Ashes 2013: England captain Alastair Cook warns Australia will provide tough test
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: 02/04/13 5:42pm
Alastair Cook: ready for huge summer
Alastair Cook has warned that Australia will still present a huge challenge in the Ashes whatever problems they seem to be having, as the England captain returns to county cricket with Essex to prepare for a huge summer ahead.
After a long tour to New Zealand, Cook was back in Essex for his county side's pre-season media day where he said he plans to play two County Championship games before embarking on a massive summer of cricket.
"It's great to be home, it's a bit colder here than it was in New Zealand though," Cook told Sky Sports News.
"I've got the first couple of weeks off but my first game is against Hampshire here on the 30th of April and then Lancashire at Old Trafford, then fingers crossed the first Test against New Zealand 16th of May.
A return Test series with New Zealand and Champions Trophy campaign must be played before the Australians arrive for another Ashes battle, and Cook knows they will again provide the biggest test for England despite a troubled tour of India which saw them whitewashed 4-0.
"Obviously the Ashes is going to be a huge part of the summer. Along with the Champions Trophy and New Zealand it's a massive summer for us, and as a captain and player it's a great opportunity for us to do something special.
"Australia are going to be a tough side, they always are, the Ashes brings out the best in them make no mistake about that, so it's going to be a great battle between two very good sides."
Cook was happy with England's fighting spirit in New Zealand, but accepts they need to show much more than that if they are to beat Australia.
"Overall I think if we're honest we're disappointed, we went over there to win the series and we didn't do that. We didn't play as well and we'd like to for most of the series. In the second game in Wellington we played better but in the first and third games New Zealand put us under a lot of pressure.
"We showed fighting spirit to survive, took it down to the wire on the final day and we can take a lot from that because we have become a hard side to beat - but we'd like to have played better."
Joe Root was the big success story of the winter, and despite Yorkshire looking for him to bat further up the order for his country, Cook says it will do him good to open the batting at county level first.
"I don't think it really matters where he bats - I think the higher up he bats for us the better," Cook added on Root. "From an England point of view, facing new ball for Yorkshire and facing the best bowlers gives him the best challenge and hopefully he can keep improving and keep learning."
Although the international summer will unsurprisingly be occupying Cook's mind, he is still keen for Essex to clamber out of Division Two of the County Championship this season.
"The big goal for the lads is to get out of this Division Two, for the last three years we've been in Division Two and we've been kind of pushing for promotion but not quite getting there.
"This year we want to take that one step further and get one of those automatic promotion places, we've certainly got the squad, some new signings as well so certainly strengthening our squad a lot and we've also got a lot of young players who can hopefully come on this year."