London: England were not complacent or under-prepared during their disappointing tour of New Zealand this year, captain Alastair Cook said on Wednesday. England, the world's second-ranked side, were outplayed by their eighth-ranked hosts and only a courageous century by Matt Prior and a rearguard batting effort on the final day secured the draw in the third test that left the series level at 0-0.
"It was not a lack of effort or application," Cook told a news conference before the first test against New Zealand at Lord's starting on Thursday."We had good preparation and it was not to do with a lack of attitude." England went into the New Zealand tour on a high after winning a Test series in India for the first time since 1985.
"We did not play as well in New Zealand as we did in India," said the 28-year-old left-hander. "But India was an outstanding achievement and it should not be brushed under the carpet. We are in a serious industry and every summer you have meetings outlining your plans. We are moving forward and trying to improve."
Cook, who took over the captaincy from Andrew Strauss last year, will lead his country in a test at the home of cricket for the first time. "I am looking forward to tomorrow," Cook said. "It will be an incredible honour for me to walk out as captain at Lord's. You are always going to be under scrutiny and there is always pressure when you put on the England shirt."
New Zealand have only won four tests out of 50 in England but twice claimed series victories, in 1986 and 1999. They outplayed Cook's side on their home soil under the innovative captaincy of Brendon McCullum and look likely to field a four-pronged pace attack in what are forecast to be cold and cloudy conditions.
Cook said there was no danger of England underestimating their opponents or allowing their minds to wander towards the Champions Trophy in June or the Ashes series against Australia. "New Zealand are a tough side to beat," he said. "You just have to stay in the present and that is a skill a lot of sportsmen have.
"I just want us to play some good cricket. It is always important to start well, especially in a two-test series." Cook gave few clues as to which player in England's 12-man squad will be left out of the team with fit-again Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn vying for the third pace-bowling spot.
"Finn has been coming out at good pace," Cook said. "I watched him in the nets and I was glad I didn't have to face him." Off-spinner Graeme Swann is also back in the squad after missing the series in New Zealand due to an elbow injury but Cook said he was not certain to play. "It is always an option to leave the spinner out," he said. "We have options. You always challenge yourself to improve and we have high standards."