Momentum won’t win you back the urn, declares Cook

ENGLAND vice-captain Alastair Cook believes the destination of the Ashes will have nothing to do with the myth that is momentum.

Australia are claiming a psychological upper-hand following their crushing Third Test win in Perth, which leveled the series at 1-1 with two to play.

But opening batsman Cook (below) is confident England won’t be haunted by memories of the WACA when play gets underway in Melbourne on Boxing Day.

“Obviously they won the last game, so you guys talk about momentum, you all say they’ve got it,” he said.

“But we all know when we start in Melbourne, it’s always a clean slate. I think it’s whoever adapts to these conditions we get in Melbourne and plays the best cricket will win, it’s nothing to do with
momentum.”

One man who will certainly be adopting the clean slate approach at the MCG – should he retain his place – is under-fire Paul Collingwood.

England’s record-breaking feats with the bat in the first two Tests meant Collingwood’s form – or lack of it – slid by unnoticed until his double failure in Perth.

Cook knows what it’s like to have the threat of the axe hanging over you. The 25-year-old came into the series following a turbulent summer at the hands of Pakistan seamers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif.

The Essex man has responded in spectacular fashion, averaging 123.75 from three Tests, and he’s backing the doughty Collingwood to come up with a similar answer to his critics.

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. When his back’s against the wall he delivers.”

The build up to the pivotal fourth Test has been dominated by reports of the surface that will greet England at the MCG.

But whatever the curator prepares, Cook admits Australia are well within their rights to produce a track that plays to their strenghts.

He said: “That is what home advantage is, and you’d expect everyone to do it. There is no reason I would expect Australia not to do it.”

Aussies call up cover for Ricky
AUSTRALIA have placed Usman Khawaja on standby for the fourth Ashes Test as captain Ricky Ponting races to recover from a fractured finger.

The uncapped Khawaja, 24, has been this season’s Sheffield Shield leading the runscorer with 598 at an average of 74.75.

Ponting is expected to be fit for the Boxing Day showdown but his potential replacement is certainly not short of confidence.

He said: “I think I was ready to play for Australia when I was six.”

THE ALL-ROUNDER | CONDITIONS, STATS AND BANTER
STAT OF THE DAY
Those championing Ian Bell’s promotion to No5 in England’s batting order should take a look at this little nugget. Bell has played and missed at 5.6 per cent of all deliveries in this Ashes, the highest percentage of any top seven batsman from either side. It should also be noted that Bell’s average at No6 for England (56) is only bettered by Robin Smith.

BROAD’S THE NEW CLOUGH
How does one lonely cricketer occupy themselves on the flight back to England after suffering a tour ending injury? Well, if you’re Stuart Broad the only answer is a good old Football Manager binge. He tweeted: “A 12 hour wait in Singapore airport. This is why Football Manager was created! I’ll have Forest in the Champions League before I leave.” Billy Davies watch out.

SHANE ON YOU, JIMMY
It seems the whole of Australia is lining up to take a pop at England’s sledger in chief Jimmy Anderson, and Shane Watson has joined an ever growing army of detractors. Paul Collingwood lost his wicket to the final ball of day three in Perth when night nightwatchman turned down a single that would have got the Durham man off strike. Watson said: “To see Jimmy not help out his mate was great. As a nightwatchman, I thought their job was to protect the main batsman that was in. He’s been quite talkative on the field so it was nice to turn the tables.”