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Strauss demands better from England

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Alastair Cook & Andrew Strauss

Andrew Strauss, right, said in spite of the Brisbane fightback "we are going to have to improve our performance" at Adelaide

Andrew Strauss is warning his team they have won nothing yet - and must improve to retain the Ashes in Australia this winter.

England earned rave reviews for their second-innings batting in the drawn first Test in Brisbane, where the top three batsmen - Strauss included - made centuries.

But that skill and resilience contrasted with their failure to post a match-controlling first-innings total, a theme which has recurred over an otherwise successful year in Test cricket.

At the Gabba it resulted in a deficit of 221 runs when England began to bat again to save the match on the third evening.

Strauss knows it is a fundamental frailty England must address, starting in the second Test which will get under way at the Adelaide Oval tomorrow.

"For us to be jumping up and down and congratulating each other would be a long way off the mark," he said.

"We are 0-0 in the series, and this Test takes on even greater importance. We are going to have to improve our performance.

"We showed a lot of resilience to come back, which is great, but you can't afford to be behind in cricket matches too often because eventually the other team will convert that."

Strauss appears less concerned with remnant bad memories of England's last Test match at this venue in 2006-07 - when they lost from an impregnable position, having piled up 551 for six declared in their first innings.

"There are a lot of memories from four years ago we want to banish," he said.

"We played some of our best cricket of the tour here, but obviously the final day is one none of us are proud of.

Graeme Swann

Strauss explained Graeme Swann's lack of wicket-taking potency at the Gabba, saying there was "no spin" in the wicket

"But a lot has changed since then, and I don't think it's that relevant any more.

"They don't have the likes of Shane Warne, but neither does anyone. It would be very naive of us to underestimate them."

Neither is the England captain prepared to conclude that his bowlers - or even those at the disposal of his opposite number Ricky Ponting - are ineffective, simply because they could not achieve a result at the Gabba.

"I think it always happens when you get a wicket that flattens out, the bowling attacks begin to struggle," Strauss said.

"The obvious thing to say is that the bowling attacks are no good. I don't think that is the case.

"There are going to be conditions where there is something in it for the bowlers - and in those conditions I think our bowlers are as threatening as any in the world.

"It was a good wicket - and then it died. You don't expect that to happen in Australia.

"Certainly this wicket here tends to play a few tricks on days four and five."

Among those capable of taking advantage, Strauss believes, is Graeme Swann - who found little to his liking in the increasingly flat pitch in the first Test.

"That wicket, there was no spin in it," observed Strauss. "In fact, I struggle to think of a wicket that was less conducive to spin - no turn, no real bounce, no pace.

"We recognise that at times like that Swanny has more of a defensive role to play out here. After going for 30 in his first four overs, he did do a defensive job.

"There are going to be times in this series when it offers more for him - and there are not many in world cricket better equipped to take advantage when that time arrives.

Matt Prior & Ricky Ponting

Ricky Ponting, who made a rapid unbeaten half-century to ensure a draw at Brisbane, said: "Last week wasn't all doom and gloom"

"Traditionally here, it does help the spinners on day four and five."

Ponting agrees that the England off-spinner is likely to have a more significant role to play in Adelaide.

The Australia captain expects another surface favouring the batsmen, but he added: "That might change late in day four and day five. You'd expect Swann to do a bit more bowling and have a bit more impact than he did last week."

As for his own team, Ponting appears to accept it has more limitations than the one staffed by Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and others which beat England 5-0 on their last tour.

But he senses a collective will can serve the 2010-11 Australian side well.

"When you're not expected to win and there are doubts around you, like there is now, I think it heightens everyone's instincts and makes you work that little bit harder,” he said.

"It makes you stick together as a group and achieve something special. That's certainly the feeling I've got around my group at the moment."

The ingredients were different four years ago, when Australia bowled England out for 129 on the last day before chasing an unexpectedly low target.

"That was certainly an extraordinary win for us in that game," Ponting recalled.

"That team was a pretty special one, but I'm pretty sure this one is very much capable of digging ourselves out of troubled situations in Test matches.

"Last week wasn't all about doom and gloom - because even on day five, I thought we were the only team who could win that game."

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