Strauss salutes stunning success
Andrew Strauss declared England’s dramatic innings-and-14-run victory over Sri Lanka as “one of the most extraordinary cricket matches any of us have played in”.
With rain taking time out of all but one of the five days in Cardiff, it looked as though England’s chances of forcing a late win had passed when the sides belatedly took to the field at 3pm.
What followed was one of the most stunning finales in Test history as England declared their first innings after two overs - just long enough for Ian Bell to reach his 13th Test century - with a lead of only 96.
That left a maximum of 51 overs to take all 10 Sri Lanka wickets, a tall order to say the least, but remarkably they needed less than half of them to complete the job.
Chris Tremlett and Graeme Swann took four wickets apiece as the tourists capitulated for 82 in 24.4 overs.
“I think it will go down as one of the most extraordinary cricket matches any of us have played in,” said Strauss, before admitting the weather-affected nature of the first four days had initially left him with an entirely different feeling.
“This morning I was saying this was one of the drabbest matches I’ve ever played and suddenly it changes round so quickly. That is great credit to the guys.”
Strauss was part of the England side that lost to Australia at Adelaide in 2006 despite posting 551 for six in the first innings of the game.
While that dramatic reversal came to mind even in the afterglow of this result, he admitted he could not think of a less likely win in his time.
“There’s not a more remarkable finish I can think of,” he said. “We were very keen to press for a victory but obviously we thought it was going to be a long shot to achieve it.
“I suppose our defeat in Adelaide was similar in a way. It’s one of those situations where the full pressure of Test match cricket can come to bear on a team and you need guys to stand up and get past that.
“Thankfully we were able to make sure their guys weren’t able to do that. I was very impressed. We showed quite a lot of ruthlessness in Australia this winter and this was another example of that.”
Strauss was pleased with the way his side managed to fashion a sense of occasion in front of a sparse crowd, with many people deterred by the inclement weather.
“That was one of the big challenges for us, to create our own feeling of intensity,” he said.
“It was a small crowd but they got into it and all credit to them for doing so.
“You can’t blame people for staying away with the weather like it was in the morning, but these are the things that test you as a side: how desperately do you want to win?
“I think we showed we really wanted it and we got what we deserved.
“I was really impressed by the intensity the guys showed because in those situations you can come out and go through the motions. But right from ball one our two seamers set the tone and they were backed up in the field.”
England will announce their squad for the second Test at Lord’s tomorrow morning at 9am, with a potential replacement for the injured James Anderson the primary talking point.