Cricket: Fraser says his form will improve

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ANGUS FRASER yesterday reassured England's management that his disappointing start to the Ashes tour is merely a temporary setback and not the gradual weakening of his powers at international level.

Fraser has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance since earning a shock recall for last winter's tour to West Indies, claiming 54 wickets in 11 Tests to establish himself as England's finest exponent of traditional values like line and length.

Yet a wicketless return in the drawn match against Western Australia at the WACA and the manner in which the flamboyant opener Ryan Campbell savaged his bowling is causing concern, with the opening Test at Brisbane just over a fortnight away.

But Fraser insisted: "I seem to have a match at the start of each tour when you think you've lost it for a while and all of a sudden you get it right.

"It makes you realise you have to put in the hard work rather than taking it for granted, so it's not a bad thing to come that early in the tour.

"I've felt good in the nets and when I finished the season at Derby I could have run up blindfold and got a length. I didn't have any of that in the second innings, but when you are off for a month it does take you a bit more time to get back into it."

Fraser also points to his recent record as evidence that he is far from being a spent force at the top level, stressing: "When you have got 95 first-class wickets this year and 54 Test wickets you don't suddenly become a bad bowler on one afternoon, do you?

"It's just a question of getting the fine-tuning right and getting into the rhythm that I had towards the end of last season.

"Through your career you are bound to have ups and downs but you have just got to make sure you remain competitive throughout. I want to perform every time I go out and play and if I don't I'm disappointed by it. I'm not worried or panicked or anything like that, but you want to contribute to the side - and this time I didn't."

Fraser admits that after the sensational returns he has had in the past 12 months - including the best-ever match analysis by an England bowler against West Indies of 11 for 110 in Trinidad and a further haul of 10 for 122 against South Africa at Trent Bridge - anything less than outstanding is bound to be considered something of a failure.

Yet his success has continually been tarnished by critics - with the former chairman of selectors, Ray Illingworth, among them - claiming he is only effective on helpful pitches.

He admitted: "The year that I've had so far is not something I'm used to. I've always had to work harder than any man for my wickets, but this year they have come round in greater numbers than ever before with little things going my way.

"I'm not trying to pretend I'm an Allan Donald or anything like that, and there are going to be pitches when I am less effective than other bowlers. Everyone calls Graeme Hick a flat-track bully, but if you don't make the most of the conditions when they are in your favour then you shouldn't be playing the game."