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Cook challenges players to grasp chance

England captain Alastair Cook speaks to the media ahead of the clash with Australia A

Alastair Cook is enjoying the competitive nature of the team’s training sessions as the players battle for selection ahead of the clash with Australia A in Hobart tomorrow.

The England skipper has dangled a carrot to every player in the touring party by admitting he is unsure of two spots in his first-choice side with the opening Ashes Test against Australia in Brisbane drawing ever closer.

It has kept the whole squad on their toes with every net session a chance to prove why each indivudual is deserving of a place as England aim for a fourth consecutive series victory against the Aussies.

And it has made Cook, who is expected to make his first appearance of the tour in the four-day game after overcoming a slight back strain, a keen observer.

“We haven’t decided on our batting line-up,” he said. “We’re unsure of pretty much two places and it’s exciting as everyone in the squad knows that and the competition is there.

“Watching that competition grow between players is an exciting place to be. If someone grabs that opportunity he’s going to find himself in a good place.”

Alastair Cook has enjoyed being a part of highly-competitive training sessions ahead of the tour match with Australia A.England have also changed tactic slightly from their previous tour, when the names of the starting XI were widely known.

The warm-up games were therefore used to build up match sharpness for the first-choice players, whereas this time squad members are striving for a starting slot.

“This is very different to 2010-11 where we came here and it was very clear to see what our first choice side was,” said Cook.

“In that tour we played the first two warm-up games as that Test match XI. (This time) we probably won’t play our best XI until that first Test match just because we are in a different situation.”

Cook has come under fire from in the build-up to the series, as the hosts try and unsettle a touring party aiming for back-to-back victories Down Under.

The batsman’s skills as a leader have been questioned, but the skipper has defended his captaincy record and has told the new players in the squad that this is what they can expect in every high-profile series.

“In my first year as a captain we’ve won away in India, which hasn’t been done for a long period of time, and won a series against Australia and I think they are things we can be very proud of,” he said.

“I think one of the skills you need as an international cricketer compared to a guy who just plays county cricket is having to deal with this situation.

“There’s a lot more interest in what’s going on in the international game and how you handle yourself certainly is whether you make the grade or not.

“Over a long period of time I feel I’ve handled it pretty well."

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