Cook says his back is in good shape

England batsman is confident that his back problem is under control as he prepares for a return to Test action in the four-match series against Pakistan.

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Alastair Cook, the Essex and England batsman, is confident that his back problem is under control as he prepares for a return to Test action in the four-match series against Pakistan later this month. The back injury kept him out of most of England Lions' fixtures in their recent tri-series against A sides from India and West Indies, but Cook feels he is learning to cope with the problem. Cook previously hurt his back on England's tour of South Africa last year, when he was pulled out of the one-day squad midway through the series with what was diagnosed as a bulging disc. England begin their four-match series against Pakistan on July 29 at Trent Bridge and the left-handed opener said he is ready for the challenge. "The back has been really good in the last couple of weeks, especially since the last lot of injections," he said. "I have not missed a game for Essex since then, so fingers crossed it will be all right. There is a possibility of surgery but in the last week or so it has been very good. "We play it by ear but the most important thing is that I am out there playing. Hopefully it should get better. All I know is that batting and fielding at slip are the worst things you can do. "It is not unusual but we have got a great medical team and they will look at all the alternatives to keep me out there playing. It has worked well so far because I have not missed a huge amount of cricket. "I get good days and bad days but the last two weeks have been really good. It is obviously frustrating but hopefully I can continue playing. But if it does flare up again then we'll have to have another look. "We are looking at a lot of options at the moment in terms of what is the best thing for it. I have another four-day game this week so that will be a good test." Cook knows he will have to be at his best to cope with Pakistan's bowlers as England prepare for their last series before the Ashes showdown with Australia this winter. "They are a world class bowling unit with every angle covered," added Cook. "That is an exciting challenge for me. "The last time we played them in 2006, we scored a lot of runs as a side, but it will be a tough series. But I am looking forward to it. "We have got to concentrate on these four Test matches, we cannot look too far ahead to the Ashes because we could come unstuck. "We need to continue our winning momentum and take that to Australia and that is why these four Tests are crucial." * PA