Ashes 2013: England captain Alastair Cook ready for 'battle'

England captain Alastair Cook has told his players to be ready for an almighty tussle when the Ashes series against Australia gets under way on Wednesday.
England are favourites to win their third Ashes in a row, a feat they have not achieved since 1956.
Ahead of the Trent Bridge Test, Cook said: "Australia have fantastic players and it will be one heck of a battle.
"Every Ashes series I have played in is always intense and that is what we have got to prepare ourselves for."
Cook, 28, who will be captaining his country in an Ashes series for the first time,added: "Cricket isn't played on paper and it never will be. It's about who delivers out there come tomorrow and the next 24 days of cricket."
The momentum in one of sport's oldest rivalries has shifted towards England in recent years following an era of Australian dominance.
Having lost eight straight series between 1989 and 2002-03, England have won three of the last four, culminating in a resounding 3-1 triumph in 2010-11, their first victory in Australia since 1986-87.
Cook said that victory had transformed his game and he is hoping similar success in this series can improve him further still.
"I think you are remembered for your Ashes performance. What happened in 2010-11 did change me as a cricketer, gave me a lot of confidence that I could perform at the highest level against a very good side under huge pressure. I probably hadn't achieved that in my career up to that point. I think it can change lives and careers and luckily I've managed to kick on from that moment and I see no reason why that can't continue."

He added: "In eight weeks' time, I'd love to be sitting at the Oval having won the Ashes. That's the ultimate aim as an English captain. You join a very elite band of cricketers who could say that. But we need to play well, withstand a lot of pressure, play with a lot of skill and win those crucial moments."
England have had eight post-war Ashes-winning captains - Len Hutton, Peter May, Ray Illingworth, Mike Brearley, David Gower, Mike Gatting, Michael Vaughan, Andrew Strauss - and Cook hopes to join their ranks.
Recent form points to another England success, with Australia having suffered a 4-0 whitewash by India in March, three months afterEngland's 2-1 away victory over the same opposition.
The tourists have also endured a chaotic build-up to the series. Batsman David Warner was banned after punching England's Joe Root in a Birmingham bar and coach Mickey Arthur was replaced by Darren Lehmann just two weeks before the series.
Captain Michael Clarke, however, said Australia had put the turmoil behind them and, after encouraging performances in their warm-up matches against Somerset and Worcestershire, were capable of surpassing expectations.
"We come here as underdogs and we know it's going to be tough but I know the boys are up for the challenge," he said.

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"I think every single one of our boys has prepared as well as they possibly can. Now it's about going out on that stage and playing with freedom and backing your own ability.
"We have so much talent inside that room and I just want to see the guys play their natural games.
"We've spoken about a lot but I think the talking is done for us as a team now. Now it's not what you say, it's what you do."
While Clarke declared himself "100% fit" for the contest following a long-standing back problem, both captains vowed not to disclose their team selections until the toss at 10:30 BST.
Lehmann hinted last week that Warner could be a surprise inclusion at number six for Australia as the tourists look to unsettle England with an aggressive brand of cricket. Clarke said he was confident that Warner would be "a success" if selected.
England have won seven of their last nine Tests at Trent Bridge, including a famous victory in the 2005 Ashes, when unlikely batting heroes Matthew Hoggard and Ashley Giles helped put the hosts 2-1 up in the series with one to play.
The ground will be full to its 17,000 capacity for all five days of the match after tickets sold out within hours of going on sale in October.
Cook, who scored 766 runs at an average of 127.66 in the 2010-11 Ashes, said expectation levels across the country were consistent with his experiences in past contests against Australia.
"The biggest thing I've noted from playing in Ashes series is that when you've been successful, people come up to and tell you what a great series that was to watch," he said.
"Over the last couple of weeks, we've had a lot of people come up in the street and say good luck in the Ashes - that's very different to any other series.

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"But you have to keep yourself very true to what you are and remember that it's another game of cricket.
"This is what we have been doing all our lives and we have handled these situations before so I don't see reason why we can't now."
He also echoed the feelings of off-spinner Graeme Swann, who said on Monday he hoped England's cricketers could build on recent British sporting success.
Cook said: "It was an incredible moment for British sport when Andy Murray won Wimbledon and when the Lions won after such a long period of time. In our dressing room, there are a lot of big rugby and tennis fans, so watching that as a genuine British sports fan was fantastic.
"We'd love to be able to join them in that success but there's a hell of a lot of hard work to do first."

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