Cook stirs Aussie sledgers

ENGLAND’S Alastair Cook has told the Aussie sledgers to do their worst when the first Ashes Test gets underway tonight, as his captain Andrew Strauss will thrive on the verbal jousting.

The England skipper has been singled out for special treatment by Aussie quick Mitchell Johnson, but Cook believes his opening partner is one of the most unflappable batsmen on the international circuit and won’t be affected the barrage of short stuff, or the chirping, headed his way.

Cook said: “He’s a fighter, he loves that – and his record at the top of the order is second to none,” said Cook.

“As England captain he’ll always be that target. But he’s handled it so well, and the pressures of being England captain. He’s a fighter and he’ll look forward to that challenge.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s vice-captain Michael Clarke looks to be winning his battle to be fit for the start of play in Brisbane.

Clarke batted in the nets for almost an hour yesterday and played a full range of shots without any noticeable discomfort from his degenerative back problem.