Batsman Kevin Pietersen was delighted with England’s all-round display as his man-of-the-match performance helped his team beat Sri Lanka in the second Test to retain top spot in the world rankings in conditions he branded ‘a joke’.
Pietersen, who smashed 151 in the first innings, finished things off in Colombo with a quickfire 42 not out to steer England past their victory target of 94, which ensured the two-match series ended in a draw.
‘It’s always nice to get some runs,’ he told Sky Sports. ‘It’s been a very tough winter for all the batters. But the hard work the boys have put in to bat second and fourth in this Test... We’ve done a fantastic job. All the boys deserve all the credit.
‘The hard work, the practice, the hours that I’ve put in, I just thought when you get yourself in and in some sort of nick, you’ve got to try to get it. When it’s 42-43 degrees, I can’t block too many!’
Asked whether the conditions were the toughest he had encountered, he replied: ‘Definitely. An Ashes tour is very, very tough down under. When we lost 5-0 a few years ago that was tough mentally, but physically this was a joke.’
England captain Andrew Strauss hailed the Barmy Army for their support during a tour in which they have not had too much to cheer about before this Test.
‘It was amazing to have that support here away from home,’ he said. ‘It makes us feel very special every time we have that support when we travel away from home and this game was no different.
Strauss was also pleased with the contributions of his players and singled out Graeme Swann, who finished with match figures of 10 for 181, as well as James Anderson and Pietersen for particular praise.
‘At the end of the day this will look like a reasonably comfortable victory but we all know how hard we had to work for that,’ he said.
‘There were some outstanding performances - Jimmy Anderson again on an unresponsive wicket was outstanding; Graeme Swann proved his worth once again and was a constant threat throughout the game; and Kevin Pietersen really took the game away from the opposition with an outstanding innings. He showed everyone what quality he has and why he’s such a special talent.
‘Everyone had to work really hard - the fielding and bowling, just to keep plugging away in the second innings when there wasn’t much going on. We’ve had to work hard for this victory. It’s been a tough winter but we’re delighted to come through at the end of it.’
Strauss also got a few runs under his belt after a poor winter with the bat, posting 61 in the first innings before a second-innings duck.
‘It’s good to get few runs,’ he said. ‘I would have liked to get a few more but the most important thing is winning the game. We set ourselves that target and we didn’t want to walk away from Sri Lanka having lost the series. I’m delighted by the way guys reacted to the challenge.
‘[We’re] still No 1 - for a while yet, hopefully!’
Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene admitted his side’s first-innings mistakes had proved costly, but gave credit to Strauss and his team. ‘It has been a very well-fought series,’ he said.