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Cook: Australia will be no pushovers
Alastair Cook insists England are not expecting to trounce Australia in this summer's Ashes, despite their rivals' dismal recent tour of India.
While England were underwhelming in their recent drawn Test series with New Zealand, their woes paled in comparison to those of an Australian side thrashed 4-0 by the same India side Cook's men had beaten 2-1 just three months earlier. Michael Clarke's team passed 400 just once in eight innings and never got close to dismissing India twice.
But Cook expects them to be in far better shape come the first Test at Trent Bridge, and he said: "Everyone would be slightly foolish to think that the side Australia bring aren't going to be strong. In pretty similar conditions here and in Australia, they are going to be a very tough side."
He added: "They probably should have beaten South Africa last summer; they just had a bad couple of sessions whereas we got comprehensively outplayed by South Africa.
"Anyone who thinks this is going to be a really easy series is going to be in for a huge surprise because as far as the England team is concerned there's no such thing as a weak Australia side."
The Australian top order looked especially vulnerable against spin on the sub-continent and with their own slow bowlers largely unimpressive until Nathan Lyon's nine-wicket haul in the final Test, Cook refused to rule out preparing a string of turning wickets as his side look to beat their oldest enemy for a third straight series.
"You've got to use home advantage as best you can," he said. "Sometimes the pitch condition is down to what the summer is like, and you can't really control the weather.
"You can try and set it up the best you can but sometimes you can overcomplicate things like that and try and get too funky. At the end of the day the side that plays the best cricket is going to win that series."
Cook also defended England's lacklustre display in New Zealand, where they were fortunate to escape with draws from the first and third Tests.
"I think if you look at the winter as a whole we've had a very good winter," he said. "We were disappointed with how we played in New Zealand. It's important we look at the reasons why we didn't play as well as we could have done. There could be a number of reasons and it's a reality check on where we are as a side and what areas we need to improve on."