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?Friends off field, foes on it?

Kevin Pietersen wants the spirit of cricket maintained even as the mindgames get intense ahead of cricket?s oldest rivalry.

india Updated: Nov 06, 2006 23:15 IST

Tough but fair, and maintain the friendships: That’s what Kevin Pietersen would like to see happen at this year’s Ashes. Pietersen, who has a strong friendship with Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne, said on Monday he was hopeful both sides could continue the sportsmanlike tradition begun last year when England regained the Ashes for the first time in 17 years.

The first of five Tests begin on November 23 in Brisbane, with others scheduled in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. Pietersen said the iconic image of Andrew Flintoff consoling Australia’s Brett Lee after England’s two-run win in the second Test at Edgbaston last year perfectly illustrated the spirit in which the 2005 series was played.

“The whole world media took note of that and the way the series was played was fantastic,” Pietersen said. “That’s how sport should be played. I play this game to enjoy it, to challenge myself and to go out and make friends. I don’t see any reason why anybody should be fighting and shouting and arguing and complaining and going at each other on and off the field.”

Pietersen said his friendship with his Hampshire teammate Warne spurred both players on when facing each other. “He wants to get me out more than he does somebody else so he can rib me,” he said. “I don’t think (the mateship) works to my advantage because when he crosses that white line and I cross the white line and we’re out there playing for our countries, we’re making sure we can do the best job.”

Strauss urges team to fight

Meanwhile, England vice-captain Andrew Strauss has urged teammates to fight “fire with fire” and not be bullied by the reputation of Australia’s senior cricketers.

England will have their first serious session in the nets on Tuesday, ahead of their tour opening one-day match against a Prime Minister’s XI in Canberra on Friday. Strauss implored his team to play Australia’s most two experienced bowlers on merit and not reputation.

“It’s easy to get lured into thinking that every ball from (Shane) Warne or (Glenn) McGrath is going to be an unplayable delivery, and that’s a trap we must try to avoid,” Strauss said.

“One of the plus points of our performance last year was we played the ball rather than the bowler, which is going to be important again this winter. If our batsmen learned one salutary lesson last year, it was that the only way to play the Aussies is to take them on.

“When you try to hang around or you are content just to occupy the crease and survive, you are liable to come unstuck because they just swarm all over you. But if you answer fire with fire — and pick the right balls to go after — it is possible to live with them as (injured captain) Michael Vaughan showed on the last Ashes tour.”

First Published: Nov 06, 2006 23:15 IST