England v New Zealand: Alastair Cook says hosts can win Ashes

By Stephan ShemiltBBC Sport at Headingley
Alastair Cook
Alastair Cook was the leading run-scorer in the series, with 309 runs at an average of 77.25

England captain Alastair Cook says he has seen enough potential in his side to believe they can regain the Ashes against Australia this summer.

Cook's side, including six players who had played 13 Tests or fewer, were beaten by 199 runs by New Zealand at Headingley to draw the series 1-1 - having been set 455 to win.

"In our home conditions, we are comfortable," said Cook.

"But we have to make a step forward as a side and we have to do it quickly."

England, who have not lost a home series to Australia since 2001, were beaten 5-0 down under in 2013-14.

Their bid to win the Ashes back begins on 8 July in Cardiff.

Before then, they will want to see batsmen Ian Bell and Gary Ballance return to form. Bell has managed only 55 runs in his last eight innings, while Ballance has 36 in his last four.

Ian Bell
Ian Bell is averaging 6.87 in his last eight Test innings, but was the leading run-scorer in the last Ashes series in England

"They are fantastic players," said Cook. "Clearly they haven't scored the runs they would have liked and they have five weeks to get some form in county cricket.

"There will be concern because they haven't scored the runs, but form comes and goes. Two games in isolation does not make you a bad player."

Former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott said the form of Ballance and Bell is a concern because of the lack of alternatives, particularly with Kevin Pietersen being told he will not be considered.

"Who are you going to pick in their place? Does anybody stand out?" Boycott said on the BBC's Test Match Special.

"When people saw Joe Root and he wasn't in the side, we said, 'This kid will play for England.' But other players, I don't see England on them."

Cook also said that off-spinner Moeen Ali, who averages 41 with the ball in his last four Tests, must find some consistency before the Australians arrive.

"Mo hasn't bowled as well as he bowled last summer, so he's got some work to do to get that consistency back," said opener Cook.

"He does spin the ball hard, so if he can get that control back we know he can be a threat."

Cook also highlighted England's fielding as an area that needs improvement, with four catches dropped in New Zealand's second innings at Headingley alone.

"That's disappointing," said Cook, who led England to Ashes success in 2013. "We were taking wonderful catches last summer against India.

"We have to make sure nail our positions and do a hell of a lot of catching practice. Taking your chances is so important, having to create 13 or 14 chances to bowl a side out is not helpful."

Bell, Ballance and Moeen are among seven players from England's World Cup squad who have been left out of the upcoming one-day series against New Zealand, which begins next Tuesday.

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