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Cook: Ashes battle made me better

The Ashes has already changed Alastair Cook's life once - and he is hoping it can do so again this summer.

Cook today leads his country in a Test match against Australia for the first time, having twice helped to beat England's oldest enemy under the captaincy of Andrew Strauss.

It was in the historic success in Australia during 2010/11 - England's first Down Under in almost a quarter of a century - that Cook announced himself not merely as a dependable Test opener but a potential great.

He went into that series with an average of barely 25 per innings against Australia, far below his promising overall output.

Five Tests later, his near all-time Ashes series record 766 runs at 127.66 made a mockery of the ominous statistics with which he started.

That campaign was the making of the Cook of 2013 - a fact he happily acknowledges, as he embarks in the opening Investec Test at Trent Bridge on England's bid for a first hat-trick of Ashes series victories in almost 60 years.

"I think you are remembered for your Ashes performances," he said.

"What happened in 2010-11 did change me as a cricketer, gave me a lot of confidence that I could perform at the highest level against a very good side under huge pressure. That's where you want to test yourself, and I probably hadn't achieved that in my career up to that point.

"I think it can change lives and careers. Luckily I've managed to kick on from that moment, and I see no reason why that can't continue."

What Cook would give to revisit those glories, in a series England will begin as favourites.

"In eight weeks' time, I'd love to be sitting at The Oval having won the Ashes," he said. "That's the ultimate aim as an English captain. You join a very elite band of cricketers who could say that. But we need to play well, withstand a lot of pressure, play with a lot of skill and win those crucial moments."

Cook knows, as captain as well as opener, there will be even more of that pressure piled on him this time.

But he said: "That is the nature of the beast. You have the opportunity to do something very special - and with that, you are always going to have to give a little bit.

"With good stuff, there is also bad stuff. I told the lads that we have the opportunity to do something special."

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