Cook asks team to dig deep
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 seven for 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 (four for 57) and Ryan Harris (three for 54), all out for 312 despite a belligerent 69 from back-to-form Matt Prior.
Cook was quizzed at his post-match press conference, among other pressing topics, 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 was at pains to stress that the collective intent most definitely 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 made it clear he sought a guarantee on that score too - and again been gratified by the answer.
"Yes, I think he is. In fact, I know he is - after speaking to him," he said.
"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."
Cook himself twice fell cheaply to Johnson, to a thunderbolt away swinger which knocked back off stump in the first innings and then to a faulty hook to fine leg in the second.
The opener concedes that England's batsmen, bizarrely dismissed via 20 leg-side catches so far in this series, have made some of their own trouble by diverting from tried-and-trusted methods.
"It's simple ... we've probably gone away from what we've done (previously)," he added.
"I lead from the front that way, so I've got to make sure I'm better than that."
He retains the faith nonetheless - as, he points out, England absolutely must - that the Ashes can still be retained, at least, if not necessarily won outright for a fourth successive time.
"It's certainly not impossible," he said. "A lot of people who will be sitting in this room, and outside, will probably give us no chance.
"But if we don't believe that in our dressing room, if we believe the urn has gone, then it might as well have gone.
"Obviously 2-0 is not a great situation to be in. But if you look at a football game, the next goal can change it very quickly."
After watching Root and Prior hint at a revival, albeit in a long-lost cause, Cook is encouraged.
"It's going to take a monumental effort from us to do it," he said.
"But we're the only guys who can turn it round.
"It was a better display in this second innings. (It was) by no means perfect, at all, but it was better than it had been.
"That's a small step, only a small step, but it's heading in the right direction."
As for his own state of mind, as he approaches his landmark 100th Test in Perth on Friday, Cook does not try to disguise the impact of two crushing defeats.
"I think that's part and parcel of the job," he said. "There are some very tough moments for the captain, and we're in the middle of it.
"We're 2-0 down, and I'm responsible as the captain for that.
"Yes, it does hit you hard.
"It's how you bounce back. Sport shows what character you can be."
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