Cook reflects on bewildering year
8:05am Friday 15th August 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Alastair Cook can scarcely credit the sequence of events his England team have endured since their last Oval Test, just under a year ago.
From Ashes victory, and the promise of history to be made Down Under with a fourth successive series verdict over Australia, Cook's men descended to whitewash defeat and a messy aftermath.
The captain himself emerged as a near sole survivor among management for the new era he and returning coach Peter Moores were required to forge.
That too went far from smoothly as Cook's own batting form disintegrated in series setbacks against Sri Lanka, and then a 1-0 deficit to India.
Only after back-to-back victories, and his relative rediscovery of the run-scoring knack, can he reflect with a degree of renewed confidence on a tumultuous 12 months.
England will begin the fifth Investec Test with a 2-1 lead over India, and a series to clinch.
On board Cook will have James Anderson, within sight of Ian Botham's all-time England Test career wickets tally, and his pace partner Stuart Broad - expected to be fit despite breaking his nose when he was hit by a Varun Aaron bouncer at Old Trafford last week.
Broad and Cook have contrasting takes on the passage of time between England's Ashes celebrations here last year and the task facing them 12 months on.
The captain said: "Broady said when we were running around this morning 'it doesn't seem a year ago we were lifting the Ashes'.
"I said 'It might not to you, but it does to me!'
"I hope next year is a lot more successful... and slightly less eventful."
It is not difficult to refocus the mind on current requirements.
"This is another little challenge - how do we cope when we're up in the series?" asked Cook.
"Can we finish the job?"
To that end, England will not fall into the trap of thinking a stalemate will suffice.
"We're not going out there with any other mindset than this is a game to win," added Cook.
"We've got to use that in isolation and not just think that if we survive this we win the series.
"We've got to go out to win the game. We've got to have the mindset we had after Lord's, when it was doom and gloom and we didn't play very well.
"We came out fighting when we really needed it.
"Just because we've won a couple of games, we can't relax - just because the atmosphere has lifted a bit around the side.
"We have to be tough on ourselves."