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Page last updated at 14:06 GMT, Tuesday, 17 August 2010 15:06 UK

Andrew Strauss backs Alastair Cook and Graeme Swann

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Strauss warns against complacency

Captain Andrew Strauss gave his backing to Alastair Cook and Graeme Swann as England prepared for the third Test with Pakistan at The Oval on Wednesday.

Cook has made 100 runs in seven Test innings this summer, while Swann denied a drink-driving charge this week.

"I've got every confidence Cookie will come through this," said Strauss, whose unchanged side have a 2-0 series lead.

"Swann is fine and has his mind on the game. He managed to drive himself down here so things are OK."

England, who are seeking their seventh Test win in a row, took the unusual step of naming their team on Sunday to show their faith in Cook.

Alastair Cook (left) with England captain Andrew Strauss
Much of the pre-match focus has surrounded Cook's place in the team

Cook's place on the winter's Ashes tour could come under threat if he fails again in the final two Tests, but Strauss backed his opening partner to rise to the challenge.

"He's a top-quality character," said Strauss. "He digs deep and gets ugly runs when necessary and I'll think he'll do it this week.

"Generally in a batting unit not everyone will be firing at one time, the key is always to say 'is he going to come through this?' and if we've got confidence that he is, you've got to show faith in him to do so.

"There are people snapping at our heels all the time which is a good thing but when you've had the sort of start to your career that Alastair Cook has had over a long period of time you know he's going to come right."

Off-spinner Swann is ranked third in the Test bowling rankings and took a career-best 6-65 at Edgbaston, but had to attend a court hearing in Nottingham this week, which was adjourned until October.

"We often say you're an England cricketer 24 hours a day. Anything you do on or off the pitch, people will be taking note of it in a way it will reflect on the England cricket team," Strauss said.

"We don't want incidents where people are in the news for the wrong reasons. With Graeme Swann's situation it's important to realise he hasn't been proved guilty of anything at this stage and we need to let that process take place.

"But players have responsibility 24 hours a day and I think they're aware of that."

Another matter that arose in the build-up to the Test match was Australia skipper Ricky Ponting's quote that a 5-0 victory was possible for the Aussies in the Ashes series starting on 25 November.

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"It's silly season starting quite early but it's not in our interests to get involved in a war of words," said Strauss, part of Andrew Flintoff's side that suffered a 5-0 whitewash on the last Ashes tour in 2006-7.

"Clearly we're in a quite a nice place as a side at the moment, we understand it's a big challenge to go over there and win as not many sides have done that but we feel we've got a chance of doing well.

"It's just continuing with our consistency, we need to continue that and we don't want to slip back into bad habits.

"There was a little period at Edgbaston where things didn't go our own way - that's going to happen, but we need to react well to that, and keep our heads when the pressure is on because we're going to need that cool, calm and collected way of looking at things out in Australia."

In the corresponding fixture four years ago, cricketing history was made when the Test was forfeited by Pakistan following a row over allegations of ball-tampering.

The match was awarded to England to complete a 3-0 series win, although two years later the result was officially changed to a draw.

"It happened very quickly, I don't think anyone quite knew how to react to it," Strauss recalled of the end to the controversial Test.

Mohammad Yousuf
Yousuf is back to bolster Pakistan's fragile batting line-up

"Once the umpires and Inzamam [the then Pakistan captain] had put their cards on the table it was quite hard to find a way of getting us back on the pitch."

Meanwhile, Pakistan, soundly beaten in both matches in the series thus far, have been forced into two changes and are expected to make a third by recalling former skipper Mohammad Yousuf.

Impressive new wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Heider, who made 88 in the second innings of his debut at Edgbaston, will miss the remainder of the series because of a broken finger.

Kamran Akmal, dropped for the second time this year and heavily criticised for spilling several catches and making a pair with the bat in the first Test at Trent Bridge, has been given the chance to redeem himself.

Paceman Umar Gul is also expected to miss the final two Tests because of hamstring trouble so either Tanvir Ahmed or Wahab Riaz will make their Test debut.

Neither bowler was able to gain match practice in last week's warm-up game at Worcester, with rain restricting the two-day game to just 28.1 overs, with Pakistan's batsmen making 112-2.

The 35-year-old Yousuf, who had a life ban imposed for his part in the tour debacle in Australia rescinded earlier this year, got some time in the middle, striking eight fours in an unbeaten 40 from 54 balls.

Pakistan staying positive - Farhat

He is expected to replace Umar Amin in the middle order, having missed the second Test after being deemed to be jet-lagged after flying in from Pakistan to ease his side's batting crisis.

Yousuf has played 88 Tests, scoring 7,431 runs at an average of 53, while in 12 matches against England he has made 1,400 runs at an average of 70 with four centuries and two double hundreds.

Pakistan will be hoping his experience can help them give a better account of themselves while the batsman-friendly Oval pitch should also be more to their liking.

However, it seems the match has not fully caught the public's attention, with the first day of an Oval Test not a sell-out for the first time since 1986.


England: Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior (wkt), Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Steven Finn.

Pakistan (from): Imran Farhat, Salman Butt (capt), Azhar Ali, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Yousuf, Umar Amin, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal (wkt), Mohammad Aamer, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Asif, Wahab Riaz.

Umpires: Steve Davis (Aus) and Tony Hill (NZ)

TV umpire: Billy Bowden (NZ)

Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri)



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see also
Jonathan Agnew column
17 Aug 10 |  England
'Drink-driving' Swann blames cat
17 Aug 10 |  Nottingham
Pakistan lose injured Zulqarnain
16 Aug 10 |  Pakistan
Unchanged England stick with Cook
15 Aug 10 |  England
England complete comfortable win
09 Aug 10 |  England
Pakistan in England 2010
07 Sep 10 |  Cricket
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket


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