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June 20, 2011
Andrew Strauss had plenty to be frustrated about as England's Test series against Sri Lanka dribbled to a damp conclusion at the Rose Bowl on Monday. He was frustrated by the weather that closed in once again at tea; he was frustrated by his own dropped catch off Rangana Herath in the morning session that might have prised an opportunity for England to press for victory. And he was frustrated by his personal return of 27 runs in four innings, which now means he'll be playing for Somerset against the Indian tourists next month, in a bid to find form before the first Test at Lord's.
In the bigger picture, however, Strauss had plenty more reasons to be content. Thanks to Sri Lanka's extraordinary collapse in the first Test at Cardiff, his team did at least emerge with the series win that their dominance undoubtedly deserved, while his own struggles against the left-arm seam of Chanaka Welegedara were counterbalanced by the composed form of pretty much every other member of his team. With the world's No. 1 Test side waiting in the wings, England look ready for a battle royale.
"We're looking forward to the challenge of taking on India, and hope we can be a difficult proposition for them," he said. "I think we're in good shape. A lot of the batsmen got a lot of runs in this series and are in good form; our bowling attack in this game was exceptional and at times at Cardiff was very good as well. We're a confident team, and we're used to winning and putting opposition teams under pressure - which we did against Sri Lanka.
"I think it's going to be a pretty significant series," he added. "We know India are a very confident side in their own right and are used to winning themselves. We've got our home conditions, and we back ourselves to beat anyone in them, but it's going to be a tough series and will hinge on those important moments and sessions - and we've got to make sure we're able to grasp them."
With that in mind, Strauss's post-match focus was on the fine-tuning that went awry on the final day at the Rose Bowl, as a team that had been under the cosh since the first innings found enough resilence, through Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera, to bat through to the draw. "We just couldn't create chances," he said. "We had that one chance against Herath that was put down, and that might have made a slight difference. But they're a good batting side. The wicket was a bit more placid today and two good players got stuck in."
Had the match not lost 184 overs to rain, Sri Lanka would have struggled to build enough of a lead to stave off defeat, especially with England's batting looking at its most formidable for a generation. But looking ahead to the visit of India, it is the performance of England's bowlers that was the biggest plus to come out of this series. Though they struggled with their lines at Lord's and lacked penetration today, the variety and threat posed by each different member bodes well for the visit of one of the most feared batting units in the world.
Chris Tremlett was named Man of the Series for his 15 wickets at 23.40, including a career-best haul of 6 for 48 in the first innings at the Rose Bowl, and Strauss believed he complemented the attack perfectly. "He did an outstanding job here. This wicket is in some ways tailor-made for him, with the extra carry and bounce, but he made good batsmen look under pressure - and that's a great testament to his aggression and bounce and awkward lift and swing.
"He's certainly added a different dimension to our bowling line-up since he came into the team, and he's very much at the peak of his powers at the moment. I'm sure batsmen later on in the summer will struggle against him as well. This is one of those series that never really got going, but we're very happy to have won it and move on still in a jubilant mood."
Aside from Strauss, England's other form concern was Stuart Broad, whose effectiveness was further hampered on the final day by a bruised heel. Nevertheless, after being stripped of the new ball to make way for Tremlett, he turned in an aggressive performance on the fourth evening that led to the wicket of Mahela Jayawardene, and Strauss was happy to believe he was coming back to his best.
"What he did really well was he just banged out a length consistently, and created scoreboard pressure as well as bowling some really good deliveries," said Strauss. "It just looked like he was in better rhythm, getting it through with good pace and bounce - and I'm sure he will have taken some heart from that spell."
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