear he needed an operation - and given the amount of cricket we have got over the next six months, we feel this is the best time for him to go back and recover," he said.
* PA Sport