Strauss calls on England to seize Ashes moment

Captain insists his team can put emotions aside as they step into the unknown

At 11am today the talking will stop. The Ashes, the most historic of all international sporting contests, will finally begin in the improbable confines of a ground almost bereft of cricketing tradition.

For both England and Australia it is a step largely into the unknown. They are familiar neither with each other nor with the revamped arena in which they will play. For Andrew Strauss, the captain of England, who has been entrusted with regaining the great prize for the seventh time on home shores, it is a day he never presumed would come.

Barely more than a year ago he was fighting to save his international career, six months ago he was a senior player who had twice been overlooked for the permanent leadership of the team. And now he stands on the threshold of a place in the pantheon of English sports captains.

To achieve it he has to gain the upper hand against his counterpart, Ricky Ponting, statistically the third most successful Test captain of all time of those who have led in 10 matches and a man well versed in what it takes to win (and lose) tough Test matches.

"It's a huge moment," Strauss said yesterday as he looked forward for one last time to this series. "I would never have dreamt of doing it a few years ago. I am hugely excited about it. It's a massive honour and certainly if we're successful it will live with me for ever. But now is not the time to get emotional about things. Now is the time to go out and do our jobs."

It was less a rallying cry than a simple, unemotional declaration that England have to discard the baggage that surrounds such events and remain rigid in their discipline and approach.

The series of five matches will take only 48 days, which will give little time either for anticipation or reflection, an oddness enhanced by the fact that the build-up to it began on 12 September 2005 when England last regained the Ashes and sent a nation into paroxysms of elation.

Since then, the four-and-a-half-inch terracotta urn, which resides permanently in the museum at Lord's cricket ground and is at the centre of all this fuss, has been transferred once more in to Australian hands.

In 2006-07, Australia won 5-0 on home soil, only the second whitewash in the history of the contest. But that, much to Australian consternation and amusement, has been airbrushed from English history books. "We're aware of that," said Ponting yesterday in the sort of tone that suggested he would not mind another whitewash that would not be so easily overlooked. He certainly would not be drawn on whether the series would be as close as almost every serious pundit predicts and clearly has other ideas in mind.

Despite the bizarre decision to hold the match at Sophia Gardens, which has never before staged a Test match, there is no question that the city and the principality appear to have taken the match to their hearts.

The ground has been transformed but remains intimate enough to have a fervent atmosphere. There is undoubtedly a febrile mood.

The series is bound to live in the shadow of its immediate predecessor in England in 2005. It is impossible to see how cricket of quite such high quality leading to such a gripping climax could be repeated so soon.

But the sides look remarkably close – Australia are regrouping, England are beginning to show the green shoots of recovery – and as last Sunday's men's singles finals at Wimbledon demonstrated, following hard on the heels of the 2008 final, it is possible to have two epic contests in a row.

The fascinating probability last night was that both sides would approach the matter with sides for differing purposes. England, as they have aspired to do all along, seemed as though they would pick two spinners and Australia, without Shane Warne for the first time in eight Ashes series, seemed about to err on the side of fielding an attack with four seamers. By Sunday night, maybe earlier, somebody will have been proved wrong.

Strauss said his team were ready and had not been lulled into any false sense of security by an Australian team shorn of iconic players of whom Warne was but one, and dramatically deprived of the services of their fastest bowler Brett Lee two days ago.

"You expect any Australian team to be strong and that's certainly the way we're approaching it," he said. "They've got match-winners with both bat and ball and to think in any way that you're in for an easy ride against an Australian side is the wrong way to go about it. It's going to be tough cricket and we need to be up for it, we need to be ready for it and we need to be prepared to slug it out at times."

England sound as if they believe they can win back the Ashes. And so they can.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears