Lessons learned ahead of India tour - Strauss
For the first time at a post-match presentation this year Andrew Strauss wore a broad grin as England ended a run of four straight Test defeats with a comprehensive eight-wicket victory. It was enough for them to retain the No. 1 ranking, but for Strauss the most important aspect was to have seen his side emerge from a difficult period with important lessons learned.
Having fallen apart against spin in the preceding four matches England's top-order finally offered the team's outstanding bowling attack support for their efforts. Strauss is confident that the batsmen have made significant strides in playing in subcontinental conditions, which they will encounter again at the end of the year in India.
"We've been seeing in the nets for a while the guys have been forced to re-look at their games," he said. "It's easy to say we're experienced cricketers and we should have known it earlier but I do think to a certain extent DRS has changed things and we've had to look at our techniques, and I think we've come through that. Everyone looks better now than they did at the start of the winter.
"It's always a shame when you've got to be handed a few defeats to make sure you really do look at it. We're excited. India's still a long way off, but we've got some good lessons we can put in the bank. Now we've got to get back to England and remember how to play swing and seam bowling."
Graeme Swann was the matchwinner over the last couple of days as he secured career-best match figures of 10 for 181, his second ten-wicket haul in Tests, to follow Kevin Pietersen's scintillating 151 as he threw off the shackles.
"I thought James Anderson wasn't really rewarded for his bowling, he bowled outstandingly well," Strauss said. "Graeme Swann showed his value to the side once again, creating trouble all the way through. And Kevin in particular took the game away from the opposition in the way only he can. It's always pretty demoralising for the opposition to see KP in full flight. It was an outstanding innings and it gave us the impetus and momentum we needed to win the game.
"I think we were all under a bit pressure coming into this game to make sure we showed we'd learned some of the lessons from our defeats over the last four Test matches. It looked like an easy victory but we knew that out in the middle it was very, very hard to prise out wickets and at times it was hard to score runs as well. I saw a steely determination on everyone's part to make sure we finished the winter on a high and it was fantastic to be able to do that."
The lowest moment of England's recent run came in the second-innings run chase against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi as they crumbled to 72 chasing 145. When Strauss fell in the first over of this pursuit, bowled by Tillakaratne Dilshan for a duck, it may have opened old wounds but England powered their way to the target.
"They're horrible chases because everyone expects you to win, it's almost like trying to sink a three-foot putt - you know it should go in but it doesn't always," he said. "We were determined to make sure we didn't make the same mistakes as we did in Abu Dhabi; determined to be a bit more proactive about things and Cooky and KP today did that exceptionally well."
Like his counterpart Mahela Jayawardene, Strauss acknowledged the importance of Swann's double-wicket over in the dying moments of the fourth day that gave England a much more favourable chance to wrapping up the victory. "The guys were knackered," he said. "It was a long day and they raised the intensity and the tempo over those ten overs. Sometimes you don't get what you deserve but on that occasion we did."
Strauss, though, was not getting carried by a single success and a shared series. There remain issues against good spin bowling - Rangana Herath took 19 wickets in the two matches - and the first-innings total of 460 was the only time the batting order clicked in either the UAE or Sri Lanka.
"I don't think any of us are the finished article, you never are in cricket," he said. "Questions are asked, you find an answer and another question is asked. It's been a hard tour, conditions are tough, we're very pleased and proud to have got something out of this series but we move on as you always do in international cricket."
Edited by Alan Gardner
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo