Cook keen to move on to next test

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The Independent Online

England are out to prove their mettle at the MCG, by adapting successfully to whatever conditions meet them there.

Much intrigue surrounds the nature of the drop-in pitch which will be used for the Boxing Day Ashes Test, groundsman Cameron Hodgkins having reportedly abandoned his initial first choice in favour of a grassier and much livelier surface.



The switch, however, pre-dates England's evident failure to cope with the demands of the pace and bounce of the WACA on their way to landslide, series-levelling defeat in the third Test.



Among those who could not come to terms with the vagaries of Perth was opener Alastair Cook - whose sequence of half-century, unbeaten double-century and then century came to an abrupt halt with scores of 32 and 13.



He is nonetheless looking forward to testing himself again in Melbourne, as England seek to re-establish a lead which would mean the Ashes are retained after all by the end of the year.



Cook would have it no other way either than that the home team are allowed to make the most of their advantage.



"That is the beauty of home conditions, isn't it?" he asked.



"You can prepare a pitch, you hope, to suit the home side."



England notably secured the 2009 Ashes on a Brit Oval surface which was controversially untypical of that venue - and Cook clearly appears to have no problem with serving up expedient pitches.



"That is what we try to do in England in certain cases," he said.



"There is no reason I would expect Australia not to do it.



"If you went to India, and they played three spinners and produced a green seamer you'd be wondering what's going on.



"That is what home advantage is, and you'd expect everyone to do it."



Having chosen to play in England's tour match against Victoria two weeks ago - when it seemed he might be due a rest after his heroics in this winter's first two Tests - Cook could make only 37 in two innings, on his previous trip to the MCG.



Those two relative failures came in a dreary draw on a dreadfully slow and unresponsive wicket.



Australia captain Ricky Ponting has since claimed English batsmen are vulnerable on quick and bouncy pitches, both before and after his opinion was born out by events at the WACA.



However the Boxing Day drop-in plays, though, Cook is happy to back his and his team's ability.



"The pitch is out of our control, and that's the beauty of cricket that conditions change from week to week," he said.



"It's how you adapt to those that determines how successful you are.



"The challenge is making sure we are ready and adapting to those conditions."



Cook has admitted England's confidence will need to be rebuilt a little after they were bowled out twice in under 100 overs on their way to a 267-run trouncing in less than three-and-a-half days in Perth.



"As a batting unit, we took a little bit of a confidence hit in this game," he said.



"But we only have to look a week or so before - we scored a lot of runs against this attack.



"We've got to trust ourselves first and foremost."



England took an important step towards the rehabilitation of their Ashes ambitions when they engaged in some communal straight talking immediately after losing at the WACA.



Cook believes the collective honesty, encouraged under captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower, is a massive help when the going gets tough.



"We had a good meeting after the game - a good, honest meeting - and, you know, we discussed a few things.



"I think that's because the group we have created here, with Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss, is such a stable group that we feel very comfortable doing that."



The result is that England were able to fly east today, satisfied that there will be no WACA hangover.



"We put Perth to bed and now we go to Melbourne as a confident side, which I think we can do because of what we have achieved so far on this tour," Cook added.



Australia, meanwhile, today took the precaution of calling up New South Wales left-hander Usman Khawaja as a stand-by for Ponting.



Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland clarified, however, that the hosts remain very optimistic their captain will recover sufficiently from the little finger he broke in Perth to lead his team again at the end of this week.



"I would be expecting Ricky to play - it would need something significant to keep him out of it," said Sutherland.



Khawaja was also called into the squad for the first Test in Brisbane, when Michael Hussey was struggling for form, but he is still awaiting his debut.



Ponting played at Melbourne last year against Pakistan when he had barely recovered from an elbow injury, and has since admitted that was a close-run thing.



Sutherland added: "He'll admit he learnt a little bit about carrying injuries from the last Boxing Day Test.



"I think this finger injury is something different that will be monitored, managed and treated accordingly - but I'd expect him to play."

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