Andrew Strauss believes an Ashes series victory in Australia could provide the career highlight for each of England's tourists. The England captain said yesterday that his squad were more excited than nervous as they counted down to their departure for the winter series.
"We've really been targeting this series because an Ashes win in Australia can be a defining moment in your career," he said. "You never know how it's going to play out there, how difficult or easy it might be, but what you've got to do is be as prepared as possible, be prepared for anything.
"When you're there, there's a lot of off-field things to deal with, being away from home for a long time, but if you deal with that well, it gives you a good chance of playing well on the field."
After another positive summer, Strauss feels England are well set for the trip. "We're in a good place as a side," he said. "We've made a lot of improvement over the last 18 months or so. We're aware it's a tough assignment going to Australia and winning, very tough, but we're in a good place to do it. We're quietly confident we can do it without being over-the-top arrogant.
"We need to play well out there, we need to be consistent and in the really crucial sessions we need to make sure we play well. But we're really excited and just ticking down the hours now."
Australia, on tour in India, have suffered a 2-0 series loss but Strauss is not placing too much store by that. "The conditions in India are so different," he said. "They've obviously lost a few Tests and have a few questions they need to iron out and that might preoccupy them where we don't have that. But we know from past experience that as soon as you arrive in Australia, from day one things get pretty tough. They're a proud side, their record in Australia is outstanding and we're expecting them to be at their best this winter so if we want to beat them we have to be better than that."
Strauss also backed the under-pressure Kevin Pietersen to shine. He said: "The question marks over his form will remain until he gets a big score, but all of us who have been through bad form know it only takes one innings and things are right again. When you're talking about a player of KP's class, it will happen. He will have an impact on the series, no doubt. These series bring the best out of him."
Pakistan have called up Shahzaib Hasan and Wahab Riaz to their one-day and Twenty20 squads for the series against South Africa. Batsman Hasan, 20, and 25-year-old pace bowler Riaz have been rewarded for excellent performances in Pakistan's domestic Twenty20 competition. Riaz took 10 wickets to help Lahore claim the Faysal Bank t20 title last week, while Hasan was the highest runscorer with 281 from four matches.