Former England captain Alastair Cook has told team-mates that they face the most significant match of their careers in the third Ashes Test, which starts in Perth on Thursday.
England trail 2-0 after a pair of resounding defeats, meaning they must avoid an eighth consecutive loss at the Waca if they are to sustain any hope of retaining the urn.
The match has extra resonance for Cook, who will become the first Englishman to win 150 caps, but, having notched just 62 runs so far this series, the country’s all-time record scorer is putting sentiment to one side.
“Not many people play 150 Test matches, so to do that – and at the top of the order – I’m quite proud,” he said.
“My job is to try to get England off to a good start, and on this tour I have struggled. We have got the biggest game of our lives coming up and we have got to scrap unbelievably hard for the five days.”
The tourists’ Ashes defence has been undermined by a series of off-field controversies, from the serious to the trivial.
Test vice-captain Ben Stokes remains unavailable while he waits to hear whether he will be charged over a fight outside a nightclub in September, while separate incidents in the same Perth bar involving wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow and England Lions player Ben Duckett during the current tour have invited further criticism of England’s conduct.
“The world obviously changed for the England cricket team in September,” Cook added, referring to Stokes’s alleged altercation.
“Those last two incidents have proven there is very little margin for error when you've had a beer. We have just got to smarten up and we’ve got to do it quickly because there is too much at stake.”
England paceman James Anderson, meanwhile, has played down the seriousness of Duckett pouring a beer over him – an action that earned the Durham batsman a suspension, fine and final warning.
“The incident with Ben Duckett was not malicious and was a bit of a non-event but we understand that in this climate we have to be smarter in the future,” Anderson wrote in the Telegraph.
“The frustrating thing is that what was a pretty silly incident would have gone unnoticed before but now puts an unfair question mark over our culture.”