Strauss confident of vital 'lessons learnt'

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The Independent Online

Andrew Strauss raised many an eyebrow 15 months ago when he declared, mid-series, that Australia had lost their aura. Now, as he leads England to the other side of the world and attempts to retain a prize that took so much winning, the captain has popped his head above the parapet once again.

"There's nothing to be overawed about," insisted Strauss when asked whether all the confident words of the past few days were designed to give his squad a psychological lift at a time when some players might be getting nervous about the size of the task ahead. "It's a tough tour, there is no doubt about that, but if you are prepared for it then you shouldn't be overawed.

"I think there is a real relaxed excitement about the troops at the moment because they feel ready for this challenge, they feel up for it and they feel determined to take the opportunity we've got ahead of us."

Strauss was absolutely right when he spoke of Australia losing their aura, and he is spot on again this time. But a straight answer to a potentially tricky question is still good to hear, especially coming, as it did, on the eve of today's flight to Perth and with the Ashes series only four weeks away.

The man who should have been captain four years ago (but instead experienced a 5-0 whitewashing from the ranks) and was leader last year, when a modern version of that little terracotta urn ended up in his hands, knows as much as he needs to about playing Australia. And you accept his mood of quiet confidence is 100 per cent genuine.

"We are going out there to win," added Strauss. "That's our goal. Everything we've done, every decision we've made up until now, is about us winning this Ashes series, and every decision we make from now on will be about us winning the series. None of us want to have any regrets at the end of it and we'll do everything within our capabilities to make sure we achieve that goal."

The 5-0 scoreline from 2006-07 will be mentioned on numerous occasions (mainly by Australians) in the next few weeks. England's captain expects four-year-old history to have only a beneficial bearing on his team, however.

"For a start, a lot of the players weren't involved in that series," said Strauss. "But the ones who were [Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Monty Panesar and James Anderson] learnt some valuable lessons – learnt how tough it is out there and the type of cricket you need to play if you want to win. And some lessons were learnt in terms of preparation and how to hit the ground running."

Three first-class warm-up matches should be enough to put England in the best possible shape for the opening Test on 25 November. Then it will come down to ability, resolve, character and, almost inevitably, a bit of luck.

"Ultimately, until the end of that fifth Test there are two sides at war with each other," Strauss said. Just for once, his choice of words let him down a little, but you know what he meant.

England have won only three out of 26 Tests in Australia since Mike Gatting's side triumphed 2-1 nearly a quarter of a century ago – and this team will not significantly improve on that statistic by being nicey-nicey with the opposition.

"At the end of series there will be 11 guys feted as heroes and 11 guys who have failed in their task," Strauss said. "Until that final Test is over there is no point in being too hunky-dory and friendly with Australia. Our task is to go out there and beat them."