x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

England defeat Sri Lanka to stay on top of the Test rankings

Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen ensure England chase down target of 94 to win the second Test.

Victory for England ensures they stay at No 1 in the Test rankings until at least the summer.
Victory for England ensures they stay at No 1 in the Test rankings until at least the summer.

Andrew Strauss, the England captain, praised his side for the way they set about securing a first Test win of the year and revealed the team's poor run of form never made him question his captaincy.

Englanddrew their series against Sri Lanka with a confident eight-wicket victory at Colombo's P. Sara Stadium, ending a sequence of four successive defeats in 2012.

That run of form, allied to Strauss' own 15-month wait for a century at the head of the innings, saw question marks raised over his leadership for the first time.

His teammates could not have been more clear over the last week that they are fully behind their skipper and Strauss today saw his own confidence strengthened as he led the team to only a fourth Test win in Sri Lanka.

"I never had any doubts about whether this was the time for me to go," he said after watching Alastair Cook (49 not out) and Kevin Pietersen (42 not out) make light work of a 94-run target.

"I'm very determined and committed to seeing us improve as a side. It's been an interesting week or two but I think it's very important that we as a side don't get carried away with whatever the issue of the day is.

"We've done that very well over the last couple of years and obviously I needed to do it in this game. We needed to do it as a team and I thought we did it well."

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 even 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 learnt 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."

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene, who collected the man of the series award after scoring 354 runs at 88.5, was generous in his praise of the tourists.

Reflecting on their turnaround in fortunes after winning by 75 runs in Galle, he said: "I knew they would come strong and they did. The way Jimmy Anderson bowled was fantastic and then the way Kevin batted too. Good players will step up and that's what England have got.

"But I'm quite happy, we kept fighting and gave ourselves a chance.

"Going forward we can develop our youngsters, so as long as the commitment levels are there I'm quite happy."

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