Strauss relishing Asian adventures

Pakistan England

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Andrew Strauss

An assured Andrew Strauss takes questions at Heathrow Airport today prior to England's departure for the United Arab Emirates. "We need to keep challenging ourselves," said the Test captain

England Test captain Andrew Strauss believes the upcoming series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka represent the perfect challenges for his side as they look to maintain their status as the world’s leading five-day team.

Strauss’ men flew out to the United Arab Emirates today ahead of a three-Test rubber against Pakistan, which begins in Dubai on January 17.

They will then head to Sri Lanka in March for a further two Tests, completing a winter of Asian missions that began with a one-day series defeat in India in October.

Although England stormed to the summit of the International Cricket Council Test rankings with a 4-0 whitewash of India last summer, Strauss admits the team are relishing the prospect of proving themselves all over again in conditions where they have often struggled.

Speaking at a press conference at Heathrow Airport prior to his side’s departure, the skipper said: “The England cricket team’s record in the sub-continent has been patchy. I think it’s a really good time for us to have a lot of sub-continental cricket because we are confident, we’ve done well over the last two years or so and this is a kind of new frontier for us, to win and hopefully win consistently on the sub-continent.

“We are aware it’s a stiff challenge and we are also aware you need to have very different types of skills if you want to do well out there. You’ve got to be very fit and it comes at a good time. It’s just what we need as a side but we are not underestimating the size of the challenge.”

Strauss rejected the notion that England cannot be classed as the true Test number one unless they succeed on the sub-continent, replying: “The rankings are there for a reason.”

However, the 34-year-old added: “It would be wrong for us not to see these tours as a way of pushing ourselves forward as a group. I think that’s a pretty exciting thing to be able to do.

“Long-term goals are pretty irrelevant unless you can achieve your short-term goals. In some ways the challenges that await us in the next 12 months are more demanding. We are not at home, we are in sub-continental conditions and we need to develop new skills quickly.

Pakistan

Misbah-ul-Haq's Pakistan have performed impressively in the lead-up to their three-Test series with England. "They are probably one of the form teams in world cricket at the moment," acknowledged Strauss

“We need to keep challenging ourselves and be as desperate as we've always been to keep improving, because if we're not we will get overtaken pretty quickly.”

Strauss is certainly not expecting an easy ride against a Pakistan side who have yet to lose a Test series under the leadership of Misbah-ul-Haq.

Recent victories over Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the UAE will have boosted the confidence of Misbah’s men, and Strauss said: “They are probably one of the form teams in world cricket at the moment.

“They seem to have a production line of good quality bowlers and Saeed Ajmal in particular has done well in those conditions. They have got a good balance to their side and they are playing some good, smart cricket."

“They have always been a hard side to beat, inspirational at times, and can play some very high quality cricket. So the key for us is going to be to play consistently for us to make sure that if there are any weaknesses there we can exploit them.”

Misbah’s appointment as captain followed the spot-fixing scandal that broke on Pakistan’s tour of England in 2010 and led to three players receiving jail sentences.

Ahead of the return meeting, Strauss is keen for events on the field to take centre stage.

“I think we all recognise it’s time to move on from what happened with the spot-fixing stuff,” he said.

“Pakistan have been playing a lot of good cricket and that’s going to be the challenge for us, to try and overcome them on the field in those conditions.

“What’s happened before, as far as I’m concerned, is water under the bridge and I hope both sides can really go and play the game in the right spirit, and produce a very entertaining and exciting Test match series.”

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