Strauss laughs off Ashes jibes

England captain amused as Australia beam taunts onto side of Big Ben before England fly to defend the urn Down Under.

    One for the hand luggage? Strauss admires the Ashes urn which he hopes will be making a return trip [Reuters]

    Australia beamed a pre-Ashes taunt about England's miserable away record in the tournament onto London's Big Ben but Andrew Strauss remained confident it was time for a landmark victory Down Under.

    The England cricket captain was speaking at Lord's cricket ground on Thursday on the eve of his team's departure for Australia, where they will defend the urn they won at home in summer 2009.

    But with England not winning the Test series on Australian soil since 1986-87, the hosts projected an image of skipper Ricky Ponting and his vice-captain Michael Clarke on the side of Big Ben on Wednesday night with the giant message 'Don't forget to pack the urn'.

    "I didn't see it myself but I think it is the fun and games of the Ashes," Strauss said.

    "There's a bit of mischievous stuff going on here and there and that helps to build up the series."

    "We will all be targeted. There will be a lot of probing for weaknesses and the guys are going to have stand up individually and collectively"

    Andrew Strauss, England cricket captain

    Strauss said he expected England players to be targeted by their opponents as they sought to retain the Ashes and avoid the fate they suffered under Andrew Flintoff four years ago, when they were whitewashed 5-0 to hand back the trophy.

    "Amongst all the media stuff that's gone on, most of our players have been targeted in one way or another," said Strauss.

    "And ultimately we will all be targeted. There will be a lot of probing for weaknesses and the guys are going to have stand up individually and collectively.

    "We don't like the idea of getting caught up in a war of words with the Australian team.

    "I think you can spend hours trying to think up witty retorts to comments or you can spend hours trying to get your game in order and that's certainly the route we are looking to take."

    Strauss said England were a "nice, tight unit", 100 per cent fit and prepared for anything.

    Relaxed

    He said he was personally relaxed, proud and excited about the team's prospects and singled out Ponting as the key man for Australia.

    "We've prepared as well as we possibly can do in the time we've had available to us. We've been thinking about this Ashes series for a long time, it's a huge challenge going to Australia and winning," he said.

    Clock shock: Big Ben received some surprise Australian visitors on Wednesday night [GALLO/GETTY]

    "I think we've pretty much left no stone unturned in terms of making sure that we hit the ground running out there.

    "Ultimately preparation only takes you so far and you've got to front up when it matters and win the crucial sessions but I've got every confidence our players are going to be able to do that."

    The five Ashes Tests begin in Brisbane on November 25.

    Strauss also reassured anxious fans that Graeme Swann had his passport after the off-spinner sent out a message on his Twitter feed expressing concern about it.

    "Are passports still absolutely required to travel overseas? If so then I fear today may be one of frantic searching," Swann had posted to his 78,000 followers, before another declaring that it had turned up behind the kitchen bin.

    The captain said players would be issued with a set of 'self-policing' guidelines about Twitter use to limit distractions.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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