Galle: Mar 25, 2012
England captain Andrew Strauss on Sunday urged his world number one Test side to bounce back against Sri Lanka after the morale-sapping loss to Pakistan.
"I think we've obviously got a point to prove," Strauss said ahead of the two-Test series starting at the Galle International Stadium on Monday.
"We have to bounce back after those results against Pakistan."
England, who took over the top mantle after a 4-0 rout of India at home last summer, crashed to an embarrassing 3-0 series whitewash by Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in January and February.
The failure of Strauss's men to adjust to spin-friendly wickets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi raised questions about their ability to win away from the seaming conditions at home.
Sri Lanka will offer little respite for the tourists, whose challenge to master the slow, turning wickets will be compounded by the oppressive heat and humidity prevailing on the island.
Strauss asked if the number one ranking was justified, insisted he preferred to concentrate on the job at hand -- that of beating Sri Lanka.
"We are not focussing on the world rankings at the moment, it is not of great consequence to us," the England captain said.
"I think if you focus too much on that, you take out what's important -- which is trying to win. We know the extent of the challenge. We've got to be very good to overcome those challenges.
"There is plenty for us to focus on and the rankings will take care of themselves."
England have not won a series in Sri Lanka since 2001, when Nasser Hussain's men fought back after losing the first Test to win the remaining two matches for a creditable 2-1 scoreline.
The tourists drew a blank on their last two visits to Sri Lanka, in 2003 and 2007, as the hosts won both three-Test series by 1-0 margins.
Strauss's men began the current tour well by winning both practice matches in the capital Colombo, the first by an innings and 15 runs and the second after chasing down a target of 359 in 60.4 overs.
All the top-order batsmen, barring Ian Bell, have got among the runs with Strauss, opening partner Alastair Cook and number three Jonathan Trott hitting centuries.
The badly out-of-form Bell has managed just 25 runs in three innings on the tour so far, but Strauss was more worried about the inability of all-rounder Ravi Bopara to bowl in the series due to a side strain.
"The fact that Ravi can't bowl is something we have to take into consideration while finalising the side," the skipper said.
"He is a quite a useful seam bowler. But we won't be having that luxury here and we need to think about it."
Bopara was the front-runner to take the number six spot from Eoin Morgan, the Irish star who was dropped after the Pakistan series.
The team management must decide whether to include Bopara as a specialist batsman, or play either left-arm spinner Samit Patel or seamer Tim Bresnan.
Strauss said his side would not be found wanting on the traditionally spin-friendly Galle wicket.
"The history of the wicket is that it deteriorates at the back-end a little bit, but I don't think there are any massive demons in it.
"Besides, we have two of the best spinners in the world," Strauss said, referring to off-spinner Graeme Swann and left-armer Monty Panesar.
The second and final Test will be played at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo from April 3. (AFP)