England in Sri Lanka 2011-12 March 14, 2012

Strauss focusses on preparation

ESPNcricinfo staff

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."

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  • Michael on March 15, 2012, 17:51 GMT

    @TheHoneymonster: Well, you may be right, but we can only guess at what Flower really felt at the time and what is being said with the benefit of hindsight. The parallel with India's tour to England is particularly relevant in that the current India coach used to be England's coach too, and during his time working with England winter after winter he used to get criticised for inadequately preparing touring squads. But when the team were victorious (e.g., in West Indies in 2004 and South Africa in 2004-5) the critics largely shut up; it's only when the team gets thrashed (as in Australia 2006-7 and in UAE 2012) that people start claiming "I told you so". I don't know if Flower like Fletcher is/was really the one to blame, but the evidence seems to be that whoever is organising these tours hasn't really learnt lessons which have been talked about for ten years, and so long as the team can pull off results occasionally, nothing is going to change.

  • Roo on March 15, 2012, 15:21 GMT

    @yorkshirematt... Thanks mate :) ... Didn't realise that this series was so short... Yet Englad brought 4 spinners?... A bit confused!... Sad really & doesn't do much for England but thats cricket today :( ...

  • Samuel on March 15, 2012, 13:44 GMT

    AVDS - I hope you don't mind me typing that, it's a long 'un otherwise! - that's what they would say though, isn't it? India said the same thing at first about their preparation in England, but I'm sure they weren't happy with it. I read in a few places that Andy Flower especially wasn't happy with only two three-day games. Having said that, I think it was the lay-off beforehand that exacerbated it; two warm up games coming straight off the limited overs games in India for example, and it would have been less of a problem. And zenboomerang - there is no one day cricket on the tour! A shrewd move by Sri Lanka I think, depriving the current T20 champs a chance to play in their conditions before the World Cup there later in the year... it's certainly what I'd have done :P

  • Randolph on March 15, 2012, 10:57 GMT

    England were shown up for how good they truly are against Pakistan, and that is well below average. SL, while not as good as Pakistan, should put up a good fight and should win or draw the series.

  • Randolph on March 15, 2012, 10:54 GMT

    Monty is outbowling Swann again, how embarassing. The talent truly is paper thin in England. The batting line up reminds me of a house of cards. Remove the bottom rung (Cook) and they all come tumbling down.

  • Matthew on March 15, 2012, 10:53 GMT

    @zenboomerang There are no ODIs ot T20s just two tests.

  • John on March 15, 2012, 10:08 GMT

    @landl47 on (March 15 2012, 03:10 AM GMT) - Sorry , I don't mean to be argumentative but you say about them being underprepared. There was an article on this site about them doing a training camp somewhere on the SC. Then they play 2 warm up matches and batsmen 4-6 still look bad. Then after 2 tests (4 more inns) the batsmen still look no better.And then we get Flower after every test saying that lessons had been learnt etc and what happens - the same thing in the next test. I'm not sure what the problems were - maybe they were mentally psyched out and didn't deal with the pressure too well.Maybe it was the fact that for the first time in a while they were facing a decent bowling attack and could not deal with it. Also the bowlers were in the same boat re no 1st class cricket in that time and they did ok. I just got a little fed up with Flower's hollow words after every defeat

  • Michael on March 15, 2012, 10:00 GMT

    @ landl47: there may be a point about England's preparation for the series against Pakistan, and it certainly seems to be one those close to the England camp are keen to mention as an excuse, but it is certainly a point only being made with the benefit of hindsight. Strauss and co. seemed very happy to have the press (including cricinfo) praising them for their 'meticulous' preparation prior to that series (principally on account of arranging that fixture against the Associates XI). @ voma: I wouldn't be so dismissive of the current Australia team; some people were also writing off Australia for 'years to come' in May 1989. While it may be true that Sri Lanka and particularly the current crop of Sri Lankan bowlers represent less of a threat, the lesson from the tour of UAE for England should be not to get so complacent again

  • Roo on March 15, 2012, 9:17 GMT

    Glad to see Strauss is switching off from the heavy spin focus that seemed to mentally drain the Test team in UAE - too much self focus on weaknesses takes away from your strengths & batting style... The batters just need to get back into the groove & play sensible cricket...

  • Roo on March 15, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    @landl47... Agree - Sri Lanka have some wonderful players but England must surely go in short favorites to win both the Tests & ODI's... T20 is more just luck on the day cricket & less about a well rounded cricket team... SL haven't the quality in strike pace bowlers, so like for Oz in SL it was a battle between our bowlers & their batters - same happened against India at home... Get your bowlers fired up & you should walk away with the series...

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