(Reuters) - England captain Alastair Cook says his side accepts their role as favourites as they chase a fourth consecutive Ashes series victory over Australia for the first time in over 100 years.
England depart for Australia on Wednesday, two months after claiming a 3-0 win over their great rivals at home, and open the tour with warm-up match against a Western Australia XI in Perth beginning on October 31.
They have not won four consecutive series since 1890, but Cook said expectations of doing so did not weigh heavily on the 17-man squad who will be mounting the defence.
“When you have won the last three series, and the last series was just two months ago, I think that is a fair description,” he told a news conference on Wednesday.
”I don’t think it makes that much difference who is favourite, that last summer it was the first time we’ve gone into an Ashes series as favourites, I thought we coped with that pretty well, and the outcome certainly suggested we did.
”Winning in Australia is no mean feat, that’s the challenge we’ve got ahead of ourselves.
“We know what we need to do if we want to win, it consists pretty simply of scoring big first innings runs and applying a lot of pressure with the ball and restricting scoring rates.”
They play three warm-up matches in Perth, Hobart and Sydney, which Cook said would be important in acclimatising the side to the Kookaburra ball and faster pitches.
Despite England’s success at home their top order struggled, with Cook a major culprit with only three half-centuries in 10 innings, but was hopeful of reclaiming the form which saw him hit over 700 runs in Australia in the last tour in 2010-11.
”I enjoy batting in those conditions, when the ball is flying past your ears a lot. As an opening batsman it’s a great place to test your skills, but then in the afternoon sessions it can be fantastic to bat once you get through the new ball.
“Australia bowled well this summer and I didn’t execute as well as I could have done. It happens in cricket. You’d love to score runs all the time. I could have done better, I want to lead from the front and set the example and get the big runs.”
Most of the squad flew out of London on Wednesday evening, with Kevin Pietersen not joining his team mates until Sunday after being given compassionate leave.
The first test begins in Brisbane on November 21.
Reporting by Josh Reich