Strauss revels in England triumph
Andrew Strauss hopes to see England at the top of world cricket for a while yet after they retained their position with an eight-wicket victory over Sri Lanka.
Strauss’ side needed to emerge victorious in the second Test at Colombo to stay at the summit of the International Cricket Council Test rankings and, on the back of brilliant performances from Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Swann, did just that.
Pietersen’s remarkable 165-ball 151 gave England a 185-run first-innings lead, which Swann made full use of by taking 6-106 to complete match figures of 10-181.
That ensured Sri Lanka were dismissed for 278, leaving the tourists needing 94 to win - something they managed as Pietersen and Alastair Cook struck 42 and 49 not out respectively in a richly-deserved success.
The victory margin looked comfortable, but Strauss was under no illusions about the mountain England climbed to earn a 1-1 series draw and end a four-match losing run following a 3-0 defeat to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
“We will be number one for a while yet hopefully,” he said. “It looked like a reasonably comfortable victory, but we all know how hard we had to work.
“It has been a tough winter, but we are delighted to come through at the end of it.
“There were some outstanding performances - I thought James Anderson was outstanding again on an unresponsive wicket and Graeme Swann showed his worth to the side once again.”
Strauss, though, reserved particular praise for the brilliant Pietersen.
He added: “He really took the game away from the opposition, just showed what quality he has and showed everybody why he is such a special talent.
“We all batted pretty stodgily at the top of the order and then he probably showed us how we should have played - it was an incredible innings.”
Strauss did admit that the top six as a unit were under fire after a series of low scores in the whitewash defeat by Pakistan and then in the first Test defeat in Galle last week.
But he believes a combination of hard technical practice in the nets and single-minded focus in the middle contributed to a much-improved showing here.
A first innings of 460 followed by a confident fifth-day chase has left room for genuine optimism heading into the summer programme.
“I think we were all under a bit pressure coming into this game to make sure we showed that we’d learned some of the lessons from our defeats over the last four Test matches,” he said.
“We’ve worked exceptionally hard. I was really delighted by the way we played but also by the mindset that people showed.
“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.
“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.
“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.”