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Past has no relevance to tomorrow: Cook

England captain says Graeme Swann's injury is a concern but he hasn't been ruled out of the semifinal

Past has no relevance to tomorrow: Cook - Cricket News
England's captain Alastair Cook.
  Alastair, South Africa have got a reputation for better or worse for sometimes being chokers in these big games.  Is that something you can realistically hope for?
Look, I think they've done all right to be honest with you. It's a massive game for both sides. We've got the opportunity to go into the final of an ICC competition, and it's such an exciting place for a player to be.  We've almost played knock-out cricket throughout this Champions Trophy, but this is obviously one step towards the final, and we've come here to try and win the tournament. It's an amazing opportunity we've got tomorrow, and I think both sides will be excited.  

Do you disregard the choker stuff completely?
Yeah, it's another day tomorrow, it's another game, and what's gone on in the past has no relevance to tomorrow.  It's whichever side handles the pressure well tomorrow, and people in that side ‑‑ in your own side, put your hand up and deliver, and that's what you have to do in these big games.  

South Africans have said that the crowd pressure will put pressure on your team.  Does it really on the eve of a semi-final matter?
Did you say crowd pressure? I don't think ‑‑ we have amazing sport at home. We're used to playing in front of these big crowds, and we wouldn't swap the support we've had in this tournament or the support we get at home or abroad to anyone. We're very lucky as a side to have that support, and I don't see it at all as a hindrance.  

Hashim Amla has obviously got a really good record against England over the years, averaged over 60, and last year he scored over 300 in the ODIs.  How important will his cricket be early on for England?
He's a massive player for them, isn't he. He's a very good player. Obviously we've seen that firsthand last year here in the one‑dayers and obviously the Test match here, as well. He's a danger man for them, and he's one of their key players, and as I say, if we can strike early, obviously with two new balls it gives us an opportunity to do that, and our bowlers have bowled extremely well in those first turnovers in this Champions Trophy so far, and we're going to have do that this time against South Africa.  We know he's a fantastic player, but as all players are vulnerable early, we have to try and strike early, and if he gets in it's a danger for us. Certainly a key man, but if we can get him out, that does put pressure on other players in their setup.  

In the last few weeks we've seen England accused of ball tampering, criticized for winning a Test in 10 sessions, and the top three criticised a lot in this tournament.  Bearing in mind the results, you're in the semi-final, et cetera, do you feel underappreciated?
Not at all.  It's just stories are always written in terms of the side about ‑‑ certainly for me the Test match at Headingley, that is what happens when you take a decision, which people can disagree with. It's a very subjective opinion, isn't it, in terms of that follow‑on, and when you're sitting behind the ropes and you're not responsible for making that decision, it's quite an easy thing to say I would have done something differently or when the pressure is not on you. You know, to have that situation, I think, that is very common for most professional sports teams, and especially here in England.  

How is Graeme Swann's fitness going into the game?

Yeah, we haven't trained today, obviously training this afternoon. It's clearly a concern for us.  We haven't ruled him out totally yet for this game. We're going to have to see how he trains today and see how he pulls up tomorrow. There's one thing for certain, he won't be risked. There is no point in doing that for the fact that we've got ‑‑ Tredders is an exceptional bowler, as well. We're very luck in that department. We might be very cautious with him because it seems very sensible.  

How big a factor will be Dale Steyn in this contest?
Yeah, again, you've picked out two guys in Amla and Steyn for them, as well, one leader of the batters and one leader of the bowlers.  He's obviously a good bowler.  It's a bit like how we played Malinga, how we play Dale Steyn. It's crucial to building a big total.  Obviously with the new ball, the threat of striking early against us is obviously a danger, and it's how we play him, and we played him quite well in the past and we have to do that again tomorrow. It's not just about those two players, though, and it's important that we don't just concentrate on those. It's whichever side, as I said a bit earlier, delivers under the pressure, and you need two men to produce Man of the Match performances to win.  

There's been a lot of fingers pointed at the top-order, the rate of scoring, but is it now the job of the middle to stand up and be counted because they've been a little bit of a disappointment?
I mean, I think the top order have done their job pretty well so far.  We've built good platforms, solid platforms to go on and get big scores.  There's always going to be a little bit of hit or miss when you've got to go in and strike from early.  But they're sensational players at doing that. And then we've seen Morgs over the years, obviously Jos at Trent Bridge and Ravi here, you only need one of them to come off to get a big total, to put the icing on the cake. You know, hopefully with these two big games coming up or so, this game and hopefully another big game that you can have two of them doing it and you get above par score.  

How confident are you going into this pressure game having seen how calmly your side dealt with the variations of that Cardiff 24‑over game and things like that.  Do you feel quite settled and comfortable with what you've got ahead of you? Obviously, I felt Cardiff was a good test to see where we were as a side in terms of having to deliver under pressure, having to win the game to go through pretty much. We knew that was the case, and when it's such a shortened game, you can get taken away from what your principles are, what you're meant to be doing. You can get distracted from it in terms of thinking, well, I just need to whack it straightaway, and you're right, how calm we were both with bat and ball was very key. But what impressed me most about that was the way the lads delivered under pressure, and if we're going to go far in this tournament and obviously further down the line, we're going to have to do that. That was a good step for us.  

And do you yourself feel that you're handling things quite well as captain?  Obviously this is your first major tournament in a semi-final.  How are you coping with those demands and how much are you looking forward to that challenge as a captain?
Well, I won't lie to you, I didn't really enjoy Cardiff, the last 10 overs of that. That was quite a stressful or tense time I think I've had since I've been captain.  In terms of a must‑win game, I'm sure that'll be heightened again tomorrow. But yeah, I'm really enjoying it.  I think it's been a really good tournament for that, and there have been no easy games. You have to be on your mettle straightaway, and I think that all countries have that, and I have really enjoyed that, and hopefully we can go again.  

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