Strauss 'excited' by Champions Trophy challenge

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The Independent Online

Andrew Strauss believes his England team are looking forward to facing their next challenge – and taking on different opponents in foreign conditions – after finally beating Australia at the end of a long and demoralising one-day series.

Far from being able to savour their way overdue four-wicket victory, Strauss and Co were back on the road last night and will board a flight to Johannesburg this evening in readiness for Friday's Champions Trophy match against Sri Lanka. It is a relentless schedule but, publicly at least, Strauss insists there is a feeling of excitement – rather than fatigue – around the squad. "It's a Champions Trophy and one of the big events," said the captain. "There is something very exciting about being in the same couple of hotels as all the best players in the world. It's quite intoxicating and it's an event everyone wants to win.

"The schedule is tough but that is international cricket and by the looks of things it's not going to be changing in the near future, so as players you need to be as fit as possible and rest when you can."

The other six teams who will contest the Champions Trophy – South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, West Indies, India and Pakistan – have been practising and playing in and around Johannesburg for several days while England and Australia were slugging their way through the seven-match NatWest series. That has to put the late arrivals at a disadvantage.

"You would prefer to have a practice game in South Africa," Strauss admitted. "But the schedules haven't allowed that. And conditions there are not hugely different to here so we will be able to adapt quickly."

Whether they can win any games is another matter, of course. Yesterday, a run-chase of 177 threatened to prove too tough for a batting unit painfully low on confidence.

"There was a huge will on the part of the players to show their potential in this series," Strauss said. "We didn't really do that and didn't put on a complete performance at any time. I suppose the encouraging thing from that perspective is that there is still a hell of a long way we can go with this side and a hell of a lot of improvement to be made."

There is little doubt that if England could repick their Champions Trophy squad today there would be several changes, especially in the batting department, where Ravi Bopara and Owais Shah look low on confidence. But the competition rules allow only for injured players – not those out of form – to be replaced.

The selectors have, however, postponed plans to announce their one-day and Test squads for the full winter tour of South Africa until after the Champions Trophy. They had intended to name names this Wednesday but, with form an issue for some players and obvious concerns about Kevin Pietersen's rate of recovery from Achilles tendon surgery, England have wisely decided to hold fire for a fortnight or so.