Cook backed to serve up improvement as selectors stick with winning team

ENGLAND selector Geoff Miller admits Alastair Cook’s current struggle with the bat has plunged the opener into the biggest challenge of his career.

Cook has only scraped 41 runs from the first two Tests against Pakistan, and juts 100 in total from his last seven matches.

His toiling at the crease has even led some to question whether the vice-captain deserves to keep his place, with an Ashes tour looming in the coming months.

But Miller has thrown his weight firmly behind Cook, retaining him for this week’s third Test at the Oval and insisting he will shake off his malaise.

“We back Alastair to come through this tough patch he is having,” he said.

“Is it the toughest challenge of his career? It probably is. It is a challenging time for him. But we know what he is like as a character. He is a battler and will battle his way through it.

“He scored runs in Bangladesh – that is not so long ago – and we know full well how hard he will try and how determined he is to cross this bridge. He will do it, I am sure.”

England selectors have taken the unusual step of revealing not just their squad but also their team well in advance of Wednesday’s match, and have stuck with the team that won the first two Tests.

“We back our players and we want then to continue on the road that they’re on,” he added.

“They’re playing really well having won six matches on the trot. We’ve got a series to win, and now is not the right time to be making drastic changes.”

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