DateLine: 18th May 2012
Century by Strauss puts England in strong position.
In association with Investec.
Having struggled for form and facing increasing doubts expressed by his critics on both his captaincy and batting, Andrew Strauss perfectly timed his return to form with an excellent century, his 20th in Tests and one of great resolve and application. It helped England to take early control of the first Investec Test against West Indies as they went into a first innings lead of 16 at stumps on 259 for three with a strong batting line-up yet to come. Strauss remained unbeaten on 121 from six hours at the crease having faced 249 balls.
With England having suffered four successive Test defeats in the winter and his loss of form, Strauss' position had come under scrutiny. He was fully aware of the pressure that this had put on him and had said before the start of this Test: "I recognise as captain that I need to contribute as a batsman and I fully intend to do that. There is no reason why I can't do well this summer and I'm really excited about it. Hopefully, I will be able to lead from the front with the bat."
Strauss chose the perfect venue to get back into form. This is his home ground, as a Middlesex player, where he knows the conditions and the pitch so well and has scored piles of runs. No doubt the innings would have brought him enormous relief after his last century for England having been scored as far back as November 2010 in Brisbane in the series which saw his side retain the Ashes and winning a series on Australian soil for the first time in 24 years.
Despite the slump in runs, the 35-year-old England captain had convinced himself that it was not time for him yet to step down. He did not hesitate stepping down from the one-day captaincy after the last World Cup but knew he still had much to give to England at the highest level of the game. Yesterday he paced his innings well, getting off with a nice start of 47 before losing Alastair Cook for 26 who dragged a ball from Kemar Roach on to his stumps. Cook had tried to cut a ball that was a little too close to him for the shot and that was just over an hour after the day's play had begun.
Thereafter Strauss and Jonathan Trott dominated most of the day's proceedings. Strauss brought up the fifty of the innings with a cut for four of Roach and by lunch had taken England to 80 for one. The scoring rate remained much the same during the second session with 87 added. Strauss brought up his 28th Test half century from 97 balls when he flicked Darren Sammy for his ninth four. The hundred of the stand followed from 198 balls and Trott reached his tenth Test half century patiently in just under three hours.
It was nearly an hour after tea that West Indies eventually got the breakthrough in this solid second wicket stand. Trott on 58 drove at a ball from Sammy that moved a little away and he edged behind with England 194 for two. Shortly before that Strauss had been dropped at slip on 95 off a no-ball from Sammy, Chanderpaul was the fielder. Just prior to that Strauss had played two magnificent strokes, a square drive to the cover boundary to get to 94 and took his total to 95 with a perfectly timed straight drive.
With 200 on the scoreboard, Strauss' fiercely cut shot went for four and that took him to the three figures which would have brought him enormous relief from the pressures he has been under as well as dispelled the criticisms that have, perhaps, not too unfairly been directed to him. Strauss went on to form a 50-run stand with Kevin Pietersen who typically played powerful shots from early in his innings until on 32, he top-edged behind the stumps in attempting a cut.
Earlier, if the tourists had hopes of the debutant Shannon Gabriel staying long enough for Shivnarine Chanderpaul – unbeaten overnight on 87 – to reach his 26th Test century and to go on to boost the West Indies’ overnight total of 243, England put an end to it with the first ball of the day. Stuart Broad, who had bowled superbly on the previous day, found the outside edge for a catch at second slip to finish with excellent figures of seven for 72, beating his previous best innings haul of six for 46.
With this achievement he had become only the seventh player to have his name on both batting and bowling honours boards at the HQ of cricket for scoring a century and taking five wickets in an innings. The others were: Vinoo Mankad (India), Keith Miller (Australia), and from England, Gubby Allen, Ray Illingworth, Ian Botham and Andy Flintoff.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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