‘Top-order runs out in Australia are vitally important’, says Alastair Cook

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“Sometimes in England 240-250 can be a good score with the overhead conditions, but the majority of the time in Australia 400 is the bare minimum”

With England just having landed in the Land Down Under, captain Alastair Cook has already sent a strong message to the top-order batsmen, stating that they will have to step up and set the foundation for the rest of the team.

During the recent Ashes series this summer, England failed to get past the 400-run mark even once.

Their highest score was the 377 they scored during the fifth Test at The Oval.

In their last Ashes trip to Australia in 2010-11, England started off with a dismal 260 at the Gabba, but they soon got on top of things and scored a world record 517 for 1 to save the Brisbane Test before going on to register totals of 620 for 5, 513 and 644 in the three matches they won by an innings.

England walked away with a 3-1 win the last time they were in the Land Down Under and Cook acknowledged the fact that the Australians will be looking for retribution after having lost the Ashes three times in a row.

“Clearly top-order runs out in Australia are vitally important,” Cook said at Heathrow airport. “Last time we saw that big runs make a massive difference and set the game up. Sometimes in England 240-250 can be a good score with the overhead conditions, but the majority of the time in Australia 400 is the bare minimum. That’s the job of the top order to make sure we do that.”

Cook played a vital role in the 2010-11 Ashes series, scoring an incredible 766 runs, which included three centuries and two half-centuries, at an eye-popping average of 127.66.

Cook’s highest score during that series was 235 not out.

However, he was unable to replicate his form from that series to the most recent one.

“You’d love to score runs every time you bat,” he said. “I could have done better, a lot better.

“As captain you want to lead from the front. I did quite a lot of the hard work and if you don’t go onto make big scores as an opener there’s always a few low ones around the corner against the new ball.

“I had a good time last time in Australia. It would be great to repeat some of those feats. I enjoy batting in those conditions, the ball can be flying past your ears quite a lot, it is a real test of the skill you need to play fast bowling. We are going to get plenty of that over the next two months. The first 15-20 overs with the Kookaburra ball can swing more than the Dukes, but get through that stage, in the afternoon sessions, it’s fantastic to bat.”

While England have been known to choke when they are labelled favourites to win a series, Cook noted that he personally welcomes the tag.

“I think that’s a fair description when you just won 3-0,” he said. “That last summer was the first time we’d gone into an Ashes series as favourites and I thought we coped with that pretty well, the outcome suggested we did.

“If you look how many sides go to Australia, winning there is no mean feat. Speaking to the lads over the last weekend, everyone is excited by the opportunity we have. As an Englishmen you know it will be like. It will be quite hostile at times.”

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