England are in perfect shape for Ashes

London: Andrew Strauss believes England will go into the Ashes in perfect shape to end their long run of failures in Australia.

Strauss’s side fly out to Perth this week ahead of five Tests and a limited-over series against Ricky Ponting’s team and the England captain is delighted with the way preparations have gone so far.

England have struggled badly on Australian soil and last won an Ashes series Down Under way back in 1986-87.

They were thrashed 5-0 on their last trip to Australia but Middlesex batsman Strauss is confident they are in a much better frame of mind this time around.

“I think so yes. We have had a lot of success over the last 18 months so confidence levels are very high,” he told reporters in London today.

“Our preparation has been very good. (Coach) Andy Flower has prepared us well for this tour so there is a feeling of relaxed excitement about what lies ahead.

“We have an excellent chance of winning over there, we are a good tight unit, we know what to expect and can’t wait to get over there.

“We have prepared as well as we can do in the time we have had available to us. We have been thinking about this series for a long time now. It’s a big challenge to go to Australia and win but we have left no stone unturned in terms of making sure we hit the ground running.”

“Preparation only takes you so far, you still have to front up when it matters and win the crucial sessions but I have every confidence that our players can do that.”

The first Test gets under way on November 25 at the Gabba in Brisbane and Strauss knows it is essential that England stop Ponting getting into his stride early in the series.

“The great player in their ranks is Ricky Ponting,” Strauss said.

“As captain he has a responsibility to lead the side and his record in Ashes series is very good.”

“Aside from that, neither side is going to be significantly different from the last time we played so we’ll know each other pretty well.”

“It’s going to boil down to crucial periods of play and who wins them.”

The pre-series mind games began in earnest yesterday as Ponting and vice-captain Michael Clarke had their images projected on to Big Ben in London with a message reminding Strauss not to forget the urn.

It was a reference to the confidence of the Australian team, but Strauss took it in good spirit.

“I didn’t see it myself but I think it’s the fun and games of the Ashes,” he said.

“That’s the great thing about this Ashes series. Australians and English people, they get down and support their countries. It helps to build-up the series.”

“In reality the series doesn’t need building up but the banter adds to the atmosphere.”

Strauss believes the Australians will be worried about in-form spinner Graeme Swann, but played down the idea the hosts’ own spin stocks are low.

“Graeme Swann’s been outstanding the last 18 months so he’s going to be a handful for them,” he said.

“I think they’ll be having meetings about how to deal with him and that’s a pretty good starting point.”

“I wouldn’t underestimate their spin department. Nathan Hauritz did a good job over here, but ultimately we’ve got to be prepared for opportunities to get on top of their bowling attack.”