sport news Alastair Cook insists England can upset the odds

It is easy to forget England have won four of the last five Ashes and are the holders of the urn. Easy, also, to forget the sensational summer of 2015 and Stuart Broad’s incredible eight for 15 at Trent Bridge. It is as if everyone here only remembers what happened the last time England played in Australia.

England certainly remember their recent Ashes record - Joe Root, Moeen Ali and Alastair Cook all quietly slipped it into their media conferences on Monday - and Broad has a reminder of his successes in the form of a package of all his wickets against Australia put together for him to watch here by the team analyst.

But they have preferred to take a softly-softly approach in the build-up to a series that finally gets underway at midnight on Wednesday in total contrast to the trash talking Aussies epitomised by Nathan Lyon’s ludicrous outburst on Monday.

England batsman Alastair Cook speaks during a press conference on Tuesday morning

England batsman Alastair Cook speaks during a press conference on Tuesday morning

England warm up during a nets session at The Gabba in Brisbane on Tuesday

England warm up during a nets session at The Gabba in Brisbane on Tuesday

Not to mention good old David Warner, supposedly a changed man these days, lobbing in a hand grenade of his own on Monday by saying Ben Stokes, the elephant in the Ashes room, had ‘let his country down.’

England deserve credit for copying Andrew Strauss’s off-field approach to playing here seven years ago when he stubbornly refused all invitations to criticise Australia or big up his own side. Now they have to emulate him on the field and retain the biggest prize in cricket.

It is, of course, a very different kettle of fish playing in Australia, which is why Strauss’s victory seven years ago was so outstanding, and England will understandably begin this series at the imposing Gabba as firm underdogs.

If they are to upset the odds now they will need one of their batsmen to stand up and dominate the Australian attack as Cook did in 2010-11 with his extraordinary tally of 766 runs. So who better than Cook himself?

The former captain is acutely aware that his Ashes record other than that golden series is distinctly average. Cook is aware, too, that what happens over the next five Tests could well define the post-leadership stage of his career.

Cook makes his way onto the pitch as England put the finishing touches on their preparations

Cook makes his way onto the pitch as England put the finishing touches on their preparations

But he was in relaxed mood on Monday as he reflected on being a key figure, at 32, against Australia’s formidable attack, with inexperience all around both him and his successor Joe Root in England’s top order.

‘I still get nervous, of course I do,’ said a man with 147 Tests and 11,629 runs under his belt. ‘I can feel the emotions now. Coming to the ground today brings back good and bad memories and you don’t know what it will be like this time.

‘But this is what drives you on when you’re doing all the training in the dark hours at Chelmsford or in the gym when it’s pretty dull and boring. This is when you get your moment and this is when you want to go out and play really well.’

That 5-0 drubbing under Cook’s leadership four years ago

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