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January 24, 2014
Alastair Cook was finally able to smile in a post-match press conference after England secured a first win over Australia, at the ninth attempt, on a demoralising tour. England's previous victory in international competition came in the Cardiff ODI back in September and Cook was relieved to avert a record-equalling tenth successive defeat in all formats since then.
He was also able to offer a more clear-headed appraisal of his views on the captaincy, after indicating last week that he could give up the one-day job. Speaking in the aftermath of another comprehensive defeat at the SCG, Cook suggested that "English cricket needs a little bit of a change", but he confirmed in Perth his desire to retain the position, with the World Cup just over a year away.
"It's been a long time coming," he said, after finally beating Australia, albeit a side missing four key players, including Cook's counterpart, Michael Clarke. "We know the series has gone but the thought of losing 10-0 - the prospect was there starting today but we played a pretty good game."
Describing last week as "a tough three days", during which James Faulkner wrenched the second ODI away from England in Brisbane before Australia took a 3-0 lead and clinched the series, Cook said he wanted to move on from his comments about the captaincy, when he appeared at his most despondent since succeeding Andrew Strauss in 2011.
"I spoke what I was feeling, sometimes you probably shouldn't do," he said. "I think, what I've learned over three years as one-day captain, it would be wrong so close to the World Cup to change. We're getting some very valuable experience here, in the conditions which we're going to play in the World Cup. So obviously if I'm still given the opportunity, then..."
England's one-day planning in recent years has been methodical and, if Cook's desire remains, a change in tack would seem unlikely, despite the temptation to further test the captaincy acumen of Eoin Morgan. Cook and Ashley Giles, England's limited-overs coach, took the team to the final of the Champions Trophy last year and the current series against Australia, despite being already lost, will inform their thinking for the 2015 World Cup, to be held in Australia and New Zealand.
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The coming 12 months will also see a much heavier focus on ODI cricket, with a triangular series in Australia this time next year providing England with a final rehearsal ahead of the World Cup. Cook has taken plenty of criticism for his captaincy but he said that speaking to team-mates over the last few days had helped to restore his confidence and vowed put the lessons of the last two weeks to good use.
"You do learn all the time, three years is quite a long time, in terms of how much you learn," Cook said. "I think the tough thing is when you come to new conditions with the five men in the circle, you have to learn very quickly. Certain fields which you can do here you can't really do, say, in the subcontinent. That's the stuff we have to learn and learn very quickly.
"We need to make sure we remember some of this stuff so we hit the World Cup running; I know we've got five warm-up games against Australia before that but it's important that we end the tour well and then when we come back here for one-day cricket, we're back at that level.
"The guys can take a lot of confidence. We batted very positively, we always took the positive option, which in these conditions I think you have to do. There's always a bit of risk with that but you have to be good enough as a top-order batsman to make those shots. If we're being quite harsh we could have done with a guy getting a big hundred and we could have got 340 and put the game to bed. But I think we're still pretty close to really putting a big score on."
With 300-plus totals increasingly the norm, the fluent opening stand between Cook and Ian Bell at the WACA provided a tonic for England. Cook remains without an ODI fifty since the Champions Trophy in June but his 43-ball 44 hinted at the possibility of greater returns to come.
"My game is improving in terms of the way I'm striking the ball, the last three weeks I really felt as though I've turned a bit of a corner in that way," he said. "Thirties and forties aren't what you bat for but, when you go through tough times with the bat, you know there are big scores round the corner and when you get them you'll be even more hungry."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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