'We're ready' says Strauss
Having enjoyed a smooth-as-can-be Ashes build-up, England captain Andrew Strauss says his side are ready for the first Test.
Last Updated: 24/11/10 5:05am
Having enjoyed a smooth-as-can-be Ashes build-up, England captain Andrew Strauss says his side are ready for the first Test in Brisbane.
The tourists' preparations have gone very much according to plan ever since they set foot in Western Australia almost a month ago.
Strauss' side have two wins under their belts and also enjoyed much the best of a rain-affected draw from their third warm-up match.
Just as importantly, they have no injury worries ahead of their appearance at The Gabba.
In contrast, Australia must wait to discover whether vice-captain Michael Clarke will be fit after his back injury flared up again.
Of course, Ricky Ponting's side also have much to prove after recent poor form saw them fall down to fifth place in the International Cricket Council rankings.
Although England's plans have so far been executed perfectly, Strauss knows it will be down to him to try to keep his team's collective eye on the ball from the moment they take the field on Thursday.
"We don't want to get too emotional on that first morning," he said.
"It's important you stick to the plans you have talked about before getting on the pitch.
"I think the guys are ready.
"But one of the biggest risks in a game that's been built up is that guys get carried away with the occasion."
Being both the skipper and an opening batsman, Strauss has been named as the number one target by Australia and, while unconcerned at the prospect, knows he must stay strong for the sake of team spirit.
"You'd expect them to target the opening batsman, and they'll be poring over footage trying to find weaknesses," he said.
"If they want to let us know their plans before the series begins then that's fine by me.
"We've all been through it before. I've had plenty of times when a bowler goes after me and I'm pretty comfortable with my technique in those situations.
"I'm happy having the attention on me if that's how it needs to be.
"As captain, your general demeanour is important in situations like that first morning. People will look to the captain and see how he's handling himself.
"That's where experience is important, having played in a couple of Ashes series before and important games.
"I don't think we could be in a much better position than we are at the minute. We are used to winning and we've started the tour well."
Meanwhile, Ponting says he has tried harder than ever to give himself an edge fitness-wise in what are the autumn years of his career.
The 35-year-old says he is relishing the challenge of regaining the Ashes on home soil - just as Australia did so convincingly, under his captaincy, four years ago.
"I have been working hard," he said.
"I wanted to give myself the best possible chance of getting into pretty good physical shape and hope that will lead to getting some runs in the summer.
"I don't think I had seven kilos to lose but I've lost a little bit of weight.
"I've just paid attention to the physical side of things. I'm not getting any younger, as we all know.
"It was just about getting stuck in and training as hard as I could to give myself the best chance of playing and getting through the next six months injury free."
Although Ponting will not go out on a limb and predict a repeat of his side's whitewashing of England in 2006/07, he does think there are echoes of four years ago.
"It's probably very similar to the last series here in 2005," he added.
"I think after they beat us in England in 2005 there was a lot of expectation about them coming here and winning the series again.
"We all know what happened in that series.
"I don't know if they're under any more pressure or not. There is probably a bit more expectation on them as a group to be able to play a higher level of cricket than they did last time."