Aussies right to suit themselves maintains Cook

ENGLAND opener Alastair Cook has defended Australia's right to prepare a pitch to suit their bowlers for the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.

Cook believes Australia are fully entitled to make the most of home conditions as they seek to regain the Ashes from the tourists.

Australia levelled the series in Perth after exploiting England's failure to cope with extra pace and bounce.

Now a well-grassed, lively surface is expected to greet England in the fourth Test at the MCG, where victory would see Andrew Strauss's men retain the Ashes.

England famously clinched the 2009 Ashes on an Oval surface deliberately prepared to favour their bowlers, and Cook said he had no issue with Australia adopting a similar tactic.

"That is the beauty of home conditions, isn't it?" declared the

Essex left-hander. "You can prepare a pitch, you hope, to suit the home side.

"That is what we try to do in England in certain cases. There is no reason I would expect Australia not to do it.

"If you went to India, and they played three spinners and produced a green seamer, you'd be wondering what's going on.

"That is what home advantage is, and you'd expect everyone to do it."

Cook insists England – dismissed for under 200 in both innings at Perth – can adapt to whatever conditions meet them.

Much interest surrounds the exact nature of the drop-in pitch, with groundsman Cameron Hodgkins having reportedly abandoned his initial first-choice in favour of an effervescent surface to suit the likes of Australia pace bowlers Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris.

The switch, however, is believed to pre-date England's failure to cope with the unique demands of Perth, where they have won only once in Test history.

"The pitch is out of our control, and that's the beauty of cricket that conditions change from week to week," added Cook.

"It's how you adapt to those that determines how successful you are.

"The challenge is making sure we are ready and adapt to those conditions."

Cook concedes England's confidence took a knock with their 267-run hammering in Perth.

The euphoria of victory in

Adelaide was emphatically blown away as Australia unexpectedly stormed back into the series.

"As a batting unit, we took a little bit of a confidence hit," admitted Cook, England's leading scorer in the rubber with 495 at 123.75.

"But we only have to look a week or so before – we scored a lot of runs against this attack.

"First and foremost, we've got to trust ourselves."

Cook believes England laid the ghosts of Perth to rest straight

after the match.

"We had a good meeting," he added, "a good, honest meeting. "I think that's because the group we have created here, with Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss, is such a stable group that we feel very comfortable doing that.

"We put Perth to bed and now we go to Melbourne as a confident side."

Australia remain optimistic captain Ricky Ponting will be fit after he fractured the little finger of his left hand in Perth.

Ponting sustained the injury failing to hang on to a slip catch.

But the hosts have taken the precaution of calling-up New South Wales batsman Usman Khawaja.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland commented: "I would be expecting Ricky to play – it would need something significant to keep him out of it.

"It (the finger injury) will obviously be monitored and managed and treated accordingly, but I'd be very surprised if he wasn't fit."

Khawaja – outstanding this season with 598 Sheffield Shield runs at 74.75 – insists he is ready to step up if required.

"I've said this before – I think I was ready when I was six years old," quipped the Pakistan-born left-hander. "I think everyone's ready to play for Australia."

Following their rousing win in Perth, Australia hope the Boxing Day crowd will beat the previous MCG record of 90,800 against West Indies in 1961. "We're on target to make history with the Boxing Day Test match looking like a close-to-capacity crowd on day one, hopefully breaking the world record for the highest-ever attendance at a single day of Test cricket," added Sutherland. "We know there'll be twice as many English visitors coming to this game.

"There's a whole influx of Barmy Army supporters coming in for this Test match.

"We're really throwing out the challenge to Australian cricket fans who come along to wear their colours, but also to make a lot of noise to get behind our team."