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Improving England encourage Strauss

NatWest Series

Ravi Rampaul & Matt Prior

Ravi Rampaul is cleaned up by Graeme Swann, an image symptomatic of England's dominance over West Indies

Andrew Strauss believes he is passing on the England captaincy with the team in good shape for more testing events following the NatWest Series triumph over West Indies.

Strauss will combine rest with some LV= County Championship matches in the next few weeks in preparation for the Ashes, while the majority of the side which totally outplayed the tourists today turn their attention to the World Twenty20.

England followed their 2-0 Test series victory with a one-day campaign of the same scoreline and Strauss now hands over the leadership to Paul Collingwood before resuming the role on July 8 in Cardiff.

"I like the way we were clinical right through the Tests and the one-dayers," said Strauss, whose team registered England's third-highest score in 50-over internationals in the 58-run win at Edgbaston today.

"New players came in and did well but generally there was a level of consistency there which is very important.

"In international cricket you have to put in performances day in, day out and over the last month or so we've been able to do that.

"There have not been a lot of negatives to come out but there are clearly tougher tests ahead for us.

"We are far from the finished article at this stage but what I am really excited about is that the guys are very keen to improve.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior savours his match award, reward for hitting a superb 87 - his highest score in England one-day colours

"The work ethic has been tremendous and everything that has happened over the last month can only help us come the first day of the Ashes. From my point of view my attention starts turning towards that series now."

Strauss and team director Andy Flower have already begun their planning to take on Australia later this summer and the former will assess their opponents' techniques during his downtime in the next five weeks, which will also include some first-class innings for Middlesex.

"The reality is with an Ashes series is you want to be as prepared as you can be," Strauss said.

"There is a lot more attention given to it, (but) the cricket isn't radically different to any other series. You have just got to play as well as you know you can play.

"We have already done a fair amount of planning and we need to take that to the final stage so that when we meet up prior to the Ashes starting that all the 'T's are crossed and 'I's dotted, so that we are 100% comfortable at where we need to be come that first Test.”

England appear to have made good limited-overs progress under Strauss - although the actual extent of it has been difficult to assess given their West Indies ineptitude.

"From a captaincy point of view it's good to see a pretty young team, a pretty vibrant team all going out and expressing themselves," Strauss said.

"Our one-day cricket has been pretty haphazard in the past and it just looks like it's getting a bit more consistent, so that's encouraging."

And it has been achieved without all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, whose knee injury could result in him being ruled out of the World Twenty20 later this week.

"We always want Fred involved and it has been very frustrating for us, and more importantly for him, that he has picked up these injuries over the last couple of years or so," Strauss said.

Chris Gayle & England

Captain Chris Gayle departs as West Indies slip to another defeat to cap one of the "worst experiences" of his career

"What is absolutely crucial in the long term is having a good squad of players you can pick from so that you don't have to play the same XI in every game.

"We have had to in the past but the guys who have come in have shown they're international standard and that's very encouraging."

Matt Prior, filling in at number three in the one-day side in the absence of Kevin Pietersen, responded to the challenge with a rapid 87 – his highest ODI score – and the man-of-the-match award in Birmingham.

Like Strauss, he now sits out England's immediate itinerary - in his case to rest a damaged finger.

"There is this period now to get ready and feel as fresh as possible for the Ashes," said Prior. "To get that opportunity at three was fantastic; now I am looking forward at what is to come."

West Indies did show an improvement on their woeful collapse in Bristol on Sunday to at least reach the 50th over of their unlikely chase of 329, but the result had an inevitable ring to it in fitting with their tour of struggle.

"It has been one of my worst experiences as a West Indies player," captain Chris Gayle confirmed. "The way we went about it wasn't the best but at the same time you have to give credit it where it is due and England set games up well.

"This was a chance to get testing conditions and improve in them. It didn't work. We are disappointed with the loss of both series, but at the same time it has given us opportunity to be ready for the Twenty20."


Andrew Strauss gets another soaking after England's third successive series triumph over West Indies

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