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Strauss maintains respect for rivals

NatWest Series

Andrew Strauss Ricky Ponting

Captains Andrew Strauss, left, and Ricky Ponting, right, have both been in a respectful mood ahead of the five-match Natwest Series

Andrew Strauss' England are committed to “fearless” cricket, but there will be no lack of respect for the opposition when the NatWest Series against Australia gets under way.

England's new ethos of attack and industry in the limited-overs formats has been cited time and again by the captain and team director Andy Flower since they reached a "watershed" moment after their 6-1 defeat at home to Australia last September.

Back-to-back series victories have followed in South Africa - where they also reached the Champions Trophy semi-final before losing by nine wickets to Australia - and Bangladesh.

Following the ICC World Twenty20 final thrashing of Australia under Paul Collingwood, last autumn's Johannesburg summit meeting of the whole squad and coach has taken on legendary status as the moment when England realised and admitted the errors of their ways in limited-overs cricket.

But Strauss is too canny to spend the eve of a tough five-match series at home to the team top of the world rankings publicly trumpeting England's new world-beating formula.

Instead he stressed that even an Australia team missing several high-profile players through injury will represent a major test of England's credentials.

"If you look at the way Australia have played one-day cricket over the last 12 months they are the team to beat," he said.

"I don't think there's a one-day team out there with a better record than them.

"We're going into this with our eyes open. It's not going to be easy.

"They're a well-drilled unit. They may be down on experience of past Australian teams, but that hasn't stopped them winning.

Andrew Strauss

Strauss believes Australia are still the world's best team, despite England's recent success

"I think we understand the size of the job in front of us but we're a pretty confident unit ourselves.

"It's going to be a good gauge of where both sides are at for the World Cup."

Australia's most striking shortfall is in a pace attack led by Ryan Harris and Doug Bollinger with a clutch of others, such as Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson, out injured.

"We haven't seen a lot of their bowlers," added Strauss. "Guys like Bollinger and Harris have come in and done very well, but we haven't really seen them.

"I think it would be disrespectful to say they haven't got that x-factor.

"They probably don't have the pace of someone like Brett Lee now but we've seen before that express pace in one-day cricket can be an attacking option but also quite hard to defend.

"Maybe they've got a slightly different game plan now. What we will expect is for their bowling attack to be very accurate and try to apply pressure."

Strauss' new opening partnership with World Twenty20 star Craig Kieswetter should provide a significant examination of Australia's new-ball capabilities.

The Strauss-Kieswetter alliance began auspiciously with a century stand in a seven-wicket win against Scotland in Edinburgh two days ago, and the captain is hoping for much more to come.

"It went well. He's got the ability to hit those big shots and clear the ropes, which takes pressure off at the other end," he said of his new partner.

"I suppose we're very different types of players, which might make it harder for them to bowl at us.

"But it's early days and an opening partnership is a relationship that builds up over a period of time.

"The key for us is to communicate well with each other. For me, it is to use my experience to try to communicate to him about what the bowlers are trying to do to him and at the same time not stifle that exuberance, because that's a great strength of his and a great asset for us as a side.

"I wouldn't want to rein him in unless the risk profile was going through the roof.

Craig Kieswetter

Craig Kieswetter hit a rapid 69 in England's recent win over Scotland and is forming a key partnership with Struass at the top of the order

"He's clearly got a big range of exciting shots and we want to see those."

Wicketkeeper-batsman Kieswetter can look forward to an extended spell in the team.

But the composition of England's pace attack is less assured as they seek to accommodate Michael Yardy whenever appropriate as a second spinner, with next year's sub-continental World Cup very much in mind.

James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ryan Sidebottom are the specialists - with Tim Bresnan the all-rounder selection - and Strauss accepts there are decisions to be made.

"Jimmy's done a lot of good things for us in 50-over cricket," he said. “He's an experienced player now.

“You look at the way he and Broady react with one another, they know what they're doing in most circumstances.

"But there's competition for places. Ryan Sidebottom's done very well in 20-over cricket, Tim Bresnan's played a vital role with both ball and bat.

"It's going to be a tough decision who misses out. They've all got obvious strengths and maybe that's a reflection of us moving forward as a one-day side."

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