England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval August 19, 2009

We mustn't try to force the pace - Strauss

Andrew Strauss has told his team to resist the urge to force the pace in their must-win encounter at The Oval and focus instead on wearing Australia down over the first three days. The sides start the fifth Test level at 1-1 on Thursday, but the tourists have the advantage of being able to lift the Ashes urn with a draw.

"We know the situation ahead of us," Strauss said. "We need to win the game, so in a way that helps your clarity of mind and you know what needs to be achieved.

"The important thing about a Test match is that you can't win on day one, you've got to earn the right to win the game and that means playing good, solid cricket for the first three days or so. So it's not a case of particularly forcing the pace, it's about wrestling the initiative away over the course of the first three days."

England were on a high during the middle of the series following their win at Lord's and the draw at Edgbaston, but they gave up their advantage in Leeds and effectively start this game from behind. It is a position they are comfortable with after struggling to build on their lead when they are the frontrunners.

The underdog scenario also reduces the expectation of their fans, the majority of whom feel their side's chances disappeared in three Flintoff-less days at Headingley. "It's a massive game and I know the country are desperate for us to do well and I just struggle not to be very excited about what lies ahead this week," Strauss said. "It's going to be a massive occasion and one that hopefully we'll treasure for the rest of our careers."

Strauss was part of The Oval celebrations in 2005 but said he would feel a new emotion if they upset the tipsters to hold the game's oldest prize on Monday. "It's been a very different series this time," he said. "Last time every game was very close, this time it's been a little bit more see-sawing. From the situation we're in now it would be a great achievement to turn it around and be able to win here this week, but it's just hard to compare the two."

No matter what England do over the next couple of years, it will be the performances, good or bad, against Australia that will stand out. "You gain a huge amount of confidence from winning an Ashes series, but that doesn't necessarily mean you go on and beat all the other teams in the world, as we capably demonstrated last time we won," Strauss said. "Where we stand right at the moment it's all about winning this Ashes series and, rightly or wrongly, players are remembered for what they did in Ashes series."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo