Gough banking on Strauss effect

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Andrew Strauss

Andrew Strauss surveys his Gabba surroundings as the first Test looms. His input will be key, according to Darren Gough

Darren Gough believes England having an in-form captain in Andrew Strauss will be crucial to their hopes of winning the Ashes.

Strauss has warmed up for the first Test in Brisbane by scoring centuries in each of England’s first two warm-up matches, symptomatic of the impressive form shown by the team.

Former England paceman Gough knows an out-of-touch skipper has been seized upon in previous encounters Down Under, but early signs suggest that will not apply to Strauss this winter.
“I think Strauss is going to have a terrific series and that is a vital thing,” said Gough, who toured Australia in 1994-95 and 1998-99 and played in four Ashes series in all.

"When your captain is confident and in good form, that is a big advantage when you go to Australia.

"If you look at some previous tours there, Nasser Hussain went as captain (in 2002-03) when he wasn't in great form.

"You had Michael Atherton the series before that and he wasn't in great form.

"Andrew Flintoff wasn't in great form when they lost 5-0 the last time we played out there (in 2006-07).

"It is good to see Strauss in such good nick and that is a big, big positive for England."

Gough, who took 229 wickets in 58 Tests for England between 1994 and 2003, takes particular encouragement from England’s attitude as much as their results since landing in Australia.

They beat Western Australia and Australia A either side of dominating a drawn encounter with South Africa, and head into the Ashes in uncommonly high spirits.

Stuart MacGill & Darren Gough

Gough enjoyed notable personal success in Australia - taking a hat-trick at Sydney in 1999, above - but never won the Ashes

"This will be the most confident England have been going into an away Ashes series for many years,” Gough said.

"Since they have got out there, the most positive thing for me is that they've not gone there to practice; they've gone there to win in these warm-up games.

"The mentality of England is to win and I think that's a big bonus and it just shows how confident the lads are.

"I've been over there for the Ashes two times and we try and give everybody a game in the matches before the Tests and we normally get hammered by the opposition.

"The Australia A game before the Test is where they take it serious. They are all trying to get in the Test side and they normally rack up four or five hundreds against us.

"This time, England have managed to beat them - and with their back-up bowling really."

While Gough is predicting a 3-1 England win, he stressed the importance of the opening Test at the Gabba, which gets under way on Thursday.

“It is vital not to lose the first Test. It is going to be vital to the outcome of the series. I think England will win it 3-1 but there is a big caution mark,” he said.

"Brisbane is such a vital Test and if we do lose it and the Australian public get back on Australia's side, it could be a long tour for England.

"Going into it now, I'm confident. Australia are quiet but let's not be too cocky ourselves.

"As long as the players remain focused, and realise how important the first day is of an Ashes series, I think we will be alright."