Ashes 2013-14: Alastair Cook hopes to see reserve pacers challenge each other for spot in starting XI

Alastair Cook (above) hopes to see Tim Bresnan fit before the first Ashes Test © Getty Images

Perth: Oct 26, 2013

Captain Alastair Cook on Saturday challenged his backup pace battery to push for Test places when England’s Ashes tour gets under way next week ahead of the series against Australia.

Cook used his first official media conference in Perth to state that a place was up for grabs in England’s pace attack behind first choice stars James Anderson and Stuart Broad and urged the next in line — Chris Tremlett, Steven Finn and newcomer Boyd Rankin — to go after it.

England open up against an under-strength Western Australia team in a three-day warmup game starting in Perth on Thursday ahead of the opening Test at Brisbane’s Gabba on November 21. This is followed by Tests in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.

Selectors included five fast bowlers in their 17-man touring squad with an eye to taking advantage of the hard bouncy wickets they are likely to encounter in Australia.

“It is quite clear to see that Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad have done enough over their fantastic careers to be first choice bowlers and we tend to play three quicks and a seamer so there is one place up for grabs,” Cook said.

“So it’s pretty clear for everyone to know that and people have to stick their hand up for selection and if they do really well in these couple of warm-up games and the opportunities they will get, they’re going to put their name up.”

Former Ireland international Rankin, who impressed for his adopted country during the one-day series against Australia last month, is bidding for his first Test match during the Australia tour.

“He’s a big tall lump and he can get the ball down at pretty close to 90 miles per hour (145 kilometres per hour),” Cook said.

“I think you can see from the selection of the squad that we think pace and bounce will be quite crucial on Australian wickets.

“He (Rankin) certainly gives us that option. He hasn’t played a Test, he hasn’t been around the Test match environment before so [it will be] interesting to see how he goes.”

Cook’s team is gunning for a fourth successive Ashes series win and the five-Test tour Down Under comes barely two months after wrapping up a 3-0 home series win over Australia.

Cook said he had only discovered on Saturday that England will encounter a second-string Western Australia team this week, with the state side’s leading players involved in a Sheffield Shield domestic game against Victoria in Melbourne at the same time.

“We’ll obviously be playing against some younger players that we haven’t seen before,” he said.

“A lot was made about our opposition in India in the warm-up games, but we can’t control that and we just concentrate on getting our preparations as good as we can.

“The last time we toured India we didn’t face a ball of spin until the first Test match that happened there and we just had to concentrate on us. You like to play against the strongest opposition as you can, but clearly with WA playing a state game at the same time the strongest opposition we can play is the next best.”

Seamer Tim Bresnan, who is accompanying the team as he recovers from a stress fracture of his back, could be bowling again before the opening Ashes Test, Cook said.

“He plays a very key part in our side when he’s fully fit. He might be back bowling again before the first Test match, that’s the kind of progress we’d hope to see from him,” he said.

“He’s obviously going to need some bowling in matches before he goes into a Test match if possible. We don’t know how his back is going to react.”

The skipper said he expected star batsman Kevin Pietersen to arrive in Perth on Sunday after he was granted compassionate leave following the death of a friend.