This month, England travel to Sri Lanka, where they have another chance to prove themselves in the sub-continent. After a humiliating Test series against Pakistan, England fought back to win the one day and Twenty20 series and did so playing with a completely different mind set against the Pakistani bowlers, who had the better of them during the tests.
Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook both set the tone during the one day series, Pietersen finally showing some prolific form and that mesmerising ability to dominate every type of bowling. After the obvious tentative nature of England’s batting during the test series, a change in attitude was clearly evident, and it worked wonders in the results of both forms of limited overs cricket.
It is essential for the likes of Strauss and Pietersen to continue playing positively and not let the Sri Lankan bowlers dictate terms to them. Even though there will be plenty of nerves going into the series, England have actually enjoyed recent success against Sri Lanka, most notably in the back end of the 2011 summer. However, in the past, the sub-continental wickets have proven to be England’s nemesis, so for complete credibility as the Number One test side in the world, it is vital for them to win in all conditions.
The omission of Eoin Morgan was rightly justified and could give Ravi Bopara another opportunity to prove himself in the test arena after he played well during the one day internationals. England could also introduce Samit Patel at number six, thus providing another spin option and essentially giving Strauss five front line bowling options. In saying this, it is widely expected that Bopara will get the nod, indeed the man can contribute with ball in hand anyway. Personally, I would pick Patel as Bopara has had his chance at Test level on several occasions, though it seems unlikely the selectors will see it that way.
While the bowling department is performing consistently, the batsmen have a lot to answer for. It’s not a question of skill or ability (just look at the last Ashes series), it is purely mindset and application. If England have hope of retaining their number one spot in test matches, it is vital they avoid making the same mistakes they made against Pakistan.