Leeds - England captain Alastair Cook insisted his side could yet regain the
Ashes despite being held to a 1-1 Test series draw by New Zealand.
Australia thrashed England 5-0 on home soil during the last Ashes clash in
However, Australia will arrive for a Test series against England starting in
Cardiff on July 8 having not won an away Ashes campaign since 2001.
England, though, went down to a crushing 199-run defeat by New Zealand in
the second Test at Headingley on Tuesday.
But for Cook's superb 162 and a dashing century by all-rounder Ben Stokes,
England might well have also lost the first Test at Lord's - a match they won
by 124 runs.
Asked if he thought England could regain the Ashes, Cook told reporters at
Headingley: "Yes I do.
"In our conditions as well, we're comfortable in them but we have to
make that step forward as a side and we have to do it quickly."
The second Test saw Cook become England's all-time leading Test run-scorer
and James Anderson the first England bowler to take 400 Test wickets.
"In their own conditions, I think England are a very, very good
team," said New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum.
"They've got the top run-scorer they've ever had (Cook), and the top
wicket-taker they've ever had (Anderson). So they've got some quality players
in their set-up."
But for the second series in a row, following their five-wicket defeat by
the West Indies in Barbados last month, England let slip a 1-0 lead to end a
Test series level at 1-1.
"To win a Test series or a Test match, you need to win those crucial
moments," said Cook.
"We're just probably lacking a little bit of that," added Cook,
with England made to pay for dropping several slip catches at Headingley.
England started Tuesday's final day on 44 without loss, chasing what would
have been a Test record fourth innings winning total of 455.
But they lost five wickets before lunch and were eventually bowled out for
255, with Cook (56) and Jos Buttler (73) providing the only significant
"To lose four wickets pretty early on made it fairly clear that we
weren't going to go for it," said Cook, who reached exactly 9 000 Test
runs with his second-innings effort.
Of particular concern to England ahead of the Ashes was the form of
top-order batsmen Gary Ballance and Ian Bell, both of whom saw their lean run
continue on Tuesday with single-figure scores.
Ballance and Bell were among a group of Test regulars who were left out of
England's squad for the upcoming one-day series against New Zealand.
Cook himself was dropped from England's 50-over set-up prior to the team's
humiliating first round exit at this year's World Cup.
The experience appeared to benefit Cook's Test form, with the left-handed
opener ending his near two-year wait for a Test hundred in the Caribbean.
"Clearly they haven't scored the runs that they would have liked to
have done, and they've got five weeks away to go away and find a bit of form in
county cricket," said Cook of Ballance and Bell.
The captain was also confident the struggling Moeen Ali could recapture the
form that saw the off-spinner take 19 wickets at 23 at home to India last year.
"What I do like about him, he does spin the ball hard, he gets a lot of
revs on it, so if he can get that control back like he had against India we
know he can be a threat," Cook said.