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Cook rubbishes cheating allegations

George Dobell in Durham
August 8, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Alastair Cook believes an apology is due from Australian broadcaster Channel 9 © Getty Images
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Alastair Cook has dismissed accusations that England's batsmen have tried to cheat Hot Spot as "blatantly not true".

The England captain used his media conference ahead of the fourth Ashes Test in Durham to reiterate the ECB's request for an apology from Australian broadcaster Channel 9, who made the claims, and rubbish the story.

"It's not great when you get called a cheat as a side and you've been accused of something you haven't done," Cook said. "I think an apology is due because it's such a blatant fabrication.

"We've been laughing at it in our dressing room; how strange a story it is and how absurd it is.

Cook's frustration is understandable. Having just retained the Ashes in the minimum amount of games possible in his first summer as England's Test captain, he might have expected to be basking in glory. Instead he has found himself defending his side against not just accusations of cheating but, according to Shane Warne, writing in the Telegraph, behaving arrogantly as well. Players were also accused of behaving inappropriately in the aftermath of the Old Trafford Test after newspaper pictures captured some of them smoking cigarettes.

"The last couple of days have been a bit of a media storm," Cook said. "It's taken a bit of gloss over the fact we managed to win the Ashes in such a short space of time. But that's out of our control.

"I don't know where the Warne story came from. Steven Smith apologised yesterday and said he didn't think we were arrogant at all. I've no qualms about how our behaviour has been in this series at all.

"We're an experienced bunch. We've been through a lot and a lot of players have been through similar circumstances with a bit of controversy in the past. We've stuck together well and that's a sign of a strong team. We know how important it is and how hard we need to keep working."

Cook was among those to meet officials from the ICC in Durham on Wednesday to discuss the DRS issues that have overshadowed the series. While Cook confirmed that the ICC had accepted there had been faults, he also stated that at no stage had there been a discussion about abandoning the use of DRS or any of its component parts, including Hot Spot, for the rest of the series. Hot Spot, the technology that is designed to verify whether the ball has hit the bat, has been exposed over the first three games, with a series of clear edges not showing up upon review.

"It was a good meeting," Cook said. "They have held their hands up and said some mistakes have been made with it. It's something which they're trying to iron out. They're trying to get more decisions right.

Alastair Cook is still seeking a match-defining innings during the current Ashes series © Getty Images
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"In the past Hot Spot has worked really well, but there have been three or four strange occurrences this series where there has been noise but no mark. I don't know why. I don't know the actual technology of Hot Spot, but I'm sure they're working behind the scenes to try to work out why.

"There was no discussion with the ICC about getting rid of Hot Spot, because of the precedent it would set. That's a very dangerous precedent to set. In the middle of a series, if something strange happens, if you ban it then the precedent is set for another series.

"It's there to try to give as much information to the third umpire to make the right decision. To ban it sets a dangerous precedent and in the past it's worked extremely well to pick up edges. It's just there have been strange occurrences in recent games."

Cook, who has endured a modest series to date, admitted he was "desperate" to register a match-defining total in the next two Tests. Cook has registered two half-centuries, but is averaging only 24.16 over the first three games. Despite his uncharacteristic struggles, however, Cook retained faith that his form would return soon.

"I'm desperate for a score, without a doubt," Cook said. "At the top of the order your job is to score runs. It hasn't gone quite as well as I would have liked. I've made starts and when you convert starts into bigger runs it changes games, but that hasn't happened.

"I work hard at my game and I've scored runs in the past. My Test career suggests I do score runs, so hopefully it's just a matter of time."

Cook also had words of praise for Graham Onions. The Durham seamer, left out of the squad for the Test at Old Trafford, made his point to the selectors in eloquent fashion by claiming nine wickets, including seven in the first innings, in the subsequent County Championship match and could win a recall for the first Ashes Test on his home ground.

But while Onions' form and consistency remains admirable, the fact that England have not won the series may count against him. England may be unwilling to rotate any of their first-choice players in such circumstances, so Onions may be reliant on one of James Anderson or Stuart Broad feeling jaded ahead of the game or the selectors deciding that his home-ground knowledge renders him more useful than Tim Bresnan.

"Graham Onions has done extremely well this year in county cricket," Cook said. "He's pushed his name into the squad again. He was left out of a couple of games, but went back to Durham and took a lot of wickets.

"He's doing everything we're asking of him. In our eyes the series is still very much alive. We set out to win not just retain - that's the goal and we're trying to pick the best XI to win."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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