Strauss confident ‘until end of first day’

England captain Andrew Strauss has said he will be confident of the side’s chances against Australia until roughly 4pm on the first day, when either England have been rolled for 200 or Australia have batted first and made 250-2.

Strauss, who has repeatedly emphasised the importance of ‘character’, told reporters here on Monday: “The key to the series is character, pure and simple. When you break it down, the game is not about who has the highest batting average or who can bowl the quickest or most accurate, it’s about grit and determination. It’s about not letting the other side know that you’re suffering when they’re winning against you.

“Collingwood, for example, is really good to have around when the team is performing disastrously – and that’s why we’ve picked him so often. He is a man who never shies away from defeat and embraces every opportunity to suffer stoically during a test match. He is one of the game’s true martyrs.”

Strauss, turning to his team, added: “All 11 of them have shown before that they can handle those situations, though an Ashes series is slightly different and we’ve only got probably half our team that have lost heavily in an Ashes series before. But the guys that have come in have an opportunity to show they too can do it in an Ashes series and I’ve got very few concerns in my own head that there is any lack of character in this squad, which is encouraging.”

The major selection dilemma for England appears to be whether to attempt to confuse the opposition by choosing a seamer named after a vegetable or not: “We’ve always had a good record of attempting to play mindgames by selecting oddly-named cricketers of middling ability. For instance at the moment we’ve got this guy called Onions, a standard county trundler who bowls a decent wicket-to-wicket line. Nothing special, I think you’ll agree. But look at his name – Onions – that’s a vegetable, not a name. The batsman sees that come up on the board and it confounds them slightly. By the time they’ve realized it’s a person and not a vegetable they’re lbw to one that’s nipped back and trapped them on the crease.

“England used to have this bowler called Pringle – yeah, seriously. He was shit, but they used to pick him because his name was so laughable. By the time they’d worked out that it wasn’t a tube of Pringles running in to bowl, but a 6’6” doofus from Essex, it was too late and they’d usually edged a gentle away-swinger to slip.”

England are not expected to unveil their side until shortly before Wednesday’s toss, as they’re not sure how many players can make the fixture due to prior commitments. “Ian Bell’s still trying to change his dental appointment for that morning, so I’ve pencilled him in as a ‘maybe’”, Strauss revealed. “And Ryan Sidebottom is having a plasma screen delivered in the afternoon, so I’ve had to leave him out as the delivery company are based in Southampton and only cover his route every month. Most of the rest I think are OK, but we have a few on standby just in case some of them don’t manage to get to the ground by 10am tomorrow.”

The First Test begins tomorrow at 10.45am.

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