Strauss happy to finish on a high
England captain Andrew Strauss expressed pride in his side’s professionalism after they completed a stunning series whitewash of India with an innings-and-eight-run triumph at the Kia Oval.
The hosts came into the fourth npower Test 3-0 up in the series and already assured of top spot in the ICC Test rankings.
However, they refused to rest on their laurels in the capital and once again dominated the tourists in another one-sided fixture.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side offered some resistance today, with Sachin Tendulkar and Amit Mishra sharing a fourth-wicket stand of 144 to take their side within 29 of England’s first-innings total.
However, once the pair had been dismissed in consecutive overs, the former falling nine runs short of an historic 100th international hundred, a demoralised India duly subsided to 283 all out, with Graeme Swann claiming six wickets.
In his post-match press conference, a delighted Strauss said: “It’s been a long four Test matches. I think we had to put a lot into it and certainly in this game, arriving here having won the series already; it was a slightly different test for us as a side.
“There is that temptation to take your foot off the gas a little bit and in actual fact we probably had to work harder for this one than any of the others because we had to spend so long in the field having made them follow-on.
“Coming into this game 3-0 up I think we were very motivated by the idea of making it 4-0. We were confident, we felt we had the ability to win this final game, but we had to dig deep again.
“That’s what I’m most proud about; the guys were prepared to do that even when they didn’t really have to. I think that bodes well for the future.”
Strauss paid particular tribute to Ian Bell, man of the match following his sublime 235 in England’s 591 for six declared, and his team’s bowlers, who once again restricted India to two mediocre totals.
“(There have been) some outstanding performances again,” added the skipper.
“Ian Bell’s 200 was a genuinely classy innings and obviously took the game away from India and then the bowlers had to put in some really hard graft on a pretty flat wicket.
“It was fantastic to see Graeme Swann coming through with his wickets, but also the way the seamers backed him up. It was another very professional performance.”
Swann capitalised on a wearing surface to finish with 6-106, but was made to work hard for his rewards on the final day.
“The wickets have been more responsive to seam bowling so this was the first one that helped him out,” explained Strauss.
“He had to toil pretty hard; certainly when the ball got softer and older it was hard work for him as well.
“I think the way he stuck at it; he kept creating chances for us, which was fantastic, and he got what he deserved which was a five-wicket innings.”
Asked to comment on England’s wicketless opening session today, Strauss continued: “The morning session was very frustrating, but we were creating half-chances and there were plenty of plays and misses so we just had to keep patient because we knew the second new ball would be crucial for us.
“We were very lucky to get that little three-wicket burst before the second new ball and then things happened very quickly for us. I think we did very well to keep with it and eventually we got our rewards.”
With the exception of Rahul Dravid, India’s man of the series with three centuries in four matches, including a defiant unbeaten 146 here, the tourists’ much-vaunted batting line-up have failed to impress throughout the summer.
While criticism of India’s top-seven is inevitable, Strauss added: “If you look at a lot of the sides we’ve played over the last couple of years, some very good batsmen have struggled against our bowlers.
“I would prefer to view it as some outstanding bowling performances and obviously when you get on top of opposition sides, when their confidence is reduced it becomes even harder for them to compete.
“A gradual erosion of their confidence and a gradual increase of our confidence has been the difference between the sides.”
With their ascent to the top of the Test rankings now confirmed, Strauss is confident his side will not lose focus over the coming months and years.
“It’s fantastic to receive that mace and be number one in the world but we’re all very conscious that can be taken away from us quite quickly,” he said.
“As I said after Edgbaston, we’re going to be judged by higher standards now and we need to keep pushing ourselves to improve and get better.”