Cook has led England in nine previous Tests, but they were all overseas – and for two of the seven since he succeeded Andrew Strauss as the permanent Test captain last autumn, he has had wardrobe issues ahead of his formal commitments as captain. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow, that's for certain," he said at his eve-of-match press conference in the Lord's museum. "And to walk out hopefully in my blazer, to captain at Lord's, is an incredible honour for me."
Why hopefully, he was asked. Not an issue over his fitness, or selection, surely? He explained that it was the blazer that prompted the doubts. "I forgot it in New Zealand … I didn't wear it for the first Test [in Dunedin]. And I think I might have forgotten it in India as well."
So has he taken the precaution of bringing it to Lord's a day early, in case he forgets it again? " I think it's at the hotel [right now] – but if it's not I can drive home and go and get it. It's not like flying halfway around the world."
Cook has led England in four one-day internationals at Lord's – scoring a century in the first, in a defeat by Sri Lanka in July 2011, followed by a tie (as opposed to a blazer) against India later that year, and victories over Australia and South Africa last summer. His record as Test captain remains a positive one, with four wins and a single defeat, but England go into this series on the back of four consecutive draws – having been forced to scramble to a 0-0 stalemate in the three-Test series in New Zealand this year.
The captain drew a positive from that, pointing out that it helped to scupper any suggestion that the two Tests against New Zealand are no more than warm-ups for the Champions Trophy and back-to-back Ashes series that follow. "They showed in those three Tests over there that they're going to be a very tough side to beat," Cook said, denying the suggestion that England had been complacent going into the series but confirming that the major focus of a number of meetings this spring has been why they started so slowly in Dunedin.
He also dismissed concerns over Steve Finn's early-season form for Middlesex, and said that going into the match with four specialist seamers – which would mean deferring Graeme Swann's return after elbow surgery – "has crossed our minds". However, that must remain unlikely, meaning England will omit either Finn or Tim Bresnan from their 12-man squad.
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image: © JJ Hall