Cook eager to meet the challenge of opening home Test

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Alastair Cook must set aside a welter of hopes and fears this morning when he arrives at Lord’s for his first home Test as England captain.

The hopes, of course, will be that his team can banish the memories of their 0-0 stalemate in New Zealand to beat the same opposition in a two-Test rematch and set the tone for a summer of unprecedented high profile in English cricket.

The fears – not that Cook would choose to describe them as such – emanate from that disappointment, and avoidance of series defeat by the narrowest of margins, against the Kiwis two months ago.

Theories, and accusations, have abounded – since Matt Prior scrambled England to safety in Auckland – that England paid the price in those three March Tests for initial complacency which immediately put them under pressure.

With back-to-back Ashes looming ever closer, and a Champions Trophy on home soil thrown in for good measure next month, the need for a reassuringly good start here could hardly be more urgent.

Cook, preparing for his eighth Test as permanent captain and 10th in all but his debut in charge in his own country, has been engaged in a series of team and management meetings to identify how England get back on the track which helped them win in India last year for the first time in three decades.

None of those summits, he insists however, have been out of the ordinary at the start of a Test summer. “It’s always serious, isn’t it? We’re in a serious industry here.

“Look at the beginning of every summer – you have those meetings outlining your plans, the way you want to go about things and the challenge ahead – and we’ve obviously got some challenges ahead of us.”

Cook is not afraid of plain speaking, behind closed doors at any rate, but insists that was not necessarily the agenda of recent weeks.

“There’s always times when you’ve got to have a few harsh words, but I don’t think we should go down that route.

“Those meetings weren’t about that kind of stuff – it’s just about trying to produce our goods over these two weeks.

“Anyone who plays for England, whether you’re the captain or the coach, you expect high standards – and when those high standards aren’t met, that’s a perfectly opportune moment to be cross,” he added.