Skipper Alastair Cook has revealed his positioning at the crease was the focus of his training in the nets leading into the Centurion Test where he returned to form with a first-innings half-century.
The opening batsman had endured a quiet series by his own high standards in South Africa, scoring 103 runs from six innings, albeit in seamer-friendly conditions.
He showed signs of returning to his best in the run-chase in the series-clinching victory in Johannesburg last time out, when he fell for 43 late on, and identified areas that he needed to work on.
Cook reaped the rewards of that training at Centurion when he struck 76 that left him 41 shy of becoming the first England batsman to reach 10,000 Test runs.
Speaking the day before the fourth Test started, Cook explained to ecb.co.uk which aspect of his batting he was concentrating on to ensure he contributed more runs from the top of the order.
“It depends on how well you are hitting them or what you are trying to work on,” England’s leading Test run-scorer said.
“At this stage of a tour – I haven’t scored a huge amount of runs – I’m trying to make sure I am in the best place as I can be. I turned a corner in the last game, I think I played a bit better.
“For me I just making sure technically I am in the right place where I want to be when the ball is released. I was facing Jimmy (Anderson) and the two Chris’ (Woakes and Jordan), their new balls on a surface that was doing a bit was a challenge.”
James Anderson, Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes were all testing Cook’s technique with the new ball in the nets, attempting to replicate a match situation when he would be facing Proteas right-armers Kagiso Rabada and Kyle Abbott first up at Centurion.
Cook believes bowlers can aid a batsman’s development, adding: “In a good team it happens a lot, in a bad team it doesn’t happen too much. A bowler can learn off a batter and vice-versa.
“A batter can learn off a bowler, saying: ‘I think you are going this way’ or ‘it looks like you are pushing across the crease, your weight is going too far across the crease’. That is sometimes good feedback.”
As both the captain and an opening batsman, Cook has an important role in identifying the conditions at each venue before a Test begins.
“Most conversations with the lads are about how this pitch will play. For all of us really, we don’t know the conditions as well as we would know the conditions at home,” he said.
“It is all about trying to work out a gameplan in two or three days of how to play on certain wickets.
“All three wickets have been different so far and this will be another different wicket. It is down to the batting group to try and adapt to that.”