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Strauss takes Ashes in his stride

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Andrew Strauss declared himself in a state of “relaxed excitement” as he prepares to lead England in their Ashes defence Down Under.

The squad fly out to Perth tomorrow, and captain Strauss and his players know they have a chance to make history by becoming the first England side to win in Australia since 1986-87.

With England enjoying a hugely successful year, hopes are high ahead of this winter’s trip, but Strauss insists he is not overly concerned by the weight of expectation as he leads England for the first time on cricket’s ultimate tour.

“We all feel a slight burden of responsibility, but that is mixed in with a huge amount of pride at representing our country in what is a massive series,” he said.

“From my own point of view, I’m relaxed but excited about our prospects. We've had a lot of success over the last 18 months so confidence levels are very high.

“Our preparation has been very good. (Team director) Andy Flower has prepared us well for this tour so there's a feeling of relaxed excitement about what lies ahead.”

A member of the side beaten 5-0 the last time England travelled to Australia, Strauss is more aware than most of the challenges they will face over the next three months.

He is especially keen to right the wrongs of that miserable tour, and claims England are in good shape to do so.

Andrew Strauss

Andrew Strauss exhibits few nerves on the eve of England's departure for Australia. "I'm relaxed but excited," he said today

“The only time that 5-0 loss will be wiped out of the record books will be if we go out there and win this one,” he added. “That’s our challenge.

“Those of us who went on that tour realise what a tough place it is to tour, but we also realise what an amazing thing it would be to go out there and win the Ashes.

“We have an excellent chance of winning over there. We are a good tight unit, we know what to expect and can’t wait to get over there.

“We have been thinking about this series for a long time now.

"It’s a big challenge to go to Australia and win, but we have left no stone unturned in terms of making sure we hit the ground running.”

The Australians projected an image of Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke on to Big Ben last night, along with the words ‘Don’t forget to pack the urn’.

Strauss was typically unmoved by their latest attempt to taunt England, and knows his team will encounter obstacles both on and off the pitch when they land.

“It is the fun and games of the Ashes,” a smiling Strauss said. “That is the great thing about this Ashes series - Australians and English people get down and support their country.

“There’s a bit of mischievous stuff going on, and that helps to build up a series. In reality, the series doesn’t need a lot of building up.

“You can spend hours coming up with witty retorts to comments, or you can spend hours concentrating on getting your game in order.

“Ultimately when you arrive out there there are going to be things thrown your way that you possibly didn’t expect. The key to all these things is to react well.”

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