England must learn to play in Asia - Strauss
Andrew Strauss has warned that England must learn the lessons of their 3-0 series whitewash at the hands of Pakistan or face more misery in Asian conditions.
England's 71-run loss in the third Test in Dubai condemned them to a 3-0 defeat in their first series since officially becoming ranked the No. 1 Test team. It was also the first series whitewash England had suffered since the 5-0 Ashes loss of 2006-07 and only the seventh in their history. With a two-Test tour to Sri Lanka coming up next month and a tour of India before Christmas, Strauss knows England have to improve in these conditions if they are to retain any hope of remaining the top-ranked side.
Strauss, England's Test captain, admitted that his team would do some "soul searching" over the coming days but insisted they would conduct a full debrief before making any decisions over the future of certain players. The positions of Ian Bell (who averaged 8.5 in the series), Kevin Pietersen (11.16) and Eoin Morgan (13.66) are all likely to come under scrutiny after England succumbed to their first series defeat since they lost to the West Indies in early 2009 and the first since Andy Flower was appointed to the position of permanent coach.
"We can't ignore this result and just say it's an aberration," Strauss said. "That would not help us. This was an eye-opener and a wake-up call and with two more tours on the subcontinent coming up, things won't get easier. We have to be up for this challenge.
"We have to look at the reasons we lost. We have to look at our preparation, our training, our techniques and our temperament. It would be wrong for us to ignore these things, but we also need to remain true to what has worked well in the past.
"No-one has a right to play for England forever. It would be patently wrong for us to think like that. But we also need to take time to let the dust settle. We need to look at what went wrong individually. Hopefully over the next week or two, things will become clearer.
"I have great faith in our batsmen," Strauss continued. "I think they are some of best be in world, but I am disappointed we haven't coped better. I haven't been involved in a series where so many batsmen have had a hard time. We all have some questions to answer and soul searching into how we can do things better. There was a consistent failure on our part. If you keep getting bowled out for 140 or 150 you're not going to win many Test matches. We could and should have been better."
Andy Flower, the England coach, suggested the long lay-off his players had enjoyed before the series might have been a contributory factor to the result. Before this tour England had not played Test cricket since the series against India finished in August last year and no cricket at all since the limited-overs series in October.
"Looking back now, I don't think we were ready," Flower said. "I shoulder that side of the blame because it was my decision to give them that time off. We won't let that happen again.
"We spent a couple of months out of the game and not doing a lot while Pakistan were beating Sri Lanka and working hard to beat Bangladesh and that hardened them up for this contest. Certainly during that rest time, our team and support staff were all being lauded and, while that was happening, Pakistan were working hard at their game and beating international opposition. Consequently one side was sharp and ready and one side wasn't and we've got to do something about that."
Flower also expressed his faith in the batting line-up, but confessed he was surprised at how they had struggled in the series. "We do have a lot of faith in our players and that faith has been justified over a long period of time," he said. "But we've obviously underperformed here badly. I've been surprised by how poorly we've batted.
"We have to take the lessons that have been learned here and improve our skills and improve out method for the Sri Lanka tour. A number of our big players have underperformed in this series. It was the first time that so many of our established Test crickets were out of runs and not feeling as confident as they usually do and not as clear in their method as they usually are."
Misbah-ul-Haq, meanwhile, said the whitewashing of England has sent "a strong message that the Pakistan team are back in cricket."
Pakistan's captain hailed his side's "wonderful achievement" after leading them to victory in the third Test. It was the fifth time that Pakistan had achieved a whitewash in a series of three matches or more.
Victory was especially sweet for Misbah given the context in which the series was played. The previous time these teams met, in 2010, the series was soured by allegations of corruption that subsequently led to three of the Pakistan team receiving jail sentences. The episode tarnished the reputation of Pakistan cricket and forced the side to rebuild with a new captain and several new players. Now, however, Misbah feels Pakistan cricket is in the news for the right reasons.
"We showed that we are a power in the cricketing world again," Misbah said. "Now is the time to give importance to the Pakistan team again. It is a wonderful thing for us. I can't describe in words how important this series was for our team.
"We just came out of such problems. But the way we have come out and the way we are progressing is wonderful. Everyone was ignoring us, but now they have to look at Pakistan cricket."
Pakistan, who were dismissed for just 99 on the first day of this game, also became the first team since 1907 to win a Test after being bowled out for under 100 in the first innings. Pakistan responded by limited England's first innings lead to 42, before centuries from Azhar Ali and Younis Khan seized the initiative for the hosts.
"Our bowlers did a wonderful job," Misbah said. "They cut down the lead and we knew that, if we were only behind by 100 on the first innings, we were still in the game. Then Azhar Ali and Younis Khan batted wonderfully. Their batting was the main thing that brought us back into the game."
Having proved their potency in these conditions, Misbah agreed that his team would be defined by their success overseas. "That's another challenge," Misbah said, "but this team loves challenges. We have it in our mind. We are focused on proving ourselves outside Pakistan.
"If you saw us in New Zealand, though, you would know we can do it. Conditions there were not easy for our team, but we performed well there and in the West Indies. We are looking forward to playing in South Africa and Australia and we will start our preparation now."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo