England can win Ashes, says captain Cook

Leeds, June 3 (IANS) England captain Alastair Cook said he has seen enough potential in his team to believe they can regain the Ashes against Australia this summer.

Cook’s side were beaten by 199 runs by New Zealand here to draw the two-match series 1-1, having been set 455 to win.

“In our home conditions, we are comfortable. But we have to make a step forward as a side and we have to do it quickly,” Cook was quoted as saying by bbc.com on Tuesday.

England, who have not lost a home series to Australia since 2001, were beaten 0-5 Down Under in 2013-14. Their bid to win the Ashes back begins on July 8 in Cardiff.

The skipper backed key batsmen Ian Bell and Gary Ballance to return to form before the Ashes. Bell has managed only 55 runs in his last eight innings, while Ballance has 36 in his last four.

“They are fantastic players. Clearly they haven’t scored the runs they would have liked and they have five weeks to get some form in county cricket,” he said.

“There will be concern because they haven’t scored the runs, but form comes and goes. Two games in isolation does not make you a bad player.”

The left-handed batsman who became England’s highest run-getter in Tests said off-spinner Moeen Ali, who averages 41 with the ball in his last four Tests, must find some consistency before the Australians arrive.

“Mo hasn’t bowled as well as he bowled last summer, so he’s got some work to do to get that consistency back. He does spin the ball hard, so if he can get that control back we know he can be a threat,” said Cook.

The 30-year-old also highlighted England’s fielding as an area that needs improvement, with four catches dropped in New Zealand’s second innings at Leeds alone.

“That’s disappointing. We were taking wonderful catches last summer against India. We have to make sure nail our positions and do a hell of a lot of catching practice. Taking your chances is so important, having to create 13 or 14 chances to bowl a side out is not helpful,” Cook said.

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