Strauss laughs off Oz Big Ben Ashes taunt

'Mischievous stuff helps to build up the series'

 Australia fired the first salvo in mental warfare ahead of the Ashes with this provocative image on the side of London’s Big Ben on Wednesday night. AFP

Cricket Australia had projected a provocative image of skipper Ricky Ponting and his vice-captain Michael Clarke on the side of London's Big Ben on Wednesday night with the giant message 'Don't forget to pack the urn'.

Speaking at Lord's on the eve of England's departure, Strauss smiled when asked about the 'sledging'.

"I didn't see it myself but I think it is the fun and games of the Ashes," he said. "There's a bit of mischievous stuff going on here and there and that helps to build up the series."
Strauss said he expected England players to be targeted by their opponents as they sought to retain the Ashes and win a Test series in Australia for the first time since 1986-87.

England were whitewashed 5-0 on their last Ashes tour four years ago. "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," he said.

"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," he added.

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

"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."

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.
Reuters

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