Strauss: Valuable lessons we can put in bank for India
A single victory in Colombo is not enough to dilute the memory of England's difficulties this winter, but Andrew Strauss hopes his team's heartening win at P Sara Stadium will ensure certain mistakes are not repeated again.
England were as convincing during the Test here as they had been fallible in the four that preceded it. Sri Lanka's triumph in Galle last week followed three wins for Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year, with England's inability to quell the threat of spin bowling a constant factor in the four Tests.
After they have completed the summer, which comprises three Tests apiece against West Indies and South Africa, England must face the challenge of slow bowling once more. Four Tests against India, whose pride was wounded by their 4-0 whitewash in England last year, will be another examination of the team's mental and technical abilities.
Strauss understands the scale of the task, but his team's performance here leaves him optimistic that it can be accomplished. Despite losing the toss, England nearly always held the edge, and their series-levelling, eight-wicket win reflected that superiority.
Strauss is optimistic that when the Indian tour begins, England's cricket will be enhanced because of their experiences here and against Pakistan. There is every chance, too, that the full Decision Review System, which has made batsmen rethink their approach to spin bowling to try to avoid being out lbw, will not be used as the Indian board remain unconvinced by its accuracy.
"We've been seeing in the nets for a while that the guys have been forced to look again at their games," said Strauss. "It's easy to say that we're experienced cricketers and that we should have known these things earlier, but the DRS has changed things, to a certain extent.
"We've had to look at our techniques and I think we've come through that, and everyone looks better now than they did at the start of the winter. It's always a shame that you have to be handed a few defeats to make sure you really do look at things, but you can't change that.
"We're excited. India is still a long way off, but we've got some good lessons we can put in the bank. We've got to get back to England and remember how to play swing and seam bowling now."
For some members of the squad, cricket in India will come much sooner. Kevin Pietersen was due to fly there today to begin a stint with Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League.
Pietersen had a particularly difficult time against Pakistan and struggled in the First Test in Galle, but he was named man of the match here. His 151 in the first innings, when he appeared to be playing on a different pitch to every other batsman, set up the game for England, and his unbeaten 42 from 28 deliveries in the second innings ensured the tourists reached their target with ease.
Not everybody in English cricket is convinced of the value of the IPL to the country's elite players, but Pietersen offered a different view. He believes that extra time spent in Asian conditions will benefit the Test team.
"The great thing about the IPL is that today, tomorrow and Tuesday, I can spend hours in the nets," Pietersen said. "You've always got people wanting to bowl to you and wanting to get you out in the nets, so I see it as an opportunity. It's a chance for me to improve the way I play spin bowling and to improve my technique in the subcontinent, so it's a massive bonus and I'm very lucky."
England's win also guaranteed that they will begin the summer still the top-ranked side in Test cricket. Had they lost or drawn, they would have been displaced by South Africa. Strauss added: "We're proud to have got something from the series."
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