Strauss eyes return to top form

Pakistan England

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Andrew Strauss

Skipper Andrew Strauss is "very keen to perform well and lead from the front" when England take on Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates

Test captain Andrew Strauss is hoping to lead from the front this winter as England aim to continue where they left off in 2011.

Although England enjoyed a tremendous summer in the game’s premier form, defeating Sri Lanka 1-0 before whitewashing a highly-rated India side in ruthless fashion to secure top spot in the International Cricket Council Test rankings, Strauss was unable to find his best form.

A return of 256 runs in 10 innings fell some way short of the 34-year-old’s expectations, yet he remains confident he can make significant contributions against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, where England arrived this morning to begin a two-month tour.

“I’d like to have a good series, definitely. Last summer I probably didn’t play quite as well as I’d have liked to,” admitted Strauss.

“But form ebbs and flows a bit in Test cricket. I’m very keen to perform well and lead from the front.

“You can analyse these things to death. The truth is I’ve had a really good break. I’m healthy, I’m motivated and had a really good training camp in India as well. Hopefully that’s a pretty good recipe to play well.”

England have never played Test cricket in the UAE, which currently represents a ‘home’ venue for Pakistan following the terrorist attack on the touring Sri Lanka team in Lahore in March 2009.

Yet Strauss is confident the squad will be able to adapt to conditions ahead of the first Test in Dubai, which starts on January 17.

James Anderson, Stuart Broad & Andrew Strauss

James Anderson and Stuart Broad represent two of the seam bowling options available to Strauss this winter. "Taking 20 wickets is going to be the key," admitted England's Test captain

“Obviously a few of the guys have played some one-day cricket there and some Twenty20s and we've had a training camp in Abu Dhabi,” he explained.

“The conditions aren't tremendously foreign, they are sub-continental definitely. I suppose it's fairly attritional cricket and that's what you need to get used to doing in those sort of conditions.

“Taking 20 wickets is going to be the key and I'm very thankful that we have a well-balanced bowling attack who have challenged teams continuously over the last couple of years. I'm sure they will continue to do that.”

Elaborating on England’s options with the ball, Strauss added: “I think we're pretty much at the same position we were at the start of the (2010-11) Ashes tour where we had five or six fit seam bowlers and you've got to pick three from those six. That's a pretty healthy position for a captain to be in and it allows us to be a little bit flexible according to the conditions as well.

“Those bowlers have all stood up and delivered over the last 24 months or so and I think consistency of selection is only possible if you're playing consistently on the pitch.”

Strauss also insists England will have no problems with motivation, despite many predicting low crowds for both Tests.

“I don’t want to pre-empt what the cricket’s going to be like out there and the size of the crowds, but I don’t think intensity is going to be a problem for us,” he said.

“That tends to drop off if you’ve played a lot of cricket over an extended period of time. We’re all fresh, excited, motivated and we want to start the new year in style and keep pushing forward from what we achieved last year.”

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