Strauss relies on rough and ready approach to spin kings

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The Independent Online

Strauss is eager to recapture the wonderful form of the first 18 months of his career when he burst on to the international scene. During that span he hit seven Test centuries during England's record-breaking run of eight consecutive wins and made a major contribution to last summer's Ashes success.

Such a spell ensures his position as Marcus Trescothick's opening partner, but Strauss knows a below-par collection of 44 runs in four Test innings in Pakistan makes it pertinent for him to rise to the occasion in the India series.

"Test cricket is about challenging yourself and there are not many bigger challenges than facing spin in India," Strauss said. "I have been working hard and I will continue to do so in the two weeks before the first Test. It will be a great challenge to overcome those spinners but if we can, it will put us in a great position to win the series.

"If you build up momentum it helps you, so if you can feel in good nick from the start you are more likely to go out and do well in the Test matches. It is important to hit the ground running and, looking back at Pakistan, it didn't help us that we got off to a poor start in practice games. We were slow to adapt and learnt our lesson a little bit. We have since spent time thinking of what went wrong and how we can improve.

Strauss said that shot selection would be an important part of the tour. "Someone like Andrew Flintoff doesn't need to sweep a lot because he is a great driver of the ball, other players have to play other ways.

"The key to playing spin is having options of getting off strike and manoeuvring the field. As long as you practise it a lot and are comfortable with it, it should not be so high risk."

England endured two lengthy net sessions yesterday in the heat as part of their acclimatisation process. "It is very different to England in February," Strauss said. "So we spent a long time out there to gain an appreciation for what it is going to be like to bat for a day or spend a day in the field. Early on tour you are keen to sample the conditions as much as possible."

To that end the coach, Duncan Fletcher, plans to use all 16 tourists in the three-day practice match against a Cricket Club of India XI which begins at the Brabourne Stadium tomorrow. However, the intensity of the practice may have put off-spinner Shaun Udal's participation in some jeopardy - he had his left side strapped up after reporting soreness - while Matthew Hoggard became the first player to go down with a stomach bug.

* India took an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match one-day series after a routine five-wicket win over Pakistan yesterday. Rahul Dravid's 59 paced the visitors while earlier Pakistan toiled to 161 all out, with captain Inzamam-ul-Haq hitting 49 and Rudra Pratap Singh taking 4 for 40.

* The ICC has declared the bat used by Australia's captain, Ricky Ponting, ineligible for international cricket following an MCC investigation. The bat had drawn attention because it is reinforced by a layer of graphite.