A master of the long innings, and a giant in Asia
The fifth-highest run-getter in Tests and seventh in terms of matches played; sixth in terms of balls faced; the top run-scorer among left-hand batsmen and the only batsman to score 10,000-plus Test runs as an opener; 40% more than the next name on the list for England. Alastair Cook wasn't the most elegant or attractive batsman in Test history, but when measured by the metrics that matter the most in Test cricket - runs scored and time batted - he did an extremely good job.
Cook is the only batsman to feature twice in the top ten list of batsmen who have played the longest innings, in terms of minutes, in Test history. His 836-minute effort against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi is in third place, while his 773-minute innings against India at Edgbaston is tenth.
Among the 36 batsmen who have faced 7500-plus deliveries since Cook's debut, only eight have a strike rate which is lower than Cook's 46.95. Cook's strike rate was very similar to Cheteshwar Pujara's (46.90), but there was never any debate over Cook's batting tempo in Tests.
Cook was dismissed 275 times in the 26,562 deliveries he faced, which works out to a dismissal every 97 balls. He didn't quite reach the gold standard of 100 balls per dismissal (with a 7500-ball cut-off, there were 10 batsmen who achieved it in the period since Cook's debut), but among England batsmen, he was the leader on that attribute, though Joe Root and Kevin Pietersen had higher averages. Among the 19 England batsmen who faced at least 7500 deliveries in Tests since 1980, only two - Michael Atherton and Graham Thorpe - faced more balls per dismissal.
In terms of balls faced, Cook is the leader by far in these last 12 years: since his Test debut, the next highest is Hashim Amla's 17,806, which means Cook has faced a ridiculous 49% more deliveries than the next highest, in the period since his debut. To some extent, that is also a reflection of England's schedule (they top with 162 Tests since March 2006, followed by Australia's 135), but it also shows Cook's fitness - he played 161 of those Tests - and his immense appetite to bat on endlessly.
Not surprisingly, Cook is also among the top leavers of the ball over the last 12 years. Among batsmen who faced at least 10,000 balls since the time Cook made his debut, only four batsmen have left alone a higher percentage of deliveries than he has.
The partnerships man
As is the case with batsmen who play the anchor, Cook's contribution to the team wasn't only in the runs he scored, but in the runs that were scored by his more flamboyant batting partners, who were secure in the knowledge that the other end was rock solid.
While Cook was at the crease and scoring his 12,472 runs, the batsmen at the other end scored 13,327 runs. Given that England scored 88,245 runs off the bat in the 161 matches that Cook played, it is clear that 29% of England's runs off the bat were made when Cook was at the crease. That is very nearly as many as the runs scored when Root was at the crease, and higher than the corresponding percentages for Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell (in the period since Cook's debut).
Overall, Cook was involved in 651 partnerships, which is fourth in the all-time list, after Shivnarine Chanderpaul (770), Rahul Dravid (738) and Sachin Tendulkar (675). The 77 century stands he was involved in is fourth-highest as well: only Dravid (88), Tendulkar (86) and Ricky Ponting (85) have been involved in more century stands over a Test career.
A giant in Asia
Two-thousand-seven-hundred-and-ten. That is the number of Test runs Cook scored in Asia. The next highest, among non-Asian batsmen, is Jacques Kallis' 2058, which means Cook's tally is nearly 32% more than the next best. In ten series in Asia, he averaged more than 50 five times, and had at least one such series in each of India, Sri Lanka, UAE and Bangladesh.
Overall, he averaged 53.13 from 28 Tests in Asia, but as impressive as the runs he scored was the time he batted in these conditions. He averaged 119 balls per dismissal, which is fourth among all batsmen - Asian and non-Asian - who have batted at least 40 innings in Asia in the last 20 years.
Cook had the advantage of opening the batting, which is often the best position to bat in Asia, but even so, he had to play plenty of spin in his 28 Tests here: 64% of the total deliveries he faced were from spinners. Cook handled that challenge admirably, averaging 50.67 against them. Among non-Asian batsmen with 500-plus runs against spin since Cook's debut, only three batsmen have a higher average.
The golden years
Though he finished in style with a half-century and a hundred in his last Test, the last few years weren't that great for Cook. Despite scoring 218 runs in his last two innings, he still averaged only 28.66 from 10 Tests in 2018. In 2017, he averaged 47.31 from 20 innings, but 54% of his runs came from two innings - 244 not out and 243; his median score for the year was only 15.
Though his numbers fell away in his last year, Cook didn't have a prolonged poor run like some of the other batsmen have had. In his last three years - from 2016 onwards - Cook averaged 40.07 from 38 Tests; from the start of 2013, he averaged 40.87 from 74 matches, which again isn't that much below his career average. The difference in the later years, though, was the dip in his overseas numbers.
Cook's best years were undoubtedly the period between 2009 and 2012: in these four years, he scored 16 hundreds in 51 Tests, averaged 55.28, and his aggregate of 4423 was the best among all batsmen. Even more impressive than his overall numbers during this period were his away stats: in 25 Tests, he scored 10 hundreds and averaged an incredible 68.12. This was the phase when he had two epic tours, scoring 766 runs from seven innings in Australia, and 562 from eight innings in India. At home during this period, his average was a relatively ordinary 43.07.
From 2013, his home numbers didn't change much at all: he averaged 43.88. However, his away average dropped to a far more modest 37.20.
The Ashes numbers
And finally, there is the most important statistic for an Australian or England player: his performances in the biggest series of all. Cook played 22% of his Test innings against Australia, and scored 20% of his runs against them, which suggests that he didn't significantly deviate from his mean performances against other teams, when playing Australia.
While the overall stats are reasonable - he averaged 40.20 against them from 35 Tests - what will disappoint Cook is the fact that those numbers are propped up largely by one series. On the 2010-11 tour, he amassed 766 runs in seven innings - that's 31% of his total runs coming in 11% of his total innings. The 2017-18 series was similarly lopsided: he scored an unbeaten 244 in Melbourne, but managed only 132 runs in eight other innings. Add the 244 to his 766, and it turns out that he scored 1010 runs in eight innings, and 1483 in the remaining 56, including four series when he averaged between 24 and 28.
Overall, Cook is one of 12 England batsmen to score 2000-plus runs in Ashes Tests; in terms of averages, he is only 10th among the 12. That is somewhat similar to his overall career numbers, where he is one of 13 batsmen with 10,000-plus runs, but has the lowest average in that group. In Cook's case, though, the batting average doesn't do full justice in explaining just what he has meant to English cricket for more than 12 years.