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February 17, 2009

Strauss of old helps England make amends

Before talking about Andrew Strauss’ marvellous innings in Antigua, let me get one thing straight – the hard work is far from over. England have done well to reach 301-3 at the end of day one, but there is still a long way to go in this test match.

The batsmen have gone someway to making amends for the rather dismal 51 all out in Jamacia with their batting display in this ‘third’ test and the cricket odds are starting to lean in England’s favour.

It could, of course, all go horribly wrong yet. However, as long as Kevin Pietersen is at the crease for the majority of the first session, a score of 450+ is definitely on the cards.

Instead of speculating about what might happen though, let us look at something that did happen – Strauss’ hundred. To say it couldn’t have come at a better time would be an understatement.

The Middlesex man was under pressure to perform himself, the team were determined to make amends for the Jamacia defeat and as captain, it was vital he led from the front. After his fluent 169, all of these boxes can be ticked and that is credit to the England skipper.

It wasn’t just the runs he scored though; it was the way he scored them. Unlike his career-saving 177 in New Zealand last year, Strauss was positive from the beginning and batted with an uncharacteristic flair throughout. Yes, he rode his luck at times, but he hit his first six in three years of international cricket, so that’s something!

In short, it was the Andrew Strauss of old. It was the man who first emerged on the test scene back in May 2004. There was a confidence about him that has been absent recently. Perhaps the responsibility of the captaincy in a ‘backs against the wall’ situation brings the best out of him.

As much as you can’t base everything on one innings, something else Strauss’ knock proved was that he has the attacking ability to perform in future One Day Internationals.

Many have questioned whether he is good enough to play in the ODI team, let alone captain it, so hopefully this will go someway to ending that argument.  Time will tell I suppose, but the innings as a whole has to be an extremely positive thing for the England team.

If Strauss is performing well at the top of the order, it makes the whole batting line-up seem much stronger. Pietersen is 8 not-out overnight and this is perfect. Hopefully while you are reading this, KP is helping the innings kick on with Andrew Flintoff and Paul Collingwood to follow.

England need to score big in this first innings and can’t afford to suffer a batting collapse. Anything under 450 would be a real disappointment, but as long as KP hangs around, cricket betting is more likely to favour a total close to the 500 mark.

Whatever the total though, it is vital that the likes of Steve Harmison and James Anderson follow their captain’s example of recapturing their best form. England have 20 wickets to take and they won’t do that in the appropriate time if the two opening bowlers are off the pace.

Come on lads; make us proud of English cricket again!

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England cricket

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