Tue, Sep 12, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Strauss low-key about chances of Ashes captaincy

DEFENSE DOWN UNDER England's stand-in skipper played it cool when asked about captaining the Ashes team after leading England well this summer

AFP , BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND

Captain Andrew Strauss played down talk of leading England in their defense of the Ashes after overseeing a three-wicket win here at Edgbaston that saw the side end their one-day series against Pakistan all square at 2-2.

Strauss has skippered England since the end of the home Test series against Sri Lanka in June, when Andrew Flintoff was sidelined with an ankle injury.

At the time England chiefs said that, with last year's Ashes-winning skipper Michael Vaughan already ruled out of the return with a recurrence of his longstanding knee problem, Flintoff would captain the side in Australia later this year.

But England coach Duncan Fletcher is known to be concerned at the extra workload the captaincy would impose on the already heavily-burdened Flintoff, although chairman of selectors David Graveney and third selector Geoff Miller are still thought to be keen on the Lancashire all-rounder skippering the side.

England are due to name their Ashes squad on Tuesday at The Oval, a year to the day since a dramatic draw at the south London ground saw them win an Ashes series for the first time in 19 years.

And Strauss said the fact that England had come from 2-0 down in a five-match one-day series against Pakistan should have no effect on the Ashes leadership.

"I don't think it should have any bearing whatsoever," Strauss said. "I've been captain of the side since June and I think they [the selectors] have got a fair idea of what sort of captain I am and likewise with Fred [Flintoff]. It's obviously getting close to the time to make that decision."

"It's an important time for the selectors to gather their thoughts and decide who's the best man for the job," he added.

"I haven't spent too much time thinking about it," Strauss also told reporters after England had made heavy weather of chasing the 155 they needed for victory on Sunday.

"What's been more important has been trying to get back into this series, which we've done well."

England's victory on Sunday owed much to man-of-the-match Mahmood. The 24-year-old quick, often expensive at this level, took a miserly two for 24 in 10 overs.

Then, after England collapsed to 118 for seven, Mahmood held his nerve with the bat to score an unbeaten 22, with three successive fours off Rana Naved taking the hosts to the brink of victory.

Mahmood, the son of Pakistani immigrants, was booed by large numbers of Pakistan fans in a sell-out 21,000 crowd unhappy with him playing for England.

"He showed what he could do in the Test series. Transfering that to the one-day arena has been tough for him," said Strauss of Mahmood. "He showed a cool head to see us home."

And as for the jeering, Strauss said: "I know Saj does all his talking on the pitch."

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