By Charles Randall
4 May 2012
Maldon CC's best-known player Alastair Cook took time off recently to revisit his alma mater Bedford School to open the pavilion after a £1 million refurbishment.
Though Cook and his brothers were nurtured by the Essex & Suffolk Two Counties Championship club at Heybridge, he made his name as a music scholar at Bedford where he broke every batting record imaginable in 2003. He returned in April this year as England's one-day captain to join a major drinks party and lunch for the revamped pavilion, well known as one of Bedfordshire's home grounds in the Minor Counties championship.
Cook was phenomenal at Maldon, scoring 64 on his debut in adult cricket at the age of 11 and raising his average to 168 by the time he was 20. In his four years in the Bedford side he hit an amazing 4,396 runs at 87.90, a total unlikely to be surpassed. Yet his season record aggregate -- 1,287 runs with five centuries and two double-centuries -- was beaten in 2010 by the Middlesex Academy batsman James Kettleborough, though he had seven more innings than Cook due to Bedford's passage to the final of the national T20 schools competition.
Attending the pavilion party was Will Notley, of Hornsey CC. He can dine out for the rest of his life as Cook's opening partner in 2003 when he produced 'only' 605 runs at 40.33, outscoring his illustrious captain "on several occasions". Cook and Notley pair once put on 333 together and enjoyed stands of 150 or more in four other matches. Anyone batting at four had diminished expectation of reaching the crease that summer.
Bedford, coached by the former England batsman Derek Randall, have produced two county captains and an England captain within a couple of years after many decades after The War without any notable county cricketers apart from Robin Boyd-Moss and Toby Bailey at Northamptonshire. Now Will Smith (Durham), Alex Wakely (Northants) and Cook (Essex and England) have become prominent in the same era.