Cook cherishes 'strange, but great' reward

England

Skipper Alastair Cook looked forward to England successfully negotiating a mere four-day turnaround between Tests three and four, after retaining the Ashes at Old Trafford in Manchester.

Skipper Alastair Cook looked forward to England successfully negotiating a mere four-day turnaround between Tests three and four, after retaining the Ashes at Old Trafford in Manchester.

Monday brought a rain-affected draw in Manchester, which alongside a 14-run win at Trent Bridge and 347-run victory at Lord's, was enough to keep the coveted title away from Australia.

The English, however, encountered considerably stronger opposition in the veteran Michael Clarke's big century and a fine all-round performance from visiting seamers Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris.

Inclement weather, though, had the final say – as the Aussies were left to rue what could have been after reducing the hosts to 37 for three. Both side's preparation has since turned to the penultimate fixture of the series, which will get underway in Durham on Friday.

"It's obviously a great feeling, but a slightly strange feeling. It has been a bit of a strange day, but great for the lads to retain the Ashes after three games. Obviously the weather hasn't been ideal, but you can't predict that," said Cook.

"It hasn't quite got the atmosphere because of that but the feeling in the dressing room is a very pleasant one. We set out here to try and keep the Ashes and now we want to try and win them.

"And yes, it is slightly stressful at times, and there is the short space between matches. You try to relax in the evenings but it's certainly a challenge and I am sure Michael would say the same sort of thing."

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England, meanwhile, have recalled seamer Graham Onions and retained fast bowler Chris Tremlett – while batsman James Taylor and spinner Monty Panesar have been sidelined from the squad for the fourth Test.

The makeup of the bowling ranks amid a trying workload suggests Onions will be afforded a return to the XI at his homeground, and Tremlett his first Test in 18 months. How many, if any, of right-armers James Anderson, Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad, though, remains in the balance.

"The lads, with a four-man attack, always have to put a lot of effort in and spending a lot of time in the field in the first innings would have taken it out of them, but we'll recover well. We didn't play as well as we would have liked to in this match, and that's credit to Australia, but we'll come back and hopefully play better in Durham," added Cook.

The impressive performance of Kevin Pietersen, too, enjoyed plenty of praise. Negating a calf injury that threatened his participation, Pietersen struck the 23rd century of his career to surpass the great Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoffrey Boycott – to become the country's second highest centurion. Only the left-handed Cook, on 25, has more.

"Kevin batted really well, it was a fantastic knock, that's why he's a world-class player making knocks like that. It was a perfectly-timed one as well in the situation. We are proud of him," concluded Cook.

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