Stephen Cook, who scored a century on debut, says it would have felt like retiring if he ever gave up his dream of playing for South Africa.
Cook (115) became the sixth South African to score a hundred on debut as South Africa finished day one of the fourth Test against England on 329-5. Cook shared a 202-run partnership with Hashim Amla (109).
His father Jimmy, who played for South Africa in the early nineties, was at SuperSport Park to watch as his son scored his maiden Test hundred 24 years after Cook senior made a golden duck on his debut.
‘I’m generally not an overly emotional character,’ Cook told the media after the day’s play. ‘It was fantastic to have a guy like Hashim with me throughout most of my innings. He did a really good job of just keeping me in the moment and just worrying about the next ball and looking too far ahead. We had a nice chuckle because the last time we batted together we were 19 years old.
‘My father called me the night before the Test and just said: “My boy, just don’t get out to the first one then you’re already better than me”. I was really glad for that first one off the pads. My dad came over to have a word with me and just said he’s really proud. I owe a lot to him, he threw me balls and fed me bowling machines for many years growing up.’
While a debut is always special, Cook said it was about more than that.
‘I had always thought from a young age. Yes, it’s about making your debut for South Africa, but it’s about performing as well and scoring hundreds. I think, for so many guys it’s just a goal to make a team, whereas for me it’s so much greater. I want to contribute to Proteas victories and successes through my individual performances.
‘I don’t think I put any added pressure on myself. I kept to my normal routines and it probably helps that I’ve played for a number of years. Those routines and things are well established. ‘
At 33 years old Cook had to wait a long time to realise his dream and knew it would get harder as he got older.
‘I think as time went on, I knew it was getting more difficult and probably less likely that I would make my debut,’ he said.
‘But I never gave up hope. I always carried on. I think if I had given up on that hope it would have been difficult to just carry on. It would have been a retirement, but I never felt that. I always felt the day would come; if I could just be consistent and put in enough performances eventually it would bear fruit.’