Cook: We won't cross the line

  • Last Updated: December 4 2013, 10:00 GMT

Alastair Cook says he will try to ensure the second Ashes Test does not get "ugly", like the first did.

Clarke and Anderson got involved in the first Test in Brisbane
Clarke and Anderson got involved in the first Test in Brisbane

Cook was unable to stop the series opener unravelling for the tourists, into landslide defeat amid a poisonous atmosphere at the Gabba - especially between his opposite number Michael Clarke and England tailender James Anderson.

Clarke was fined almost £2,000 for his earthy and threatening advice as Anderson prepared to face match-winner Mitchell Johnson in a cause already long lost.

By then, Cook could only watch and was perhaps barely able to do so as England's second collapse saw them bowled out for under 200 again on the way to a 381-run hammering.

Both captains have subsequently spoken to match referee Jeff Crowe, as the International Cricket Council seeks to cool tensions.

Cook explained, on the eve of the second Test in Adelaide, that sledging is a necessary evil - a legitimate tactic, one even he finds a challenge when batting, but which must not overshadow the Ashes.

The England skipper cuts a serene figure at the crease, rarely deflected from his primary purpose of batting as long as he possibly can. But he said: "Anyone who says they've never been affected by sledging is lying.

"Something will always be said or done which will distract you for that split second.

"The skill of it is how you handle the next ball."

Cook's method is typically a short walk away from the line of fire between deliveries, in the direction of square leg.

"You might listen to it, and get a little bit annoyed," the 28-year-old said.

"But then you're like 'right, how do I make sure I'm focusing on the next ball?'.

"I don't think anyone will say they don't hear it or don't recognise it.

"They're lying (if they do). It's how you deal with the next ball, which (decides) whether you can cope with sledging."

Cook's statistics demonstrate he copes significantly better than most.

Yet his personal struggles tell him too that England cannot afford to stay out of the verbal confrontations - even if he knows the extremes of Brisbane must not be revisited.

"It's important both sides recognise a couple of scenes in that last game weren't great for the game of cricket," he said.

"I think both sides (do) recognise that.

"People want to see real, tough cricket - it's what they enjoy, especially between Australia and England.

"But there's got to be a boundary we don't cross.

"Maybe last week we let emotion get ahead of us a little bit on some occasions, and it became a little bit ugly.

"Michael and I have responsibility as captains to make sure that doesn't happen."

Cook's other urgent duty, of course, is to oversee an English fightback.

He takes issue, to an extent, with batting coach Graham Gooch's contention that there was a lack of "will" from England in Brisbane.

"It's quite unfair to say we didn't get the attitude right," he said.

"I know everyone was desperately keen to play well... (but) you have to say our skills weren't up to it.

"You can look at a number of different reasons, but we got totally outplayed in that game.

"I know what Goochy means... I know when it gets tough, you can start looking at different things like that.

"But I know the lads were fighting as hard as they could, and our skills weren't up to it."

He is not about to blame England's downfall on unfamiliar conditions, either.

Pace and bounce in the surface played into Johnson's hands at the Gabba.

But Cook said: "Brisbane was a very fair cricket wicket.

"We haven't come here thinking it was the wicket which cost us in Brisbane.

"Our skills let us down, and there was some very good bowling by Mitchell Johnson."

Cook, who still hopes Jonathan Trott can resume his England career at some point after having to leave the tour with a stress-related illness, has spent much time over the past week working out who can fill such an important vacancy here.

Joe Root appeared to be edging the vote to bat at number three ahead of the more experienced Ian Bell, set to remain at number five to maintain some solidity in a disrupted middle order.

England may need instant success from the new incumbent, but Cook acknowledges it will be no easy gig.

"When you lose a player of Trotty's experience, it's impossible to fill straight away with a new guy starting his career or a guy with a lot fewer Test matches," he said, adding it is down to established players like himself to try to engineer a revival from 1-0 down.

"The senior guys have always got to stand up and deliver.

"Most of the time, you look at a lot of the Test victories or good wins, it's the senior players who lead it.

"These 10 days we've had off, we've been making sure we've been putting things in place, had some good meetings about it.

"But there's no point talking about a good game. We have to make sure we deliver a good game."

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