Strauss focused on 'massive' game

  • Last Updated: August 1 2012, 17:57 BST

Andrew Strauss knows even a series-levelling Headingley victory for England will have to defer to compatriots' medals at the London Olympics.

Andrew Strauss: Huge Test for England

But the England captain made it clear he will not mind one bit about conceding the limelight to British Olympians - as long as his own job is done too.

It is an onerous task facing Strauss and his team-mates in Leeds, where they must somehow erase the misery of their innings defeat at The Oval and resist South Africa's fearsome challenge for their world number one Test ranking.

One more success, in this middle match of three, will give Graeme Smith's tourists a series victory already - as well as knocking England off a perch for which they strove so hard and have occupied for under a year.

Strauss confirmed 22-year-old batsman James Taylor will make his Test debut, and gave further credence to the outside chance of an all-seam attack and rare absence therefore for off-spinner Graeme Swann.

Those details of selection will, of course, play a significant part in the outcome at a venue noted for its dramatic turns of events and compelling cricket down the years.

Strauss' priorities, though, are to ensure his team put The Oval properly behind them - and to lead from the front with opener's runs.

As for the Olympics, he will remain an interested and partisan observer - but one who has urgent matters to attend to elsewhere.

"This is a massive game of cricket for us, and the fact you might only get one page at the back of the paper rather than four is of no consequence," he said.

"We've just got to make sure we win this game. That is what our focus is on, and what it has to be on.

"If we lose it we lose that ranking as well, which will hurt."

Athletes' deeds down south may provide a passing diversion to help England's cricketers preserve focus and energy as they train their sights on South Africa.

"Obviously when we're not on cricket duty it is great for us to watch them compete, and we're rooting with everyone else for us to get some gold medals," Strauss said.

"But we've got to divorce the two completely; if someone wins a gold medal, that is not going to help me get a hundred tomorrow unfortunately."

How England could do with one of those from their captain too, after the unequal first Test.

Then, Strauss' opening partner Alastair Cook made a first-innings century - but almost nothing else went right for the hosts.

Strauss is nonetheless convinced England can turn things around, as they have so often.

"I'm very confident," he said. "There's clearly a steely determination among the troops to show we are better than what we showed last week.

"It's going to take a little bit of character and guts, but I know we've got a bit of that in the squad."

England held a well-chronicled team meeting in the aftermath of their trouncing at The Oval, but have wasted no time since picking over where they went wrong.

Even so, Strauss himself inevitably had to face those questions.

"Maybe there were areas we could have done things differently planning-wise, but you have those regrets with the benefit of hindsight," he said.

"Our preparations have been about getting plans right for this particular ground - which is very different to The Oval - and it is important we commit to those plans and deliver our skills.

"We've put that game to bed - and a lot of the chat and talk over the last few days, in fact all of it, has been about this game.

"There is no point dwelling too much on what happened last week.

"Conditions are going to be different here; the challenges are going to be different here.

"We need to make sure we're in a good position to react well to those challenges and overcome them rather than thinking too much about what went on last week.

"It's important not to start navel-gazing too much, keep your heads high - and do the simple things well to give yourself the best chance of winning the game."

Two of Strauss' pressing concerns will be the balance of his attack and his individual response to the threat posed by fast bowler Morne Morkel, who dismissed him for nought on the first morning of the series.

"If you go in with an all-seam attack you put all your eggs in one basket to a certain extent," he said.

"But if you think the wicket is going to really help seam that is definitely an option."

As for Morkel, once again Strauss will not be obsessing about what has gone before.

"He's a good bowler obviously - but opening the batting in international cricket, you always have good bowlers to face," said the captain.

"It doesn't matter who gets you out as long as you get runs.

"That is my challenge, to go out there and lead from the front with some big runs this week."