Alastair Cook’s soul-searching after England’s 218-run defeat in Adelaide included a personal check to clarify his team still all have the appetite for this winter’s Ashes battle.
Reassuring responses all round convinced him that, even from 2-0 down with three to play following shocks to the system here and in the first Test in Brisbane, England move on to Perth still capable of battling back.
It is a long shot, of course, to pull off a feat last and only once achieved 77 years ago – and then by Australia, not England – to triumph in an Ashes series after losing the first two matches.
Cook knows England got exactly what they deserved, and can hardly argue otherwise after twice being blown away by the pace of Mitchell Johnson.
The left-armer had conditions in his favour at the Gabba, but on a more docile Adelaide Oval pitch he was if anything even hotter to handle – with first-innings figures of 7-40.
Two Johnson spells on day three effectively settled a match which England managed to extend into the fifth morning before losing their last four wickets in almost exactly an hour’s play, to Peter Siddle (4-57) and Ryan Harris (3-54), all out for 312 despite a belligerent 69 from back-to-form Matt Prior.
Cook was quizzed about the enduring will to succeed.
“Sometimes, when you haven’t been playing well, that’s one thing you start looking at – whether we do have that,” he said. “I can only say, from speaking to the guys, and watching them – how much this is hurting – that we do. Only the guys will know that inside themselves. But I honestly believe we’ve got that.
“We’ve been outplayed ... you can’t get away from that. But the only way we can drag it out is by getting that hunger, that desperation back into our game.”
Cook stressed that the collective intent also pertains to Kevin Pietersen.
England’s most gifted batsman helped to open the door to Johnson in the first innings, with a profligate flick to midwicket off Siddle. Pietersen buckled down second time round, in company with the admirable Joe Root, until his nemesis Siddle got him yet again.
Asked specifically about Pietersen’s commitment to Test cricket, at the age of 33, Cook insisted: “Yes, I think he is. In fact, I know he is – after speaking to him.
“I thought he played very responsibly in that second innings.
“Again, he’s a senior player and he will be first to hold his hands up and say some of his shots – execution and selection – hasn’t been good enough. That’s pretty much (the same) for the whole of our batting line-up, and that’s the kind of honesty we need to go forward.”
Ben Stokes and Mitchell Johnson, meanwhile, have been cleared of any misconduct after their collision on day four of the Adelaide Test, the International Cricket Council has confirmed.
The two all-rounders clashed as Stokes made his way through for a single while Johnson was bowling in the second innings of England’s defeat.
After both pleaded not guilty, Jeff Crowe of the elite panel of ICC match referees cleared them of the charges.
“I am satisfied in respect of both players that their physical contact was not deliberate,” he said. “Both players, however, could have done more to avoid each other and they have been so counselled. We do not condone physical contact, but recognise that on occasions such contact could be accidental.”
Second Ashes Test, Adelaide (close, day five): Australia 570-9 dec & 132-3 dec beat England (172 & 312) by 218 runs.