England captain Alastair Cook insists his side can regain the Ashes but says they must improve quickly after being held to a 1-1 Test series draw by New Zealand.
England went down to a crushing 199-run defeat by the Kiwis in the second Test at Headingley on Tuesday.
But for Cook’s superb 162 and a dashing century by all-rounder Ben Stokes, they 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 in this summer’s home series against Australia, 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.”
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 bowled out for 255, with Cook (56) and Jos Buttler (73) providing the only significant resistance.
“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 9000 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, who continued leans with single-figure scores.
“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.
The captain was also confident struggling off-spinner Moeen Ali could recapture the form that brought him 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.