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Test Match: Pakistan series win essential for Ashes chances

Andrew Strauss admits England still have room for improvement as they bid for the series victory against Pakistan they will need if they are to set off for Australia with confidence intact.

Strauss sees a potentially difficult four-match series against Salman Butt's tourists starting today as an opportunity to continue a progression which began with last summer's wins over West Indies and then in the Ashes.

Anything but another success, over a developing team who have just drawn 1-1 against Australia themselves, would be a significantly inconvenient dent to England's hopes of retaining the urn Down Under for the first time in almost a quarter of a century.

England's most recent Test assignment was a routine 2-0 win at home to Bangladesh, since when they have been involved in one-day international series before a mid-summer recess.

“We're not necessarily where we want to be, but I think we're making improvements,” said Strauss. “My first series in charge we lost to the West Indies, then beat the West Indies and won the Ashes.

“I think there's a nice progression there — but there are areas we need to improve, no doubt about that. This Test series gives us an opportunity to do that.”

England had to call up Tim Bresnan for his fellow Yorkshire all-rounder Ajmal Shahzad, after the latter aggravated an ankle injury. But Strauss could breathe a sigh of relief after key batsman Kevin Pietersen emerged unscathed when he fell over a football in warm-up yesterday, at the start of a series in which the decision review system returns.

Potential for controversy is perhaps augmented by the presence of DRS, because it is still a new toy to many players.

There are more pressing issues for Strauss and company, though — not least how to defy a Pakistani bowling attack which saw off Australia for only 88 in helpful conditions in the first innings at Headingley last week.

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