Strauss: We need a bit of time to let the dust settle

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The Independent Online

Those who are calling for immediate change in England's Test team may be disappointed. It is, of course, the convention to call for multiple sackings, a few axeings and probably a beheading or two when teams are defeated as comprehensively as England have been in the past month.

In losing the third Test by 71 runs yesterday to Pakistan, they ensured their seventh whitewash, the first since the team led by Andrew Flintoff lost 5-0 to Australia five years ago. That led to the resignation as coach of Duncan Fletcher and Flintoff never led England again.

The scope of the bloodletting this time will be extremely limited and siren calls are unlikely to be answered. In considering the prospect of change shortly after the presentation of several pieces of sponsors' silverware yesterday, more of which went to England than they strictly merited, Andrew Strauss, the England captain, dampened the ardour of the mob.

"Who knows, it would be wrong for me to speculate on that," he said. "There are some good young players around but they're young and they're inexperienced and some of them are getting a little bit more of a taste in the shorter forms of the game which is an opportunity for them to show their skills.

"I think we have some really good talent in English cricket. In that sense, that's a good thing but I still believe that by and large the best players in England at the moment are out here in Dubai and the challenge is for those players to improve and get better."

Strauss's measured tones did not perhaps meet the immediate emotion of the occasion, but he was right of course. Nobody was calling for wholesale droppings before the series in the UAE because four of the top six in England's order were considered the bee's knees, another was the captain himself who was virtually inviolate and the other, Eoin Morgan, was a promising work in progress.

The bookmakers got to work almost as quickly as the mob because that is their job. Morgan, who made his top score in the series yesterday of 31, and Ian Bell, who made a total of 49 runs, are odds-on favourites to be dropped for the series in Sri Lanka next month.

But replacements will not be easily found, partly because they are not ready, partly because no one except the Test team has played first-class cricket since September.

"No one has got a right to play for England forever," said Strauss. "That's patently wrong but I think it's important that we take a bit of time to let the dust settle, start thinking about what went wrong individually and what components the team needs to function properly and win out here."

No one has yet come up with an answer to why this has happened because no one expected a 3-0 reversal. The long rest that England had (and needed) late last year has been put forward as one reason, their failure to adapt quickly enough to the demands is more plausible and Pakistan simply being too good perfectly rational.

"The challenges out here are unique and you need to be able to adapt your game to the conditions and also the Pakistan bowlers are unique," said Strauss. "It's quite hard to prepare for that without facing them.

"Certainly we regret the way we played against them in the first Test because that allowed their confidence to grow and affected ours to a certain extent."

Mohsin Khan, Pakistan's interim coach said it was a dream come true. Misbah-ul-Haq, the deeply impressive captain, said: "Our spin bowlers were brilliant. They outclassed England's batsmen." And they did.

The series in figures


Times England have suffered whitewashes in Test series:

1920-21 (a) Aus 5-0 1979-80 (a) Aus 3-0 1984 (h) W Ind 5-0 1985-86 (a) W Ind 5-0 1992-93 (a) India 3-0 2006-07 (a) Aus 5-0


Number of centuries by England, the first time this has happened since the 1999 defeat by New Zealand


England's batting average, their second lowest ever in a series of three Tests or more


The last time a team won a Test despite being bowled out for fewer than 100 in their first innings


Ian Bell's average (career average: 47.01)KP's average (career: 48.69)


48 @ 15.64

Wickets taken by Pakistan spinnersWickets taken by Saeed Ajmal

24 @ 14.70