Saturday, July 12, 2008

Strauss relishing the role

England opener Andrew Strauss has promised to fight South Africa’s fast bowlers with an equally aggressive style when the Test series starts at Lord's on Thursday.

Much hype has been made of the three-man pace barrage that South Africa will attack England with in the form of Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Morne Morkel. Jacques Kallis will also be backing up that attack.

Strauss, though, who was born in Johannesburg and left at the age of six, is looking at the contest in a positive way and feels the bowling might even be easier to face than the slower New Zealand bowlers were earlier in the summer.

“The pace on the ball provides scoring opportunities,” Strauss, who hit three centuries during England's victory in South Africa three years ago, told reporters.

“If they bowl well it's going to be hard work but if they're slightly off line there may well be more opportunities to score than, say, the New Zealand bowlers, who were very disciplined but with not quite so much pace.

“All it boils down to in the end is how well they're going to bowl and how clear you are in your gameplan about how you're going to counteract that.”

He added: “The New Zealand series (which England won 2-0) tested us in very different ways. That attritional type of cricket in some ways is harder to play because you're fighting with yourself a lot of the time, whereas against South Africa you're pitting yourself against the opposition a little bit more.

“They're trying to get you out, you're trying not to give an inch in your own right. I think the opening batsmen have got a crucial role to play against their bowling attack. Both Alastair Cook and I are aware of that and the fact we need to do well to help out the team, and if we do that it will provide a good platform for the others to go out and play their shots.”

Strauss faced the probable South African Test line-up in a warm-up game at Uxbridge for Middlesex at the weekend. He felt it was a useful exercise.

“From my point of view it was fantastic to be able to face them before the Test series and start formulating game plans and how you're going to play the individual bowlers.

“I was keen to play in that game. I thought there was a lot more benefits to playing than possible negatives so it just seemed like the right thing to do and I'm pleased I did it.”

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