England 'refreshed' for three-Test series against Pakistan in UAE

Pakistan v England (in United Arab Emirates)

Venues:
Dubai and Abu Dhabi
Dates:
17 January-27 February
Coverage:
Live ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC 5 live sports extra, BBC Radio 4 LW and via BBC Sport website (UK users only); live text commentary on BBC Sport website & mobiles; watch live on Sky Sports

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Strauss looks to cement England number-one spot

Captain Andrew Strauss says England are feeling "refreshed" ahead of their three-Test series against Pakistan in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

England are playing in their first Test series since they beat India 4-0 last August to go top of the world rankings.

"We're very aware that this tour against Pakistan is going to be a very strong challenge for us," said Strauss before boarding the plane to the UAE.

"[But] we're all pretty refreshed and excited and ready to go."

Pakistan are playing their home games in the United Arab Emirates because of security concerns in their homeland.

Strauss also reiterated that cricket must move on from the spot-fixing trial where three players, ex-captain Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, were given prison sentences for conspiring to bowl deliberate no-balls during the Lord's Test in 2010.

"The spot-fixing stuff is something we're desperately keen to move on from," added Strauss. "It's time to just concentrate on cricket."

Pakistan have taken the controversial decision of naming Wahab Riaz, Umar Akmal and Imran Farhat in their squad for the series despite them all being named in the trial of the jailed players.

However, no charges were brought against them and as a result, Strauss has no qualms about their inclusion.

"It's their [Pakistan] obligation and duty to pick the best side they think is available to them," Strauss said. "We will play whichever XI is selected."

"What's happened before, as far as I'm concerned, is water under the bridge and I hope both sides can play the game in the right spirit.

"We should see this series as an opportunity to erode or eradicate the perception that there's always issues between Pakistan and England."

And he predicted a very close battle between the sides: "If anyone has an idea that the series won't be competitive, that's well off the mark. Pakistan have been playing a lot of good cricket."

Strauss's men have won their last six Test series, beating Bangladesh twice, Pakistan, Australia, Sri Lanka and India, with their last series defeat coming against the West Indies in February 2009.

Pakistan, meanwhile, have been on an equally strong run of form. Led by captain Misbah-ul-Haq, they won series against New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as well as drawing a series with West Indies in 2011.

Earlier on Monday, one of Strauss's predecessors as England captain, Andrew Flintoff, said he sank to "an all-time low" during the 2006-7 Ashes whitewash in Australia.

Strauss said: "I think we all had low times on that trip and as captain, with all other jobs he [Flintoff] had to do both as captain, and as a bowler and batsman, you can understand why it hit him pretty hard.

"We've seen a number of examples of cricketers finding it tough when you're away on tour. Expectations are high, your career is on the line and you're away from your support network.

"Ultimately it is something you suffer with in silence, at night, when you're away from other people.

"It's up to players themselves to put their hands up and say I'm struggling and it's also up to all of us to look for signs of that.

"Hopefully it's not something we will be affected by in the near future. We've had a good break and we're not going to be away for incredible lengths of time in near future."

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