Alastair Cook targeting successful campaign with Essex and England in Ashes year

Alastair Cook meets the media yesterday. Pictures: SEANNA HUGHES

Alastair Cook meets the media yesterday. Pictures: SEANNA HUGHES

Alastair Cook believes Australia are making big strides, ahead of the winter Ashes series Down Under, but has backed England to make a strong defence of the famous urn.

Essex coch Chris Silverwood and new star Neil Wagner

Essex coch Chris Silverwood and new star Neil Wagner

Cook resigned as England captain in February, just weeks after the 4-0 defeat in India and a first-ever loss in Bangladesh, bringing the curtain down on a four-year reign and a record 59 Tests in charge.

The 32-year-old remains an integral part of the England set-up however, and is looking forward to a busy summer, with home Test series against South Africa and West Indies, before the biggest rivalry in world cricket resumes on November 23, the tourists being led by new captain, Joe Root.

“Every summer is a big summer and as the game evolves and the game changes and personnel changes, it is exciting,” said the experienced Cook.

“Obviously there is the Champions Trophy coming up and hopefully the lads can do well, the sun shines, and we can play some cricket.

Essex players cool off during their team photos yesterday

Essex players cool off during their team photos yesterday

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“I think it (Australia series) is going to be close, they (Australia) have made some good strides in the last couple of months, with what they have done in India and their last couple of series at home.

“We know how hard it is to win away in Test cricket, but we have got a squad of players that are going to be more experienced now, with a lot of talent, and I am really interested to see how we go this year.

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“Hopefully I can play a big part in it and hopefully we can do well.”

Cook will look to head into international duty with some positive momentum and will have a big role to play at Essex, as the county get used to life in the First Division, following promotion last season.

Ryan Ten Doeschate will have a big role to play

Ryan Ten Doeschate will have a big role to play

“It’s come around quickly after we left India and we had a couple of months off, and a few things have happened,” Cook, who was brought up in Maldon and played for the local club, added.

“It’s a big year for us, we have not been in the First Division for a while and hopefully we can build on last year.

“It’s hard to stay in the First Division when you have been promoted, and a lot of teams have struggled, but hopefully we can buck that trend.

“It’s easier said than done, but hopefully we can play a lot of good cricket.”

Essex, who get their County Championship campaign underway against Lancashire at the County Ground on Friday, ended their six-year exile from the top-flight last September and, under head coach Chris Silverwood and skipper Ryan Ten Doeschate, things look to be going in the right direction.

“Last year we took a big step in terms of delivering, we have always had a talented squad but I think we have always underachieved by not getting promoted or winning a one-day trophy since 2008,” Cook, who looks set to miss the first clash with a hip injury, said.

“I always thought the squad was better than that looking from afar, but Tendo (Ten Doeschate) and Chris (Silverwood) have done a good job and kicked on and it will be interesting to see how we get on against bigger counties, in terms of financial status, if we can punch above our weight.”

Cook was speaking at Copdock & Old Ipswichian Cricket Club, who had been chosen as one of only three ‘showcase’ clubs across the country for this year’s NatWest CricketForce.

The annual volunteering event, which is the biggest in UK sport, is aimed at rejuvenating clubs’ facilities through encouraging supporters, their families and friends as well as local businesses to give something back to their club.

“This is the bloodline, this is what makes cricket breathe,” explained Cook.

Your Joe Roots and Ben Stokes’ don’t just turn up when they are 18 or 19 without putting the work in first, and club cricket is a fundamental part of the game.”

Cook will miss out Essex’s first four-day game of the season, at home to Lancashire, which starts tomorrow, with a sore hip, but the county’s head coach Chris Silverwood is happy to have him on board.

“To have somebody around of the calibre of Alastair, both as a player and a bloke is superb and he loves playing cricket for Essex County Cricket Club,” said Silverwood

“He is absolutely fantastic when he comes back, he gets stuck in and is one of the lads, yet he has got all that experience and that calmness, of just going about his business and making things happen.

“That’s what we will be looking to do this season, stick to the processes and do well over a long period of time.”

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