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    Strauss excited by Ashes challenge


    by ODN


    England captain Andrew Strauss declared himself in a state of "relaxed excitement" as he prepared to lead his side Down Under for the Ashes.

    Strauss and the rest of the England players fly out to Perth on Friday for five Tests and a limited-over series against Ricky Ponting's men.

    And while the Middlesex batsman admitted he would relish the battle, he was doing his best to stay calm with the first Test not due to get under way until November 25 at the Gabba in Brisbane.

    When asked if he felt England were in better shape than last time they toured Australia, when they relinquished the urn following a 5-0 thrashing, he said: "I think so yes. We have had a lot of success over the last 18 months so confidence levels are very high.

    "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."

    Strauss concedes, however, that the series will hinge on which side delivers when it really matters.

    He added: "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."