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Ashes preview: Cook thinks North-East can spur England to victory
CONFIDENT captain Alastair Cook thinks England's decent record at Chester-le-Street can receive an even greater lift when the North-East creates Ashes history this morning.
After outlining his support for the ICC's decision to continue with the controversial HotSpot decision review system for the final two Tests, the fourth meeting with Australia of the summer will get underway with Cook optimistic of a victory which will win the series.
While Australia will provide sterner opposition to that previously faced at the Emirates Durham ICG, England have never previously lost a Test match at the home of Durham.
The last of four was back in 2009, when England defeated West Indies by an innings and 83 runs, arriving two years after a seven-wicket triumph over the men from the Caribbean.
There was also a success story over Bangladesh after celebrating becoming an international Test venue with a comfortable win over Zimbabwe a decade ago.
And while England lost their last international at Chester-le-Street last September – a Twenty20 defeat to South Africa – there have been plenty more good times than bad when the men in Three Lions shirts have ventured up this way.
Cook is optimistic. He said: “It looks like a really good wicket out there. It can change a lot 24 hours out. I think the ground looks fantastic. That big stand in front of Lumley Castle looks really good.
“It should be a good atmosphere here. We've had good success when we have played up here as a team in Test cricket and One-Day.
“The lads are really looking forward to it. It's good that a different ground has had an opportunity to host an Ashes Test match. There's always excitement around the cricket and I'm sure the next five days will be no different.”
From a regional perspective, Durham will be hoping Graham Onions gets the call to start if team director Andy Flower decides to rest James Anderson, Tim Bresnan or Stuart Broad just days after weather intervened to leave England retaining the Ashes.
But Cook insists the determination is to win the Ashes in style rather than allow Australia to come back from two Tests down to claim a draw, so sentiment will not be allowed to come in to England's selection thinking.
“Graham has done extremely well again in county cricket,” said Cook. “He has pushed his name right in to the squad. He was left out of the last game but he went back to Durham and has taken a lot of wickets in for day cricket. He is doing everything we asked of him.
“In our eyes the series is still very much alive. We set out to win the series, not just to retain the Ashes. That's still the goal. So we will try to pick the best eleven as we always do.”
Whatever team is named this morning will have to deal with the controversial HotSpot system which has been a source of considerable debate throughout the series.
Alastair Cook, the England captain
Doubts surrounding the effectiveness of the decision review system have surfaced in the first three Tests, with England leading 2-0, with claims the HotSpot technology's infra-red imaging system can miss fine edges if the bat has silicon tape on it.
The ICC's general manager of cricket operations Geoff Allardice was at Chester-le-Street on Wednesday night to discuss the issue and, unlike Australia captain Michael Clarke who opted to stay away, Cook aired his view.
“It was a good meeting with the ICC, which tried to clear up a few issues that both sides are having with the DRS,” said Cook. “There was a good outcome to it. They have held their hands up and said some mistakes have been made. It was a good forum to discuss the system. Whether they will listen or not we will have to wait and see. Both sides have laughed at it.”
Cook has backed the decision to keep using the current DRS system for the rest of the series. He said: “If in the middle of a series something strange happens with the technology, if you ban it during a series, the precedent is set for another series.
“If something else happens, different to the norm, people will be able to say 'you banned hot spot, so...' It's there to give as much info to the third umpire as possible so he can make the right decision. I don't think you can ban it because it sets a dangerous precedent. In the past it's worked extremely well.”
Cook will hope the use of HotSpot does not affect his intention to improve his own form. He has averaged 24 runs this series, which is around 100 less than the last Ashes series. That has led to suggestions the captaincy has led to a loss of concentration with the bat.
But he said: “At the top of the order your job is to score runs. I haven't done as well as I would have liked in the series. I have been working hard on my game like I always do. What I do know is that I've scored runs in the past and my career suggests I do score runs. Hopefully it's just a matter of time.”
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