England v Australia, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 4th day July 21, 2013

Steely Cook has eyes on bigger prize

It was the lack of euphoria that should worry Australia most. While Alastair Cook admitted to some satisfaction and a few celebratory drinks in the dressing room following England's emphatic victory at Lord's, there was a steely resolve about him that spelled out a clear message: the job is not completed.

Cook's first Ashes experience as a player was a humbling experience. He was part of the team whitewashed in Australia in 2006-07 and has experienced enough lows in his career to know that moments like this are to be neither taken for granted or squandered. The Ashes have not yet been retained.

But it would be a brave man who bet against England at this stage. While they have won their last four Tests and are unbeaten in 10, Australia have lost their last six. It spoke volumes for how far Australia's reputation has fallen that, at a venue where they used to dominate, when Michael Clarke, interviewed on the outfield at the end of the match, said his side could still win the series, the crowd laughed. Not mocking laughter but genuine amusement. The idea seemed that ridiculous.

But Cook does not share that complacency. While he knows he is within touching distance of completing a series win in India and an Ashes victory within his first year as captain - England need only a draw from one of the final three Tests - he also acknowledged that his side had been pushed harder in this match than the end result indicated.

"It's certainly too early to talk about that," Cook said when asked about the possibility of a whitewashed series. "You only have to look at our dressing room to see how hard we've had to work to win these two games. You can think all you want about that, but we know how hard it is going to be the next few games.

"We won't be taking anything for granted or taking our foot off the gas. We won't be looking past the first hour at Old Trafford. That's not the way Andy Flower works and that's not the way this England side works.

"At certain moments in this game we were right under the cosh. It's huge credit to the lads that we've managed to pull through. Certainly being 30 for 3 on the first morning was not ideal and then losing wickets late on day one meant it was probably even-stevens. But we really upped our level with both ball and bat and wore them down."

That tactic of wearing down Australia was a theme of this match. Cook admitted his aim in declining to enforce the follow-on and keeping Australia out in the field for another 114 overs was not just to build a match-winning lead but to grind them down. He also paid credit to the batting coach, Graham Gooch, for instilling the discipline and desire to score big, match-defining centuries into the batting unit.

"That was the aim, without a doubt," Cook said. "We know how hard it is if you are in the field for such a long time. The half-hour we batted this morning was worth it.

"Graham Gooch, our teacher, has tried to breed into us that you have to bat for long periods of time and that if you do you get big scores. He bangs on about it all the time. It was his bread and butter and, over the last few years, we have managed to get bigger hundreds."

It was Joe Root's turn to score the big hundred in this match. Cook said he was not in the least surprised by Root's success and credited him as "an outstanding player".

"He's taken to international cricket extremely well," Cook said. "He's got the right character. It's a lot about technique, but he has the right character to succeed at Test cricket. He adapts his game to whatever is required. Here he scored a big hundred in a high pressure situation, so huge credit to him. He can be mighty proud of his performance."

Cook admitted the fitness of Kevin Pietersen, who suffered a calf strain during this game, was "a concern" ahead of the third Test, which begins on August 1. While there is no word from the England camp at present, there is a possibility that one of the potential replacements for Pietersen will be drafted into the Sussex side for the tour game against Australia that starts on Friday.

With the English domestic season currently dominated by T20 cricket, some of the candidates may feel in need of an extra first-class outing. Certainly Eoin Morgan, who has trained with the England squad this week having just received the all-clear to resume playing after a broken finger, would fit in that category though James Taylor, a more likely candidate, has been in first-class action recently.

But such concerns could wait a day or two for Cook and co. After another draining four days, England have earned most of the week off and will meet up again in Manchester on Sunday.

"It's a good dressing room to be in," Cook said. "We'll enjoy tonight, we'll recover well and we'll come back at Old Trafford and see how we can go about winning that game. We'll have a bit of time off and them come back ready to work extremely hard to win more games.

"It's special to win a Lord's Test against any side, but to beat Australia, well, these are times you cherish as a player. We have a winning habit now. We've played four Tests this summer and we've won all four. That's a good place to be."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments