Strauss level-headed following draw
Andrew Strauss was pragmatic about England’s draw with Sri Lanka in the second npower Test after the tourists comfortably avoided defeat today.
Alastair Cook’s third hundred in four Test innings allowed Strauss to declare midway through the afternoon session, setting Sri Lanka an improbable 343 in a minimum of 58 overs to square the three-match series.
As it was, Strauss’ side could not make the tourists fold as they had done on the final afternoon at Cardiff. They were 127 for three on a typically true Lord’s wicket when the teams shook hands with 15 of those overs unbowled.
Such is Cook’s Test form, it was instructive that Strauss was not asked a question about his opening partner in a 10-minute post-match press conference for the written media.
Instead, Strauss singled out opposite number and man of the match Tillakaratne Dilshan for praise due to his international-best 193 in Sri Lanka’s first innings.
“I don’t think that we saw anything we didn’t expect,” Strauss said. “Dilshan played outstandingly well and put Sri Lanka in a very strong position in the game.
“But we did well to bowl them out and still have a first-innings lead and go on and get ahead of the game in the final day.
“I don’t think we were expecting them to fold quite as they did in Cardiff on a flat wicket.
“It’s always frustrating when a Test match ends in a draw because you’ve put in a lot of hard work for five days and no side gets anything out of it.”
England began the day on 149 for two with Cook and Kevin Pietersen at the crease. They shared a hundred partnership before Ian Bell struck his fastest Test fifty, from 40 balls, to allow Strauss to pull out at 335 for seven.
Pietersen dominated his stand with Cook, moving from 15 overnight to 72 before being bowled by a beauty from left-arm spinner Rangana Herath.
Cook was more circumspect, but having reached three figures after lunch fell to Herath on the attack for 106. Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad then sacrificed their wickets in search of quick runs.
“I think we did very well after lunch. I thought we showed a huge amount of intent,” Strauss added.
“It was a bit tricky prior lunch when the left-armer was bowling over the wicket into the rough. It was quite hard to keep the momentum, but we still scored at over four an over.
“It was always going to be hard to force a result on this final day at Lord’s. We know the Lord’s wicket doesn’t deteriorate.
“There are always things at a Test match we could have done and hopefully we’ll do that at the Rose Bowl.”
Strauss explained he had told his players at lunch when he wanted to declare. His primary concern was to deny Sri Lanka victory with England ahead in the series.
“At Lord’s it’s always a bit of a balancing act in terms of how much time you need and how quick the natural scoring rate of the ground is,” he said.
“We wanted to make the game safe in the circumstance because we knew it was potentially a short chase for Sri Lanka; it wasn’t like we hade 100-odd overs to bowl them out.”
Of England’s second-innings batting, Strauss reserved special praise for Pietersen, who has struggled for significant scores this season.
Prior to the game the England hierarchy said it was only a matter of time until Pietersen delivered, and so it proved.
“It wasn’t an easy situation he went in at yesterday - dark cloud cover and the lights on,” Strauss recalled. “We know Lord’s does a lot more in those conditions.
“He had to graft hard last night and he did that outstandingly well. He came out the other side and played some lovely shots today, so that’s encouraging.
“We always knew he was going to score runs at some stage and hopefully this is a catalyst for him to go on a purple patch like Alastair Cook’s having.”