Strauss elated with one-day advance
Andrew Strauss spoke to the media on the eve of the fifth ODI
Andrew Strauss is confident his new-look England are about to go places in one-day cricket and is hoping they can start by wrapping up their series against South Africa 3-1 on Friday.
Strauss, who will collect his 100th cap if the rain stays away from Kingsmead, believes a more honest and well-rounded team is evolving under his captaincy and with Andy Flower as coach.
Approaching 12 months in - and with a collection of ups and downs already behind him - Strauss senses a new atmosphere in his camp.
“It’s always hard to put your finger on exactly why it’s different,” he said.
“But I do feel we’re moving in the right direction, and I’m delighted with the excellent bunch of guys we’ve got.”
In the absence of injured all-rounder Andrew Flintoff and with Kevin Pietersen still making his way back to form after Achilles surgery, England are - perhaps by necessity - more of a collective.
Strauss, however, clearly likes it that way.
“In the sport we play, there are always going to be people who are bigger characters than others or have bigger egos,” he accepts.
“But a good environment is able to take that into account and still let people express themselves and get the best out of themselves.”
Strauss’ team are on the verge of becoming only the second to beat South African hosts in an ODI series.
Yet it is little more than two months ago that they were within one match of losing 7-0 at home to Australia.
The “honesty” required then to agree on a stark assessment of the work to be done gave the captain a chance to put his stamp on the squad.
“Players have probably opened their eyes to the fact we have a long way to go and we’ve all got to be prepared for hard work if we’re going to get somewhere,” he said.
“We want an environment where we all push each other very hard - and in order to do that, we need to be honest with each other first and foremost.”
“The environment we’re trying to create is one everyone has kind of accepted,” he added.
“We also want everyone in the team to contribute. We don’t want three or four senior players running the show.
“We want everyone feeling comfortable enough to contribute and also that it’s expected of them to contribute. Honesty is central to all of that.”
Strauss himself admits there was a time - during a run of bad form two years ago - when he thought he simply would not be part of England’s ODI plans again.
Reflecting on his path towards a century of caps, he said: “When I got left out of the side in 2007, there was a thought then that I might never play another one-dayer.
“To come back in and be part of this side and feel like we’re going somewhere is quite motivating - and I’m really enjoying my one-day cricket.”
Two members of his team arguably face significant tests of their mettle tomorrow - and Strauss has no doubt they will come through handsomely.
While Pietersen is back at what was once his home ground, on a tour which has seen the South Africa-born batsman greeted with hostile crowd receptions, Stuart Broad must confront any demons associated with being hit for six sixes in one over by Yuvraj Singh in England’s World Twenty defeat at this venue in 2007.
Of the former, Strauss said: “I think he’s got a thick skin.
“I wouldn’t say that is his main attribute, but he is a very determined character and a guy with a lot of self-confidence who will back himself 10 times out of 10.
“Coming to a ground like this, it just adds a bit more motivation for him.”
The captain believes in Broad too.
“When we turned up in PE (last weekend), Jimmy Anderson said ’I haven’t got great memories of this ground’ - then he got 5-23,” Strauss recalled
“The wicket here tomorrow might be more conducive to seam bowling, and Stuart is feeling in pretty good nick with the ball.
“As international cricketers, there are always times where you’re challenged mentally.
“The good players are able to overcome that and focus on what they’ve got to do and erase any doubts they may have.
“Stuart’s very well-placed to do that, because he’s a strong character.”