Strauss hails England appetite
Andrew Strauss has seen the "hunger" he wants from his England team for this Ashes summer in their 2-0 Wisden Trophy dismissal of West Indies.
England wasted little time at the Riverside today regaining, both in style and in record time, the Trophy they lost in the Caribbean last winter.
James Anderson's match haul of 9-125 hurried the hosts to victory over West Indies in the second npower Test by an innings and 83 runs during early afternoon on the final day.
Strauss could also reflect happily on the performances here and at Lord's last week of Ravi Bopara, who made a hundred at each venue, and Alastair Cook, with 160 in England's first-innings 569 for six declared.
Newcomer Graham Onions and Stuart Broad have also enhanced their reputations, among others.
Yet the captain is most enthused, with the challenge to be posed by Australia in mind, by the attitude of his team - both in preparation and deed.
"The real challenge for anyone captaining a side is to try and get that extra two or three per cent out of a team, which could be the difference between winning or losing a big series," Strauss said.
"If you look at the way the guys are practising at the moment, there's a real hunger to improve - and we need to cultivate that and make sure it grows and grows."
England's success against West Indies is a far cry from their collapse to defeat in the first Test against the same opponents in Jamaica three months ago.
Strauss always sensed he had the right players to help him turn things around but is nonetheless delighted the team have responded so successfully under him and new coach Andy Flower.
"I haven't been overly surprised (by the improvement), because I've always felt we've got a lot of talent in English cricket and a good 20-odd players we can choose from," he explained.
Strauss is also much encouraged by another key quality - their refusal to let West Indies off the hook once an advantage was gained.
"The big positive to come out of it was how clinical we were," he said.
"We got on top in both Tests - and once we got on top, we stayed on top. By and large, we took our chances; we kept the pressure on and got what we deserved.
"I'm pretty delighted with how things are going at the moment."
The development of Broad and Anderson - both bowling as well as they ever have - is another source of satisfaction for the captain.
"In the West Indies they both bowled exceptionally well and didn't get what they deserved - because the wickets were very flat," he recalled.
"In these two Tests they got a little more of what they deserved. Jimmy's control with the swinging ball is exceptional, and he's going to be a threat against anyone when it's swinging.
"At the same time, when it's flat we've learned a lot from what happened in the West Indies - and we've got a plan B there as well."
Strauss is hoping too that the unity in his team will serve them well, against Australia and beyond.
"We're in a pretty good place at the moment," he added. "There's also a nice spirit about things - guys are really enjoying each other's success - and we're a pretty close-knit group.
"The couple of new guys that have come in have settled really well.
"We hope we can make sure by the time we meet up again for that next Test match we're reminded of how close we are now - and when times get tougher we need to get even closer."
England’s man of the series, new number three Ravi Bopara, is another eyeing greater challenges ahead.
The all-rounder, who scored successive centuries in his only two innings this series, said “When I came into this side I said I wanted to make a difference. I hope I did that.
“I’m glad it’s been in the series before the Ashes. This is a stepping stone. We have a big series coming up but at the end of the day it’s still a game of cricket and you’re still playing against 11 players and I’ll try to do what I do in that series.”
West Indies skipper Chris Gayle admitted his side had a lot to work on following the heavy margin of their defeat.
"It's been a disappointing result in both matches, and for part of it we do feel we have ourselves to blame," he admitted.
"It all started from that first Test match when we dropped too many catches when we could have had England on the run.
"Then to play catch-up cricket in these conditions is always a little bit difficult.
"But we're here to do our job - and we didn't go about it properly."
On his own future in the longer form of the game, the Jamaican denied he planned on retiring in the near future.
“I’ll be here; I’ll be around,” he added. “We have to try and grow West Indies cricket which has been pretty low for a couple of years.
“It won’t happen overnight but we need to try and put our best foot forward and we’re confident we can beat England in the one-day series.”