England eager to take out Asian winter frustration on West Indies
World-beating England plan to turn "timid" back into "lethal" as they
take out the frustrations of their Asian winter on the West Indies.
Few can disagree that Andrew Strauss' tourists fell short of their hard-fought number one billing in Test cricket in an awkward eastern expedition which resulted in a 3-0 defeat against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates and then a 1-1 draw in Sri Lanka.
Graeme Swann, for one, is not inclined to deny the collective shortcomings against spin - especially Saeed Ajmal in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
But neither does the off-spinner depict the off-colour winter as symptomatic of deep-seated problems, as many did while England's top six were enduring their unequal struggles in the desert.
Instead, Swann - whose 10-wicket match haul in Colombo ensured the campaign finished on an unaccustomed high - believes 2011/12 was simply a matter of missed opportunities, and that this summer presents a perfect opportunity to restate England's case as the world's best.
They will begin that task in a three-match Investec series against West Indies, set to get under way at Lord's next month, and hope to complete it in a second three-Test assignment with South Africa - their closest pursuers in the International Cricket Council table.
Swann was an ever-present in a winter which also encompassed a one-day international series whitewash defeat, and then Twent20 victory, in India and success in both limited-overs formats against Pakistan.
He said: "There was a general sense of frustration over how we played in the winter.
"I believe we should have won the Test series against Pakistan - we should have won the last two Tests - and we should have been in position to win the series in Colombo as well.
"It is very frustrating. Having fought to get to number one in the world, we could not maintain our performances in the winter."
After two tours in which England's batsmen had to contend with the decision review system as well as opposition spin on slow, turning pitches, Swann identified a diffident approach as the major handicap.
He is confident that can be addressed this summer by a team who had displayed very different, winning characteristics for so long under the guidance of captain Strauss and coach Andy Flower.
"I think we were too timid as a team. I just don't think timid cricket is successful, in that part of the world or anywhere.
"Obviously we struggled against spin in those conditions. But the way KP [Kevin Pietersen] went out and batted (in Colombo) showed how it should be done."
So to the West Indies, and the challenge which can be mustered by a developing team still to conclude their home series against Australia yet due in England next week.
"They are always a bit mercurial. You never know what you're going to get," said Swann.
"They have one of the best fast bowlers in the world in Kemar Roach.
"I always enjoy playing against the West Indies. I think it is going to be a great series."
Swann senses too that he will be on the winning side again - partly because of conditions likely to play into England's hands, if not necessarily his own.
"The great thing for us is the time of the year we are playing, which should suit our bowlers.
"We've shown we can be lethal, with our seam attack, at the start of the summer."
The rains of the past two weeks have dampened the enthusiasm of many a hapless batsman, and plenty of a slow-bowling ilk as well.
But Swann is happy to play the long game, with a resurgent team.
"It might mean I might have to be fairly patient, and pick up some scraps here and there.
"But as long as we're bowling teams out cheaply, that's fine by me anyway."
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