Cook open to batting reshuffle
England will ponder a shuffle of their Test match batting order before the return Ashes encounter begins in Brisbane, after their captain Alastair Cook admitted his team could not afford a repeat of the early stumbles that pockmarked a 3-0 series victory at home earlier this year.
Australia's pacemen were consistently able to perforate the England top order, pushing the Man of the Series Ian Bell to great heights as he continually bailed out the earlier batsmen in a manner reminiscent of a prime Michael Clarke.
Following on from this amid his flurry of invective at Ricky Ponting and Cook, Shane Warne had reckoned earlier this week that keeping the young batsman Joe Root at the top of the order may "crucify" a promising young player, suggesting instead that the taller, older left-hander Michael Carberry might be a better partner for England's captain in Australia.
Before training at Bellerive Oval, Cook not only batted away Warne's criticisms of his captaincy but also left open the possibility that such changes might just be made. In a typically careful discussion of his team, Cook lauded Root's adaptability while also saying the doubt surrounding two batting places had created a healthy sense of tension and competition in an otherwise settled squad. He then closed by stating gravely that the early innings misadventures of July and August could not be repeated.
"Joe is a fantastic player. I think anyone who saw his 180 at Lord's and his hundred against New Zealand can see the class he has got," Cook said. "He has been outstanding in all forms of the game and being able to bat in any situation is one of his greatest strengths. Whether he's batting at six against New Zealand or heads up the rate in the one-day game, I don't think I have seen a younger player adapt to a situation as well as he does as quickly as he does. He's a pretty unflappable guy.
"We haven't decided on our batting line-up. It's very different to 2010-11 where we came here very clear what our full strength side was and on that tour we played the first two warm-up games as that Test match XI. In this situation circumstances are different. We are unsure of pretty much two places and it's exciting because everyone in the squad knows that and watching that competition grow, if someone grabs that opportunity he is going to find himself in a good place."
Should Carberry slip into the top six, and so leave Root free to move down the order, it would represent a change to England's apparent plans on their departure for Australia. The assembly of a squad with a trio of potential middle-order players in Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance and Ben Stokes illustrated where the team director Andy Flower's major doubts had existed. Nonetheless, Root's adaptability and temperament are highly valued, while at 33 Carberry has been chosen less as a future investment than a readymade top-order option after the fashion of Chris Rogers for Australia.
Either way, Cook is adamant that England's batsmen cannot be anywhere near as courteous to Australia's new-ball bowlers this time around. The window for wickets provided by the new ball is narrower down under, as the Kookaburra loses its shine and ability to bend rather quicker than the Dukes in England, making early incisions even more critical than they had been in the northern summer.
"Especially with the Kookaburra ball it's a situation we can't allow to happen again," Cook said. "Sometimes in England with overhead conditions that does happen. In Australia the bigger scores do happen and we know that is an area of major improvement we needed to do coming into the series."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here