MELBOURNE, December 21 – England opener Alastair Cook Tuesday played down a growing row over Australia's move to change pitches for the vital Melbourne Ashes Test, saying they were simply exploiting "home advantage".Cook shrugged "you’d expect everyone to do it" after news that the Melbourne Cricket Ground was preparing a green pitch that will favour Australia’s pace attack and offer little turn for England spinner Graeme Swann.
"That is the beauty of home conditions, isn’t it?" Cook told journalists in Perth, before the team’s departure for Melbourne.
"You can prepare a pitch to hopefully suit the home side. That is what we try and do in England in certain cases. There is no reason I would expect Australia not to do it."
British media have accused the Melbourne Cricket Ground of changing pitches after Australia’s emphatic 267-run win on Perth’s green deck levelled the series at 1-1 with two games to play.
But Melbourne Cricket Club chief executive Stephen Gough said the decision to use the alternative pitch was made before the Perth Test started last week.
"I’m glad we made the decision early," Gough told The Australian newspaper.
"I’d hate to think if we released it after Perth whether anyone would think we were up to something. I’m not surprised with the conspiracy theory, given the success in Perth."
The Ashes, cricket’s oldest and most anticipated international series, has a history of pitch intrigue after The Oval prepared a surprisingly dry track for the decisive match of the 2009 series, which England won.
"The pitch is out of our control and that’s the beauty of cricket, that conditions change from week to week and it’s how you adapt to those that determines how successful you are," Cook said.
"The challenge is making sure we are ready and adapted to those conditions."
Cook also backed England to bounce back quickly from their disappointment in Perth, when their previously dominant form wilted in the face of a resurgent Australia.
The Essex left-hander scored a ground-record 235 not out in Brisbane and 148 in Adelaide before succumbing for just 32 and 13 in the third Test as Australia’s fast bowlers ran riot.
"All the work we have done so far on this tour has given us a lot of confidence," Cook said. "We scored runs heavily against the bowling attack before and we can do it again. We have to trust ourselves."
Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland was confident of attracting 91,000 fans when the game starts on Boxing Day, setting a new record attendance for a single day of Test cricket.
A total of 90,800 attended the same venue in February 1961 for the fifth Test against West Indies.
"The cricket gods are smiling on us all," Sutherland told journalists in Melbourne.
"I did for a moment think that there was be a possibility that we would come into this and the Ashes would already be decided," he added