Alastair Cook says it’s ‘do-or-die’ for England

Tourists’ captain ‘still looking forward to the fight’ ahead of crucial third Test

England captain Alastair Cook arrives for an England nets session at Waca in Perth, Australia, today. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Alastair Cook has described the third Test as "do or die" for England, though the captain's cause was immediately hindered when Monty Panesar suffered an injury scare to further complicate England's delicate selection process.

Panesar, who made his first international appearance in almost nine months in the second Test defeat at Adelaide, was unable to bowl in the team’s penultimate practice session at the Waca because of a sore side. He did some fitness and fielding drills on the outfield and England say he is still available but they will not want to take any chances given the forecast temperatures of up to 39C over the weekend.

Cook, who confessed to a sleepless night after being bowled by Mitchell Johnson for one during England’s second Test defeat in Adelaide, said: “We haven’t played very well and that hurts like hell.”

He added: “It has been a challenging few weeks and it’s kind of do or die in this series. As people know, when things don’t go well as a captain, it’s a tough, tough place to be but I am still looking forward to the fight and still wanting to get out there – which is a good sign – and desperate to try to use all my experience and knowledge as a young leader to try to turn this around.”


Cook admitted England were in a quandary over the best team to pick for his 100th Test, in which they need to avoid defeat to preserve any hope of keeping hold of the Ashes. They will definitely omit one of the two spinners who played in Adelaide, either Panesar or Graeme Swann, but he confirmed that they are also considering dropping them both, which would mean playing four, or even five, specialist seamers.

“It’s a possibility,” he said. “It’s a tough selection, especially after what has happened. It is always the way as a side. When things are going well, selection is easier because the guys are performing.”

Australia have an injury worry of their own after Ryan Harris missed their practice session though Cricket Australia issued a statement aiming to ease fears over their seamer's fitness. "Ryan Harris has had an ongoing knee issue throughout his career which we manage after each Test he plays," said a spokesman.

Australia's coach Darren Lehmann has poured cold water over suggestions that their specialist spinner, Nathan Lyon, may be omitted to allow the selection of James Faulkner as an extra seamer on a pitch that Matthew Page, Perth's acting curator, confidently predicted will have "pace and bounce for the quickies". Lyon took three wickets on the first day of the last Test at the Waca, against South Africa last December, and the Proteas' left-arm spinner Robin Peterson ended with six in the match.

The game will mark the return to international cricket of Billy Bowden, the umpire from New Zealand who was dropped from the International Cricket Council's elite panel in June but will stand with Marais Erasmus, with Tony Hill as third umpire and Jeff Crowe continuing as match referee.

All 23,500 tickets have been sold for the first three days and Adam Gilchrist, the former Australia wicketkeeper-batsman who hit the second-fastest Test century of all-time, off 59 balls, at the Waca in the 2006-07 Ashes series, believes England may struggle again in the Perth furnace. "It can be difficult, particularly for touring teams who aren't familiar with those conditions," he said. "I know in 06-07, I was the beneficiary of a 40-degree day; by the time I got hold of that English attack, they were pretty cooked.

“I can’t remember such a shift in power between two teams in such a short space of time. This is uncharted waters for this England group. But it’s a challenge for Australia, too. The effect if they are able to regain the Ashes will be similar around our nation to what it was in England in ‘05. They’re so close to doing that. We’ve been in a world of hurt for a while now. But they’re not there yet so these are interesting times.”

Guardian Service