England skipper Andrew Strauss has set his sights on a victorious Ashes series in Australia, telling his squad that a triumph Down Under would be a career highlight.
England have not beaten Australia in an away Ashes series since Mike Gatting masterminded a victorious campaign in 1986-1987. But with England leapfrogging Australia in the latest International Cricket Council world rankings, Strauss believes his side have the ability to end the two-decade losing streak.
"We've really been targeting this series because an Ashes win in Australia can be a defining moment in your career," Strauss told Sky Sports News yesterday.
"You never know how it's going to play out there, how difficult or easy it might be, but what you've got to do is be as prepared as possible, be prepared for anything. "When you're there there's a lot of off-field things to do deal with, being away from home for a long time, but if you deal with that well, it gives you a good chance of playing well on the field." Strauss said England would head into the Ashes full of confidence after a successful summer which featured series over Bangladesh and Pakistan. "We're in a good place as a side," Strauss said.
"We've made a lot of improvement over the last 18 months or so. "We're aware it's a tough assignment going to Australia and winning, very tough, but we're in a good place to do it. We're quietly confident we can do it without being over-the-top arrogant. "We need to play well out there, we need to be consistent and in the really crucial sessions we need to make sure we play well. "But we're really excited and just ticking down the hours now."
While Australia had just suffered a 2-0 loss to India, Strauss believes that series result will be irrelevant when the Ashes gets under way.
"The conditions in India are so different," he said. "They've obviously lost a few Tests and have a few questions they need to iron out and that might preoccupy them where we don't have that. "But we know from past experience that as soon as you arrive in Australia, from day one things get pretty tough.
"They're a proud side, their record in Australia is outstanding and we're expecting therm to be at their best this winter so if we want to beat them we have to be better than that."