Strauss determined to not to let team rest on No.1 status
Close: Fourth Test, day five, The Oval
Match score: England 591-6 dec (Bell 235, Pietersen 175; Sreesanth 3-123) beat India 300 (Dravid 146*;Bresnan 3-54, Swann 3-102) and 283 (Tendulkar 91, Mishra 84; Swann 6-106) by an innings and eight runs and take the series 4-0 Full scorecard
Man of the match: Ian Bell. Man of the series (England): Stuart Broad. Man of the series (India): Rahul Dravid.
“Fatigue,” said Andrew Strauss when asked for his over-riding emotion after completing only England’s third whitewash in a series of four matches or more.
“There was a bit more emotion in 2009 [for the Ashes] because it was 1-1 and no one knew how the series was going to end up,” the England captain said, looking drained and quietly satisfied rather than elated.
“Arriving here having won the series already was a slightly different test for us. There was that temptation to take our foot of the gas a bit but in actual fact we had to work harder for this than any of the others. I’m very proud of the way the guys reacted.”
Strauss will play for Middlesex until the end of the season but will then rest until England’s next Test series against Pakistan in the new year. He talked of “stern challenges”, of “maintaining standards” and how hard it is to win away from home, particularly in the subcontinent. England also play two Tests in Sri Lanka in late March.
“The nature of international cricket is that you’re always looking forward to the next challenge,” he said. “We’ve answered all the questions this summer but now we must move on to the winter.”
England were presented with the mace that signifies their status as the world’s best Test team, as well as the Pataudi Trophy for the series victory. Then they went off to celebrate in the dressing room and later on a deserted Oval outfield. The injured squad members, Jonathan Trott and Chris Tremlett, were there too, showing the team ethos and attention to detail or which this England side have become renowned over the last two years.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who had to endure the indignity of Last Night of the Proms-style music blaring out while he conducted his press conference, knows only too well how far, and painfully, the mighty can fall. He was gracious about England’s qualities but cautioned that becoming No.1 is not like winning a trophy, it is a “constant process” and that the teams below England now will be chivvying and chasing to catch them up.
Strauss added: “The greatest pitfall is thinking you’ve done it all and not putting in the hard work to improve. I will be very disappointed if that happens because that’s not what we’re about as a unit.”
One clear representation of that collective ethic was Graeme Swann, having taken only four wickets in three Tests, finishing with six in the second innings and nine in the match. Only Strauss himself might be considered to have under-achieved in his primary skill but that post mortem can wait for another day.
Shot of the day: Amit Mishra’s shot off his legs for four off Stuart Broad that made commentators think it was Tendulkar who played it.
Ball of the day: Only one candidate. Tim Bresnan’s nip-backer that got Tendulkar lbw – just – to hasten India’s demise and prolong the hundredth hundred agony.
Sledge of the day: “If you don’t get it today you’ll never get it.” Graeme Swann to Sachin Tendulkar.
Honest answer of the day: “It might take half an hour.” Rahul Dravid in answer to a question about what went wrong for India.
Delusion of the day: MS Dhoni is asked: “When the time comes is anyone in India brave enough to drop Tendulkar?” He just smiles. The questioner continues: “Well he can’t go on forever … ?” Dhoni: “Why not?”
‘Taking the positive’ of the day: Dhoni on coach Duncan Fletcher: “It can only get better. The only way for him is up.”
Commentary of the day: “I wouldn’t suggest Rod Tucker takes his holidays in Mumbai.” Mike Atherton on Sky after the Australian umpire had given Tendulkar out.
John Stern is a former editor of The Cricketer
Follow him on Twitter @Cricketer_John