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Cook optimistic on Broad fitness

Alastair Cook looks ahead to the Melbourne Ashes Test on his 29th birthday

Alastair Cook is increasingly hopeful that fast bowler Stuart Broad will be fit to play in the Boxing Day Test.

Broad was struck painfully on the right boot when lbw to a Mitchell Johnson yorker in the first innings of England’s loss to Australia at Perth last week.

Broad did not take the field in the hosts’ second innings and batted briefly as Cook’s side slipped to a defeat that saw them surrender the Ashes, but did not suffer a break.

However, Broad has now bowled without apparent discomfort at the MCG nets and appears to be fit for selection tomorrow.

"We're a lot more hopeful than I was two days ago, watching him walk round the hotel," said Cook on his 29th birthday.

"The signs are good, a lot better ... fingers crossed."

Broad’s availability would be a boost after the retirement of fellow Nottinghamshire bowler Graeme Swann this week.

Cook defended the spinner’s decision to call it a day midway through the series.

Stuart Broad bowls in the MCG nets. "The signs are good, a lot better... fingers crossed," Alastair Cook said of Broad's prospects of playing in the Boxing Day Test

"Graeme gave up a lot for that England shirt and he had no more to give,” he added.

"He could have just hung on for these two games ... whether he had played or not would have been pretty irrelevant.

"To me, once a guy is in that situation, there was no point hanging around because he will only drag energy from the group - whether you want to or not."

Without Swann, Cook is determined to stop England’s losing sequence this week and avoid the possibility of a whitewash in the Sydney Test.

Cook, part of the side that lost 5-0 in 2006-07 but a 3-1 winner Down Under three years ago, said: "It's very important.

"You don't want to lose many games of cricket, and you certainly don't want to lose five in a row.

"We're desperate not to let that happen this time."

Swann’s retirement follows Jonathan Trott leaving the tour just after the first Test with a stress-related illness.

"We've been dealt some pretty bad cards on this tour, and we haven't played the cricket we're capable of,” Cook added.

"Obviously, when you lose games of cricket, your confidence does slip.

"But the way the guys have stuck together in the dressing room has been excellent. We're desperate to turn it round."

Cook’s opposite number Michael Clarke, having led Australia to an unassailable 3-0 series lead, had encouragement for Cook, who was part of the top-ranked Test team 18 months ago.

"You've just got to keep the faith," Clarke said.

"England have a very good team, a lot of very good individual players.

"They know they've got the stock there, but it's just about them continuing to do what they've done for long periods of time that got them to be the number-one team in the world."

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