Birmingham: England captain Andrew Strauss has predicted the team will see the benefits of their controversial rotation policy when they put their number one Test ranking on the line against South Africa.
Strike bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad were rested from the side that drew a rain-ruined third Test against the West Indies at Edgbaston here on Monday, with Anderson omitted from the squad after England had taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series. That led to criticisms that England, who have traditionally prized the five-day game above all other formats, were devaluing Test cricket.
And when Tino Best set about stand-in seamers Graham Onions and Steven Finn while making 95, the highest ever score by a No. 11 batsman in Test history, there were plenty of pundits saying England had got what they deserved by not playing their strongest team.
However, with a packed schedule ahead of them, England coach Andy Flower has repeatedly insisted it was right to rest Anderson and Broad from this Test ahead of the seemingly sterner challenges set to be posed when South Africa visit for a three-match series starting in July. "One of the things about missing a couple of your senior players is it makes you realise what role they do play in the side as well as allowing you to see what role the other guys could play in the side," said Strauss, named England's Man of the Series for a hundred in each of the first two Tests.
"I think the picture is a lot clearer now, having seen that," he added after Onions had taken four for 88 and Finn three for 111 in West Indies' 426. "In a way, although we didn't play brilliantly, I am very comfortable we made that decision because it will serve us well come the South Africa series. As I've said, Onions and Finn both showed that they are definitely Test quality bowlers and they offer a lot in a number of areas."
England dropped several catches, with Ian Bell dropping two in the third-slip position Anderson had made his own when he isn't bowling himself. "The catching side was disappointing," Strauss said. "But I don't think you could say that was because Jimmy [James Anderson] wasn't there because often he is bowling. That's something we need to get better at."
However, Strauss was happy to have wrapped up another series success, following the five-wicket and nine-wicket victories at Lord's and Trent Bridge respectively, even if this draw meant the end of seamer Tim Bresnan's previously perfect career record of 13 Test wins.
"The West Indies have got some dangerous players there and we were able to overcome that challenge," Strauss said. "It wasn't a perfect performance by us...you don't want to be in a situation where No. 11 gets 95 all that often!"
England and the West Indies now contest a one-day series before England face Australia in a separate limited-overs campaign. But none of those matches will feature Strauss, who quit ODI cricket after last year's World Cup.
"I'm going to take a little bit of a break but I'm going to keep batting all the way through," said Strauss, who will be looking to blunt a powerful South African pace attack featuring Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander.
"The worst thing you can do when you've got a bit of rhythm is to go away and not pick up a bat for a long period of time, so I'll be batting again pretty soon and then obviously playing a game for Middlesex before the Test matches against South Africa."