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I don't know the records he is about to break, but there are going to be a few of them - Prior on England's captain Cook.

MATT Prior is unequivocally reassured to have Alastair Cook - destined to be "probably the greatest England cricketer" - in charge for the critical third Ashes Test at the WACA.

Cook will win his 100th Test cap on Friday, as will his opposite number Michael Clarke, in a match the two chief protagonists could hardly be approaching in more contrasting circumstances.

England have been hammered in the first two Tests and therefore, against general expectations after their 3-0 Ashes victory at home last summer, are in danger of losing the urn outright before Christmas.

Clarke has made a hundred in Brisbane and then Adelaide too, and at both venues Mitchell Johnson's fast bowling has embarrassed England's batsmen.

Wicketkeeper Prior, however, has seen enough of Cook - as batsman and captain - to know he and his team-mates could not have a better man to lead them out of this tightest of corners.

At a ground where England have won just one Test, and that 35 years ago, they must withstand the might of Johnson in conditions tailor-made for his talents.

They will be looking to Cook to set the example, and Prior has no doubts his captain is made of the right stuff.

"I don't know the records he is about to break, but there are going to be a few of them," he said, of the 28-year-old opener who is already England's most prolific all-time centurion.

"Playing his 100th Test, he's only just turned 20 or something!

"He will be probably the greatest England cricketer.

"In my mind, there is no doubt about that - and from a leader point of view, there is no other man I'd want taking us on to the field."

Cook has all the qualities vice-captain Prior wants in a Test leader, and he is confi-dent in his ability to dig out a telling performance when it matters most.

"He leads from the front and leads by example, and I expect he will do exactly that in this game," he said.

"A massive congrats to him for playing 100 games - incredible."

Prior does not under-estimate the challenge facing England, after their hapless false start to this high-profile series, but he is convinced they can fight back.

"For an England cricketer, it doesn't get any harder - two down in an Ashes series coming to Perth," he admitted.

"(But) if we do come out and force a result here, how exciting would that be ... in the England dressing room at the end of this game, getting a result in Perth to get back into this series? "That's what we have to concentrate on and work towards, and that's exactly what we're focusing on."

He is well aware, in England's perilous position, empty words will be worthless without the right actions to back them up in the middle.

"It's all well and good me sitting here talking and going on about fight and hunger and everything," he said.

"The only way we're going to show fight and hunger is out on that cricket pitch, performing and getting results - batsmen getting big hundreds, bowlers taking wickets and fielders diving on every ball.

"That's what we want to see in the dressing room - and that's what we expect. But we've got to go and do it."

Prior is a counter-attacker by nature, and believes England will be best served collectively by that same method.

He said: "That's not the way we're going to win in Australia, walking out all timid.

"We have to find ways of putting pressure back on the Aussie bowlers, and that's the way I hope we'll play.

"For us, it's no good just holding our hands up and saying we can't do anything about it.

"We have to find a way of dealing with it a lot better than we have done, and come back and throw a few of our own punches."

He is not impressed either by Australia bowling coach Craig McDermott's prediction that Johnson will be sending the ball down even faster than the 90mph-plus he has already been operating at, on the world's bounciest playing surface.

"A coach sitting there saying 'he's going to bowl this' ... well, great, well done," he shrugged.

"It doesn't interest us at all. We'll wait and see what happens.

"He could lose complete rhythm and not bowl at all, who knows?" Johnson has been infamously inconsistent at times in the past, but has appeared a changed man in recent months.

If he does stay at the top of his form, there is no obvious reason why England will suddenly start coping better against him.

But Prior for one, after his first halfcentury in 18 Test innings while England slid to defeat in Adelaide on Monday, is looking forward to testing himself again.

He said: "You have to enjoy this challenge - being under pressure - because if you don't, you're not going to survive.

"You have to be able to smile at it yourself and go 'Right, come on - let's knuckle down and embrace it'.

"If we can turn this around, it will be phenomenal - and that's what we have to keep looking at."

TEAMS for the third Ashes Test, starting at the WACA on Friday, December 13 at 1030am (0230am GMT): ENGLAND (probable): AN Cook (Captain), MA Carberry, JE Root, KP Pietersen, IR Bell, BA Stokes, MJ Prior (wkt), TT Bresnan, SCJ Broad, GP Swann, JM Anderson AUSTRALIA (probable): MJ Clarke (Captain), CJL Rogers, DA Warner, SR Watson, SPD Smith, GJ Bailey, BJ Haddin (wkt), MG Johnson, PM Siddle, RJ Harris, NM Lyon Umpires: M Erasmus (SA) and B Bowden (NZ) Third umpire: T Hill (NZ) Match referee: J Crowe (NZ)
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 12, 2013
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