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Page last updated at 10:00 GMT, Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Alastair Cook backs under-pressure Paul Collingwood

Fourth Ashes Test: Australia v England
Venue: Melbourne Dates: 26-30 December Start time: 2330 GMT on 25 December
Coverage: Listen live on Test Match Special on BBC 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW & online; highlights (UK only) and day's review on the TMS podcast; live text commentary on BBC Sport website; live on Sky Sports 1; highlights on ITV4


Cook plays down pitch row

By Tom Fordyce
BBC Sport in Perth

Alastair Cook has backed under-pressure team-mate Paul Collingwood to come good as England try to bounce back from their thrashing by Australia in Perth.

Collingwood is averaging just 16 in the series after failing with the bat at the Waca, as the hosts won the third Test by 267 runs to draw level at 1-1.

Cook said: "When his back is against the wall he plays his best cricket.

"When the going has got tough or we've been desperately trying to save a draw, Colly's the guy you want out there."

Cook added: "When his back's against the wall, 99% of the time he delivers the goods and it's very good to have someone in the side like that who is a fighter."

Collingwood is expected to keep his place for the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne but may be moved down the order, possibly to six, in order to accommodate the in-form Ian Bell at four or five.

Cook, England's leading run-scorer in the series after his 235 not out in the first Test and 148 in Adelaide, overcame a similarly poor sequence of scores earlier this year.

"I had it last summer so we all know what he's going through," said the Essex opener. "But he looks confident when he's training, he feels in good spirits and he's been there a number of times before so he knows how to come out of it. I'm sure he will."

The next two weeks are going to be great for cricket, and hopefully we can come out with the right ending

Alastair Cook

England's heavy defeat at the Waca, their sixth at that ground on the bounce, came with Australia looking in pieces after their innings loss in Adelaide. England had reduced Ricky Ponting's men to 69-5 on the first day but collapsed twice with the bat to hand the match - and the series initiative - back to the old enemy.

"We had a good meeting after the game about it, trying to put a few issues to bed," admitted Cook.

"I thought we bowled pretty well but the batters - to get bowled out for 180-odd and 123, you're not going to win any games with that so it was very disappointing after what we had achieved so far on the tour. It has been a tough couple of days.

"We've got a little bit of a history losing wickets quickly. That's an area we're desperately trying to improve on.

"I think in those first few games on this tour we've been very good at not doing that, so it's disappointing it has crept back in such an important game but sometimes a reality check is not the worst thing for us. After scoring so many runs in those two games this wasn't a great game to do it in but it keeps our feet firmly on the floor.

"Players tend to be very honest within the group about what we thought went wrong. But as people know there is no magic cure to do it so the only way of trying [to stop that] is individually, those first few balls you go in that's when it's most dangerous, especially when momentum has built up against you."

Cook denied that the team had been complacent following the success in the second Test, or that England had failed to give enough respect to fast bowler Mitchell Johnson.

The left-armer took eight wickets in the match, including a brilliant spell of four wickets for seven runs in 20 balls, to blow the England top order apart on the second day.

Cook said: "That little magic formula would be nice. If you saw the training leading up to Perth you'd have seen we trained as well as we have done in the previous games. It's an area we'd like to be able to crack but it's part of the development of the side.


'I thought Mitchell Johnson bowled very well. That wind pushing it in late at 90mph, he bowled well. We weren't surprised by it but [compared to] what we saw at Brisbane, he didn't do it at all there.

"Then to turn it around and swing it as much as he did, you have to give him a lot of credit for what he did [in the nets] in that game when he wasn't playing. We now have to be fully aware he can definitely do it."

Stories have been circulating in Australia that the groundstaff at the MCG have swapped the pitch they originally intended to use for the fourth Test for another one which may be more likely to suit the four-man home pace attack.

Ticket sales for the Test have also risen following Australia's win in Perth, with 90,000 people expected on the first day and close to the same on days three and four.

"Everyone (in the team) knows what that is like and we've all grown up with it," admitted Cook. "Even back at home when I was younger you put the radio on to hear what was happening, especially when England were playing.

"Historically the Waca is quick and Melbourne is not as quick so it can't change too much. It did swing last week in that warm-up game, mainly reverse swing so it will be interesting to see what the weather's like and whether it does that again.

"It's going to be a great occasion, and hopefully we can stand up to that occasion and go back to what we did in Brisbane and Adelaide.

"The next two weeks are going to be great for cricket, and hopefully we can come out with the right ending."

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see also
Ponting fit to play in Melbourne
25 Dec 10 |  Australia
Flower hints Finn may be rested
20 Dec 10 |  England
England crash to heavy Ashes loss
19 Dec 10 |  England
Strauss will not rule out changes
19 Dec 10 |  England
Injured Ponting targets MCG clash
19 Dec 10 |  England
Vaughan calls for Bell promotion
18 Dec 10 |  England
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket

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