Strauss plays down Zaheer tussle
Skipper not buying into 'under-cooked' claims
Last Updated: 20/07/11 5:44pm
Khan: a class act.
England captain Andrew Strauss has played down his personal duel with India spearhead Zaheer Khan on the eve of the historic 2,000th Test.
In the first part of the summer, Strauss' struggles against left-arm seam caused some consternation, with Sri Lanka's Chanaka Welegedara dismissing him on three occasions in two Tests for a combined total of just seven runs.
Zaheer is a bowler of the highest calibre and is sure to expose any flaw in technique during the four-match series, which begins with the 100th meeting between the sides at Lord's on Thursday.
The last time India toured these shores, Zaheer dismissed Strauss on four occasions but the left-hander was able to settle his nerves in comprehensive fashion last week in a one-off outing for Somerset, making 78 and 109no against the tourists and nullifying Zaheer.
Buoyed by that performance, Strauss felt able to brush over the importance of India's top seamer.
"Generally the plan is watch the ball, wait for a bad ball and hit it," he said. "You can overcomplicate this game. Zaheer is a very good bowler, his record suggests he's a good bowler, but we are prepared for it.
"We have faced him before plenty of times as he has bowled at us. You play the ball as it comes. He's no different to any other bowler."
Eyebrows have been raised by the lack of meaningful practise India have had ahead of what is such a big series - as well as the 2,000 and 100 Test landmarks, England can also leapfrog their opponents for the world number one spot.
That three-day outing against at Taunton, during which they were flayed by the Somerset batsmen as well as being bowled out for 224 in the first innings, has been their only match action since arriving from the West Indies, where they edged a three-match series 1-0.
Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer were not even in the Caribbean, but Strauss does not expect MS Dhoni's men to be undercooked and expects a tussle worthy of the occasion.
"We aren't expecting them to be under par that's for sure," he said. "They've played enough good cricket over the last couple of years to know they are going to be a pretty difficult challenge for us. It's important that we are ready for that challenge and ready to overcome it.
"In any Test series every side is hoping to get a fast start, get ahead and then earn the right over four Tests to win the series."
To claim the world number one berth, for the first time since the rankings were introduced, England must win by two Tests or more.
While that is a tough ask, Strauss does not believe it would flatter his side.
"I do, absolutely (believe we can be number one)," he said.
"I still think there are areas we can improve on so in that sense we aren't the finished article. But to be number one is relative to what other sides are doing.
"With our cricket over the last two years, I don't think there's been a side who has been better than us.
"We've won seven out of eight series and the other has been drawn, but this is a new challenge for us and our ultimate goal in the long term is not just to be the side who is number one in the rankings but the side everyone agrees is the best side in the world."
England have just one selection decision to make, with the fit-again Tim Bresnan vying for Stuart Broad's place after the latter endured a disappointing series against Sri Lanka.