Strauss takes stress out of Test preparation

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The Independent Online

Andrew Strauss believes that when he returns to the England side in next month's three-Test series against New Zealand he can become a better batsman than he was at the start of his international career.

While Paul Collingwood's side compete against the same opposition in a five-match one-day series, the first of which was completed this morning in Wellington, Strauss is playing state cricket here for Northern Districts. The 30-year-old hopes the investment helps him to regain the form that allowed him to post a century against New Zealand on his Test debut in 2004, and quickly became one of the most respected and highly rated opening batsmen in the international game.

Strauss's remarkable run of form ended during England's abysmal Ashes campaign last winter and an indifferent summer led to him being overlooked for the pre-Christmas tour of Sri Lanka. England's poor showing there resulted in the selectors quickly returning to the left-hander.

"The break allowed me to think about things logically and made me realise that there is no reason why my best years as an England player may not still be ahead of, not behind, me," said Strauss, preparing for tomorrow's one-day game against Wellington.

"I am only 30 years old and I have at least another five or six years of good batting ahead of me. A lot of good players score plenty of Test runs after their 30th birthday. Graham Gooch is a great example. I am more experienced than I was and the key is to go out and play the way I know I can play."

Strauss was axed from the England side after failing to score a century in 13 Test matches but Michael Vaughan, England's Test captain, has intimated that he will return to the top of the order in the five-day game.

"Nobody likes being dropped and it was an unpleasant couple of days after I was told," he admitted. "I knew my place was vulnerable because I hadn't scored enough runs. I had given others the opportunity to knock on the door. I did feel at the end of the summer that I needed a break from cricket, but after saying that I felt I would be ready once the Sri Lanka tour started.

"There were positives to it too – an extended break from the game helped me get myself in order mentally. It helped me put things into perspective. When I look back at the last couple of home Tests in 2007 I was motivated by the fear of being dropped and that is not a great mindset to be in. As a result I wasn't playing the sort of cricket I wanted to.

"But when you get dropped you quickly realise that the world and life carries on. That was reassuring and I come back with a far more positive frame of mind. I need to prove to people that I am the player of 2004-05 and not the player of 2006-07. There is no reason why I cannot repeat or exceed what I did in the past. But I have to prove to others – my team-mates and the selectors – that this is the case. Mentally, it is far better to be going out with something to prove rather than worrying that if you don't score runs your place might be in jeopardy.

"The most important thing for me right now is that I feel really fresh and hungry. I feel as enthusiastic as I did back in 2004 when I made my debut. I have been working hard in the gym and have no mental baggage. Maybe the break has made me appreciate playing for England a little bit more again. Mentally everything is right. It is now a question of going out there and doing a job.

"I was slightly surprised to be recalled so soon but it is reassuring. I would like to think that I can help the side get back to winning ways. Even though I missed Sri Lanka I still feel I am one of the more senior players in the group and it is our responsibility to get the Test side back on track."

England were forced to abandon a planned practice session in Wellington yesterday when their flight was delayed for two hours following an incident at Christchurch airport. On an incoming flight a 33-year-old woman passenger stabbed at least one pilot and then threatened to blow up the aircraft. No explosives were found.