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Bullish Strauss tips England to respond

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Andrew Strauss has once again expressed confidence in England’s players on the eve of the second Investec Test against South Africa.

Having been beaten by an innings at the Kia Oval, England know they cannot afford to lose at Headingley Carnegie if they are to retain their position at the summit of the International Cricket Council Test rankings.

Strauss expects his men, who have frequently shown strength of character in bouncing back from defeats in recent times, to rise to the challenge.

“I’m very confident,” he said. “There’s clearly a steely determination among the troops to show we are better than what we showed last week.

“It’s going to take a little bit of character and guts, but I know we’ve got a bit of that in the squad.”

England held a well-chronicled team meeting in the aftermath of their trouncing at the Oval, but have wasted no time since picking over where they went wrong.

Andrew Strauss

Andrew Strauss expects England to deliver a much-improved performance when the second Investec Test gets under way at Headingley

Even so, Strauss inevitably had to face those questions today.

“Maybe there were areas we could have done things differently planning-wise, but you have those regrets with the benefit of hindsight,” he said.

“Our preparations have been about getting plans right for this particular ground - which is very different to the Oval - and it is important we commit to those plans and deliver our skills.

“We’ve put that game to bed - and a lot of the chat and talk over the last few days, in fact all of it, has been about this game.

“There is no point dwelling too much on what happened last week. Conditions are going to be different here; the challenges are going to be different here.

“We need to make sure we’re in a good position to react well to those challenges and overcome them rather than thinking too much about what went on last week.

“It’s important not to start navel-gazing too much; keep your heads high - and do the simple things well to give yourself the best chance of winning the game.”

Morne Morkel dismissed Strauss for a duck on the opening morning of the series, yet the skipper is determined to respond strongly.

“He’s a good bowler obviously - but opening the batting in international cricket, you always have good bowlers to face,” said Strauss.

“It doesn’t matter who gets you out as long as you get runs. That is my challenge, to go out there and lead from the front with some big runs this week.”

And while the London Olympics may be capturing the imagination of the British public at present, Strauss’ attention is firmly focussed on matters in Leeds.

“This is a massive game of cricket for us. We’ve just got to make sure we win this game," he added.

“That is what our focus is on, and what it has to be on. If we lose it we lose that ranking as well, which will hurt.”

However, athletes’ deeds down south may provide a passing diversion to help England’s cricketers preserve focus and energy as they train their sights on South Africa.

“Obviously when we’re not on cricket duty it is great for us to watch them compete, and we’re rooting with everyone else for us to get some gold medals,” Strauss said.

“But we’ve got to divorce the two completely; if someone wins a gold medal, that is not going to help me get a hundred tomorrow unfortunately.”

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