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Ashes First Test: Cook can stand the Gabba heat to top score for England

Alastair Cook is our tip to top score for England
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Ralph Ellis muses on the first Test at the Gabba where fond memories of a double-century could help England's former captain to another big score...

"Cook's double-century in 2010 was an epic innings that got England out of the Gabba unbeaten and set up the series win. And if this Ashes is going to end in anything other than misery for Joe Root's side, then Cook has got to produce something similar."

I still think of Alastair Cook's 235 not out at The Gabba as the greatest innings I never saw.

I very nearly did, you see. We were in Australia in 2010 for a big holiday to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, and I'd cunningly organised the itinerary so we just happened to be in Brisbane on the opening day of the Ashes.

Because we were there, we had to get tickets, of course. So we witnessed Peter Siddle's hat-trick, saw Australia pile up a huge first innings lead, and watched Cook and Strauss survive 15 hectic overs on the evening of day three.

Day four, we flew to Cairns, and drove up to Port Douglas. Encouraged by David Lloyd's optimism who I had interviewed for Betfair, I'd had a huge bet on England to win the series. So I spent the afternoon on the beach walking up to the lifeguard, the only bloke with a radio, every 30 minutes to hear the score.

Each time Cook was still in. And it was the same the next day when we went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. Come up for air, ask the boat captain the score, and still, unbelievably, Cook was batting on.

It was an epic innings that got England out of the Gabba unbeaten and set up the series win. And if this Ashes is going to end in anything other than misery for Joe Root's side, then Cook has got to produce something similar.

Can he? Well the signs are actually quite positive that the man who spent more than 36 hours at the crease in that series is ready to hit his best again.

Cook is [4.6] to be England's top first innings run scorer and that's a bet I like after seeing him get 70 in the final warm-up in Townsville. There are echoes of him playing himself into form, just as he did in 2010 when he got 60 in Hobart.

Brisbane suits him - even in the miserable whitewash Ashes tour of 2013 he was one of the few to do well there, making 65 in the second innings.

And after proving last summer that losing the pressure of captaincy can be good for his batting, I fancy him to go on from there and have another scintillating series.

He's anywhere between [8.0] and [16.0] as the market for the top series run scorer develops and getting anything matched at double figures looks great value.

Cook has been around so long that it is easy to think of him as nearing retirement, but he's still only 32 and as fit as a fiddle. He's stayed out of the limelight in the build-up to this series - even when he did a publicity trip to an alligator farm with Moeen Ali he let his team mate do all the talking.

But Cook can do his talking where it matters, with the bat, and if he does make big runs again then laying a very average Australian side at [1.82] in the first Test could make a tidy profit.

Sadly this time I'm on this side of the world and not in Australia as the Ashes begin. But at least that means I can watch all five days and if Cook finds the right recipe, then I won't miss a shot.

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Make sure you are following @BetfairExchange in time for the Ashes - cricket trader Paul Krishnamurty will be live tweeting for every day of every Test.

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