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Cook refuses to look too far ahead

By Chris Devine at Emirates Old Trafford

Alastair Cook has reiterated the need for England to remain fully focussed as they bid to secure an unassailable 3-0 lead in the Investec Ashes with victory at Emirates Old Trafford.

Talk of a series whitewash has surfaced in the wake of the hosts' thumping 347-run win at Lord's.

However, England's players and management have repeatedly stated their determination to take things one step at a time.

England captain Alastair Cook hopes Kevin Pietersen will be fit enough to take the field at Emirates Old Trafford

Indeed, Cook insists he is not looking beyond the first hour of tomorrow's opening day.

Asked if he has had to keep the team grounded in the build-up to the Manchester Test, the skipper replied. "No. I think we've certainly spoken about it, but one of the strengths we do as a side is trying to break it down into as small things as we can.

"So it's one hour at a time, not looking too far ahead. When you do you can cause yourself some trouble, so it's (a case of) making sure that we try and get that first hour right tomorrow whether we bowl or bat."

On the possibility of England winning the series 5-0, Cook added: "It's very dangerous to start thinking like that.

"We are a very good side when we take games one step at a time and the only thing we can concentrate on is this Old Trafford Test match, not what's gone before and not what's going to come.

"It's all about getting ourselves right and ready for the battle ahead and that's the only thing that's important."

England are optimistic Kevin Pietersen will be fit to take his place in the XI.

James Taylor is on standby after Pietersen picked up a calf strain at Lord's, but the latter appears to have made a good recovery.

"He has gone through training the last two days and done everything we've asked of him," Cook explained. "Clearly we have to make that decision tomorrow morning in case he pulls up differently, but we're pretty hopeful.

"He's worked incredibly hard with the medical team over this last week to get himself right, so fingers crossed he has."

Should Pietersen not be available, there will be no change in approach from England’s other batsmen in a bid to make up for the regular number four’s attacking talent.

Cook said: “Kev is a bit of a one-off. He has the ability to win games of cricket very quickly on his own.

“But you’ve got to be very strong on yourselves that you can’t play like someone else. Just because KP doesn’t play a Test match or a one-day game, you can’t ask people to bat like him. They are picked on their (own) strengths.”

England could well come up against a much-changed Australian side, with David Warner, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc and Jackson Bird all hoping to gain recalls.

“We’re expecting a very tough battle and it doesn’t matter which 11 we play against,” reasoned Cook.

“They are a dangerous side. Trent Bridge (where England won by 14 runs on a dramatic final day) was an extremely close game and that was only two games ago.

“We obviously played pretty well at Lord’s and it was a big victory but it’s been a very tough series and playing (in the) Ashes is different to any other series you play.”

Australia scrambled a memorable draw in their last Test at Old Trafford, but skipper Michael Clarke - the only touring survivor from that fixture – would not take any satisfaction from a similar scenario this time around.

“It’s definitely not good enough,” he said. “We need to win the last three Test matches to win the series; that’s why we are here. We will be doing everything we can to win this Test.”

While he recognises the uphill task facing his team if they are to win back the urn, Clarke insists he has not given up hope.

“I honestly believe we can win this series,” he stated. “I know there’s a lot of people out there that will laugh at me saying that, but I wouldn’t be here today if I thought this team wasn’t good enough to have success.

“The reality is our backs are against the wall, but if we play our best cricket I think we will give it a real shake for the rest of the series.

“I think if we get a win we will be able to grab hold of that momentum.”

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