Strauss attention on Aussies

Andrew Strauss

Andrew Strauss in relaxed mood on Monday

England must deliver a pre-Ashes blow to retain their hopes of winning the ICC Champions Trophy - and Andrew Strauss views Australia as an ideal opponent in a must-win match.

Defeat to hosts India on Saturday, which had a significantly detrimental effect on the team’s run-rate, means England’s equation is straightforward: two wins from the remaining couple of Group A games.

Saturday’s contest at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium takes on extra significance, coming as it does a month shy of England’s defence of the Ashes opening Down Under.

“They are not the worst side to play in this situation because you realise you have to go out, be positive and take them on,” said Strauss, of Ricky Ponting’s world champions. “That puts you in a pretty good frame of mind right from the word go.

Andrew Strauss

Andrew Strauss contemplates the challenge of Australia © Getty Images

“It might be a good thing to be playing a really good side rather than a mid-table side.”

Intriguingly, England’s record against Australia in one-day cricket, starting with the defeat over them in the semi-final of the 2004 Champions Trophy, is better than against any other of the world’s top eight teams.

Of the seven completed matches, three have finished in England victories while the NatWest Series final at Lord’s last summer was tied.

“That game at Edgbaston was important to us, we hadn’t beaten them for a long time so we needed to get back on track and we have had a fair share of success over Australia over the last couple of years,” added Strauss. “We have a lot of latent confidence there.

“But they are a top side and as against any top side if you don’t play your best you will get beaten.

“I am not sure it will have too much significance for what is ahead because it is a different format for starters and regardless of what happens we are going to arrive in Australia very buoyant about our Ashes chances.

“But, having said that, if we win that might give us a little bit more confidence.”

Australia open their campaign against West Indies in Mumbai on Wednesday while England remain in Jaipur, having experienced the two-paced surface in the loss to India.

An inability to lower their assessment of a par score cost England at the weekend as the top order fell cheaply and India were faced with a paltry 126-run target.

“We now know how the pitch plays,” said Strauss. “We have time to take stock a little bit, assess things as a side and then put whatever conclusions we make into practice out in the nets.

“The key is to try to judge the pitch and by the time we did we were four wickets down.

“We need to do that earlier and think on our feet a little bit more.

“The pitch did not play as well as we thought it was going to and if we had played better we would have realised that quicker and adjusted our games slightly.

“Clearly there is always that balancing act between not losing early wickets but also taking advantage of the first 10 or 15 overs.

“We haven’t got that balancing act quite right yet and it is something we have to work on.”

England were granted a day off on Monday and some of the players took the opportunity to participate in a game of elephant polo, another sport popular in Rajasthan.

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