KEEPING LORD'S WORLD CLASS
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England captain Andrew Strauss says he's "refreshed, invigorated and ready to go" ahead of the first Test of the English summer at Lord's.
Strauss' England take on Bangladesh at the Home of Cricket - starting on Thursday 27 May.
The skipper returns to the fold after he and the England selectors took the controversial decision to rest the captain from the winter tour.
The opening batsman certainly looked relaxed and refreshed, back in familiar surroundings at Lord's:
"I'm very well rested." Strauss admitted. "I've had a decent period off. I'm just very excited about the next couple of weeks."
Does Strauss feel his 'rest', much criticised at the time, places extra pressure on him to perform well on his return?
"No, I don’t think there’s any extra pressure. The people that matter, the selectors and the ECB, know the reasons for me having that rest. Hopefully those will become apparent into this series and beyond.
"We have to manage players’ workload if we want to be consistently successful going forward.
In Strauss' absence, Alastair Cook skippered the side to a clean-sweep of wins on the tour of Bangladesh. More recently one-day captain Paul Collingwood led England to their first ever ICC trophy in the World Twenty20 - does that add to the pressure on the returning captain?
"I don’t feel any extra pressure in that sense. I’m excited about this summer, I really want to have a good one with the bat and captaining as well."
"It was great for Alastair to have that experience in Bangladesh and I think he did an incredible job. I think he’s learned a lot from it and it will benefit him greatly having done that.
"Paul Collingwood’s obviously an experienced campaigner and a good mate of mine. The fact they’ve been through those experiences can only help them and the team."
Is it a no-win situation for Strauss? Cook's clean sweep away from home - surely, at home, anything less than a thrashing of Bangladesh is 'failure'?
"In that sense, maybe it is a no-win situation.
"I think we prefer to look at it from what we’re trying to achieve in the next few weeks against Bangladesh and that’s the quality of our play. If the quality of our play is good enough then we’ll be ok and we’ll be successful against them.
"These sorts of series are always a potential banana skin. We saw it out in Bangladesh. They’re not a walkover. They’ve got some good players. If they’re inexperienced in English conditions then we need to make sure we make that count."
Most changes to England's squad are well publicised - Stuart Broad and Collingwood rested - but what of the 'new man' in the squad, new Dad Kevin Pietersen?
"I’ve seen a few of his baby photos! He’s obviously very proud and happy and blown away by what’s happened.
"Kevin’s in a great place at the moment. Mentally he’s very happy with himself. I think having a family can give you a great perspective on Test cricket.
"I think [fatherhood] can change people in different ways but ultimately it gives you that sense of perspective.
"If you have a couple of bad innings you have other things in your life that make you wake-up and smile and realise life’s not so bad.
"In cricketing terms, that’s quite important. One of things about being in bad nick is that you can’t get too down on yourself. It can help you grow up I suppose, more than anything."
And what of those, literally, less grown-up additions to the squad, youngsters like Ajmal Shahzad and Strauss' Middlesex team-mates Steve Finn and Eoin Morgan?
"Playing a Test match at Lord’s is an incredibly special occasion, no matter who the opposition is. The likelihood is that at least two of them will be making their English debut.
"It’s a very special time for those guys. The energy and enthusiasm they bring to the squad rubs off on the rest of us and helps us remember how lucky we are to be representing our country as well.
"I’ve been playing pretty much non-stop with Steven for the past seven weeks. I think I know how he’s looking to take his wickets - which is important.
"Eoin Morgan... he’s a class act. He’s really strong, a solid temperament."
Strauss is more than familiar with the Lord's pitch - though a flurry of wickets here in county matches may change things.
Might Strauss be tempted to break the cardinal rule of Tests? Might he win the toss and bowl?
"You make your decision based on the conditions. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a bowl first if the conditions dictate that’s the right way to go.
"I think one of the things that’s important at the toss is to try and bear in mind how things might pan out over five days and not just the first day.
"I know the Lord’s wicket fairly well having played here quite a few times. It’s actually done quite a lot here this year for Middlesex - at this stage it looks a really good wicket.
"I think the new rules in county cricket - not having a heavy roller - have made a big difference. We don’t have that in Test matches.
"In May there’s always going to be some movement at Lord’s. Ultimately, against the older ball, batting’s still going to be quite enjoyable.
"A Lord’s Test match - the players always love coming here. It’s the Test match by which all others are measured by.
"The way MCC does things, the little touches they put on things really make it an incredibly special occasion and this week will be no different."
Make sure you're here for the "special occasion" of the first Test match of the English summer.