By Rob Barnett
Alastair Cook will need the experience of every one of his 99 Tests when he faces his greatest challenge as a captain.
Cook goes into his 100th game tomorrow with England at the very least needing to avoid defeat to keep the series alive and hold on to the Ashes.
At a WACA ground that has not seen a draw in seven Tests, better still would be Cook marking the occasion with victory, which would leave the tourists 2-1 down with two to play.
The 28-year-old will be in charge for his 18th Test and he accepts that it poses high toughest examination as skipper, more so than when he led England to victory from behind in India a year ago.
“I think that’s fair,” said Cook, who made his Test debut in March 2006.
“What happened in India was a big challenge after my third game as captain. Your next challenge is always the toughest and, after what’s happened so far, I’d say so.”
As for playing his 100th Test, coincidentally in the same match as Australia captain Michael Clarke, the opening batsman is rightly proud.
“It is a huge honour for me to be joining the 100 Club and one I never thought I’d get when I started off playing for Essex as a youngster and making the steps along the way,” he added.
“It is a special day and it will make it an even more special week if we can produce the performance we know we’re capable of.”
“I have absolutely no idea. Who knows?” he said. “I have just got to cherish every one I play. I am very privileged to get 100 and I’d love to play a fair few more.
“It would be wrong just to assume anything in this game – it is a tough game. But if people still want me to play, I’ll play for as long as I can.”
Cook downplayed his vice-captain Matt Prior’s comments yesterday that he will end up being England’s “greatest” cricketer.
“I don’t think I’ll ever put myself in that bracket,” he added. “It was nice of Matty to say that but I think he was just being nice to me as captain. There are some great players to have played for England.”
On coping with being behind after two heavy defeats, Cook said: “I don’t think it is a problem lifting the players.
“The hunger and desire that has been questioned has always been there in this side and we have another chance to show it this week.
“We have to make sure we’re very clear individually of our plans both with bat and ball and, as a team, how we want to operate in this game.”
Those plans with the bat include how to face the likes of paceman Mitchell Johnson, who has 17 series wickets, on a typically fast and bouncy WACA pitch.
“I think our shot selection against him at certain times in this series has been quite poor and that’s why he has had a lot of success,” added Cook.
“It is very dangerous to start concentrating on one of their bowlers. They have a very good attack and have put us under pressure so far in this series.”
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