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Cook sets bar high

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As Alastair Cook prepares to lead England in a home Test for the first time, he has challenged his team to begin a vital summer at their best.

Cook has been Test captain in Bangladesh, India and New Zealand, but tomorrow’s opening Investec Test of two with the Black Caps will be a landmark for the 28-year-old.

Following March’s 0-0 draw in New Zealand, Cook wants to begin a season that features an Ashes series on a high at Lord’s.

Speaking exclusively to ecb.co.uk, he said: “Obviously we were slightly disappointed with the standard of cricket we played (in the March Tests). Full credit to New Zealand and how well they played.

“It’s going to be no different here. We’ve got to play as close as we can to our potential. That’s kind of the challenge of sport; you’re always trying to play as close to your maximum potential as you can. That’s what we’re aiming for this week and hopefully we can put New Zealand under pressure in these two games.”

Cook and the other 11 members of his squad enjoyed a rest after a hectic winter and then played for their counties in recent weeks.

“In the batters it’s probably more the mental fatigue of batting and playing under pressure,” Cook added. “In the bowlers it’s obviously a physical thing as well. It’s important that they got to put their feet up a little bit, obviously did their gym work.

“Judging on the results everyone’s spent some time in the middle, which is really good from a batting point of view and obviously some wickets as well for the bowlers. We feel as if we’re in a really good place as a team at the start of the summer and we’re looking forward to what is always an exciting summer ahead.”

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