Ashes - Cook not fooled by Aussie ills

England still need only short memories to empathise with the internal strife reportedly at large in the Australia dressing-room.

PA Sport
Ashes - Cook not fooled by Aussie ills
.

View photo

Alastair Cook does not think Australia will be affected by speculation

It is less than a year since Kevin Pietersen's disenchantment was looming over England's preparations for a Lord's Test - and so it apparently is for Australia after revelations, from former coach Mickey Arthur, about the strained relations between captain Michael Clarke and senior all-rounder Shane Watson.

Alastair Cook was not about to divert from England's policy of declining to talk about any difficulties, or otherwise, facing the opposition.

But invited to do so nonetheless, he did acknowledge the importance of a team pulling together and referenced England's own troubles not so long ago.

"We know how important team spirit is; we know how important the team culture is, and we've experienced difficulties in the past," he said.

The name of Pietersen, since happily reintegrated under Cook's captaincy, was unspoken but unmistakable in context.

Clarke was at pains, at his press conference to preview the second Investec Test at Lord's, to insist Australia's performance - as they seek to level the series after their narrow defeat at Trent Bridge - will not be compromised by issues described by his vice-captain Brad Haddin as "white noise".

From Cook's experience so far, of tourists who already had their share of distractions before Arthur cited Clarke and Watson's wrangles, Australia have shown no signs of being put off.

"For me to comment on what's happening in the Australia camp would be wrong - and anyone who saw what happened at Trent Bridge would see it doesn't seem to be affecting them," he said.

The epic Test in Nottingham had more than its share of controversies, most involving DRS - or in the incident which thrust Stuart Broad centre-stage, for declining to walk when he edged a ball to slip, the lack of a remaining third-umpire review after Australia had already used up their two permitted chances.

Not for the first time, Broad's feisty attitude was on show - and his captain does not want him to change, with bat or ball.

"I think he wouldn't be half the player he is without that edge he's got," said Cook.

"He loves the competition. It brings out the best in him, and actually a lot of his spells when he has taken five wickets very quickly have come when England have needed them the most.

"At The Oval (against Australia) in 2009, which pretty much launched his Test career in one way, they were 80 for nought or something like that - and then he takes five wickets very quickly.

"He's a great character, great fighter - and we're going to need 10 more of those guys over the next five days."

Who fills the role of third seamer, behind Broad and James Anderson, remains open to question - and there was nothing implicit or explicit from Cook, to conclude that either Steven Finn will definitely be retained after his off-colour performance at Trent Bridge or he will be usurped on his home ground by either Tim Bresnan or Graham Onions.

Summing up the contenders' contrasting merits, Cook said: "On a hard, bouncy wicket you want a lot more pace; on a different wicket, you want control - and sometimes control can build pressure to create wickets.

"We're in a fine position at the moment in terms of fast-bowling stocks; we've got a lot of very good fast bowlers, and it's always a tough call who we have in the side."

Cook prizes a settled side, but accepts current form and horses-for-courses will be taken into account too.

"You can't go on what happened two years ago or a year ago," he said.

"Part of the skill of being a selector is trying to weigh up all those conundrums and trying to get the right answer at the end.

"You try to be as loyal as you can to your players who won a Test match.

"You want to give people the feeling of confidence in the side, that they're going to get a good run.

"But on the other hand, you pick a side which you think is going to win that game.

"Sometimes you do have to make tough decisions ... for the good of the side."

England beat Australia in that 2009 Test, on the way to a series success - their first Ashes win for 75 years.

Cook, however, is not about to curl up at the thought of having to defy the statistics all over again.

"It's an incredible place to play cricket, and I think as an England side we're very lucky to get to play here so often," he said.

"Over the last few years, our record at Lord's has improved a hell of a lot.

"I do remember in 2009 speaking about it - the fact we hadn't won against Australia here for a long period of time, and it'd be great to change that.

"I'm not concerned at all. The batters have all scored runs here and bowlers taken wickets."

View comments (0)