Strauss focusses on preparation
England captain Andrew Strauss is anticipating a tough test of his side in Sri Lanka but insists that they can take the heat.
England succumbed to a 3-0 Test series defeat against Pakistan in the UAE with a failure to adapt to the conditions and the Pakistan spinners seen as major factors in their downfall.
Strauss is expecting conditions in Sri Lanka to prove even tougher. While his batsmen are likely to be tested by spin once again, they now face the added problem of the high heat and humidity of Sri Lanka. Strauss takes comfort from the fact that his side know what to expect, however, with seven of the squad (Ian Bell, James Tredwell, Steven Davies, Monty Panesar, Samit Patel, Matt Prior and Strauss) who were not involved in the limited-overs section of the tour to the UAE, travelling to Sri Lanka early in order to practise and acclimatise under the watchful eye of Graham Gooch. The remainder of the squad joined them on March 10.
England now play two warm-up games, with the first - against the Sri Lanka Board XI - starting on Thursday and the two Test series starting on March 26.
"The conditions here are very different to Dubai," Strauss said. "There's a lot more humidity and the heat is much more of a factor for us out here. Some of us have been here a week now getting used to it and getting used to the challenges. For the guys who have been in England for a while it's the contrast more than anything that gets you.
"Hopefully once the Tests start we'll be very much on top of it. You need to have strategies in place because no matter what sport you're playing, in whatever part of the world, if you overheat then you're in trouble."
None of England's top six averaged more than 26 in the whitewash against Pakistan but Strauss believes the lessons from that contest have already been absorbed and also cautioned the batsmen at only focussing on the spin threat.
"Over the course of the last series we were forced to address a few issues," he said. "To a man, I think the guys did that and we saw some of the benefits in the one-day series.
"But it's important we're not transfixed by spin and concentrate all of our efforts on that. We need to be on the ball against the seamers in the first session of the match. In a lot of Test matches out here, the ball nibbles around a bit on the first day. We've got to make sure we leave no stone unturned so we're not surprised by anything on the pitch."
It is also an important tour for Strauss personally. He failed to score a Test century throughout 2011 and has only scored one in his last 46 innings. He did, however, make a half-century in his final innings of the series against Pakistan and feels a return to form is imminent.
"You always want to be in good form, you always want to lead from the front," Strauss said. "I was quite encouraged by how I started to play towards the end of the Pakistan series and I need to build on that in next couple of Tests. The one-day guys haven't had a lot of time off so I can come back in and add some real impetus and motivation to them having had a decent rest myself."