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Brilliant Strauss leads from the front

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Oliver Brett | 19:45 UK time, Thursday, 16 July 2009

The 1980s seem to be in vogue pretty much wherever you go. Today's teenagers wear the quirky clothes, exuberant hairdos and wacky eye make-up of 25 years ago and if you had been at Turnberry on Thursday you would have seen Tom Watson, who won The Open three times that decade, roll back the years in splendid fashion.

Meanwhile here at Lord's, the home side produced the type of dominant batting display we were accustomed to seeing from 80s stars Botham, Gower and Broad all those years ago when England won back-to-back Ashes series.

The only snag was that it only lasted for half a day, and from a tremendous high of 196-0, they lost their way in ungainly fashion and ended up with 364-6 - the kind of score which may yet prove a good one or may simply be not enough.

But let's not start getting negative yet. The Lord's spectators were entitled to see something positive from England after that hideous fourth day in north-west London in the 2005 Ashes. On that occasion, it rained for hours before Australia's bowlers ran through England's lower order with indecent haste to register their only win of the series.

You pay a lot of money to watch Test cricket at HQ these days, especially when Australia are the opponents, but nobody could complain that they didn't get plenty of bang for their bucks on Thursday.

Andrew Strauss

There was, of course, Andrew Strauss's sumptuous unbeaten 161, some fine reverse-swing late in the day from Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus, and even a brief appearance by the man playing his last Test at Lord's and dominating the build-up to the match, Andrew Flintoff.

I still feel that Australia may have ended up clearly on top had Stuart Clark, the man rated the fourth best bowler in the Test rankings and the leading wicket-taker in the 2006-07 Ashes, been selected for this match. How could he have got into Australia's four-man bowling attack? Possibly by ousting Nathan Hauritz, well though the off-spinner bowled on the final day in Cardiff.

But that is all fanciful conjecture. No reflection of the opening day of the second Test can avoid substantial mention of the man who hit an imperious unbeaten 161, the skipper Strauss.

When Strauss was feeling his way back into the England team after being dropped for the tour to Sri Lanka in late 2007, he struggled in the early stages of his comeback series, in New Zealand in early 2008.

But, having abandoned much of the riskier elements of his repertoire he saved his career with an emotional century in the final Test in Napier and now stands on 18 Test hundreds, only four behind the long-standing English record shared by Wally Hammond, Geoffrey Boycott and Sir Colin Cowdrey.

He has 5,000 Test runs in barely five years of Tests, but dismissed the mark afterwards with a memorable soundbite: "When you look at Ricky Ponting who's reached 11,000 runs, 5,000 seems like you're just out of nappies really."

Strauss did, however, add: "In the last six months I feel I have been batting better than at any time in my career."

The best aspect of his innings on Thursday was the level of concentration late in the day when wickets were falling. He looked even harder to dislodge than at any previous stage and both his shot selection and placement were impeccable.

No active player knows this ground better than Strauss, who has played all his county cricket for Middlesex and scored a century on Test debut here in 2004 against New Zealand. He has never had a Test double-century; wouldn't this be a fine time to register his first?

Interestingly, Strauss felt the pitch would provide England with "more wicket-taking opportunities than at at Cardiff", noting "a bit of nip and a bit of swing." No pressure there then, Freddie, Jimmy, Broady and co.

This Test is beautifully set up right now.


  • Comment number 1.

    Feel like we have thrown it away a bit, but at the same point in time we'll have to wait and see how well the Aussies, or more poignantly our bowlers, fare to really know. Quite hard to tell how good a wicket is when you have Johnson bowling the way he was...

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't know what's going on with these young whippersnappers who seem to think that the history of Test cricket has nothing to teach them. It is an eternal truth that the discipline of Test cricket requires a completely different mind-set from that of the wham-bam thank-you-m'am limited overs rubbish that we have forced down our throats via interminable and meaningless series of one-day internationals which, like outbreaks of amoebic dysentry, seem to be happening somewhere in a remote corner of the globe at any given moment of the day or night in spring summer autumn or winter.
    Why oh why do the likes of Pieterson and Flintoff not learn how to play correctly a forward defensive - a la Jeffrey Boycott, Trevor Blainey or Jim Edrich, three batting stalwarts of the English game, to name but three.

  • Comment number 3.

    Classy performance from Strauss. But it looks ominously similar to Cardiff. We were quite satisfied after day one there. I am hoping for tougher showings on day 2, 3 and 4, especially as I have a ticket for Saturday!

  • Comment number 4.

    L A Odicean is quite right. The limited overs slog-outs clearly are affecting the ability to concentrate and bat and/or bowl with any sustained consistency.
    A lot has been said about how brilliantly Strauss played. But to be honest, on a flat wicket all he had to do was to play cautiously and wait for the bad balls and, my god, there were plenty of those. I was at the Lords Test in 1972 and honestly believe that this England team would have struggled to score 150 all out against Lillee & Massie.
    It's sad that standards have dropped so much but the marketing men continue to hype it up and a gullible public pays a lot of money to watch mediocre cricket.

  • Comment number 5.

    Totally agree L A Odicean. They need to learn that a key skill of a test batsman is being able to adapt to a situation. Just wrote an angry blog post to that effect - Australia must think we are the most complacent team out, letting them back in the match after a bowling performance like that.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think there is too much cricket, especially limited overs cricket. The standards in Test cricket have fallen because the players are tired and trying to play 2020. I'm 24 and I much prefer Test cricket, it's not a young people thing as some would suggest

  • Comment number 7.

    Pretty disappointed with the way turned out.

    I think the wicket is about a 500 minimum par-score track and Ponting, etc will fill their boots.

  • Comment number 8.

    Prior to this day, if someone had told you that England could near 450 by lunch on the second morning, would that have have made you happy?

    Well, that is a real possibility. I'm surprised at the sheer volume of negativity on these blogs. Perhaps one would end up feeling negative if one had been watching the entire day's proceedings from 196/0 to 364/6.

    But when I finally got around to watching, Strauss was on 130ish and Freddie had just arrived at the crease and I thought it was a tremendous day for Endland with a chance of nearing 500 on first innings.

    So, by and large, notwithstanding the later batting collapse, it was a great day for England. They are now firmly in control of he match. Barring unforeseen circumstances, this is now England's Test to lose!

    Congrats to Andrew Strauss and Al Cook for putting on a brilliant opening stand and placing England in a commanding position as we head into day two!

    Food for thought:

    What if, after the first day's play, England were 264/6?

  • Comment number 9.

    I think Strauss could get the double century if he doesn't run out of partners. Funny how I said to a friend earlier England could make 350 by the close of play today and maybe push on to 550 by tea tommorrow. Though now I believe after another middle order collapse 450 would be a very respectable total and with the pitch seeming tome alive to the bowlers toward the end of play who knows Anderson and Flintoff may fancy a couple of wickets!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Oliver, were there any particular fashion and musical disasters in your life in the 1980's? I had you down as a bit of a Style Council man.

  • Comment number 11.

    I'm not sure I'd want Pietersen or any other modern batsmen to learn how to do a proper forward defensive (he can do one by the way, when he can be bothered) with the dead duck pitches that get served up around the world you would have to play 7 day tests to try and get a result.

    Thank good for rushes of blood! It means we can actually get a cricket match instead of 2 first innings bat fests

  • Comment number 12.

    I don't think this pitch is a 500 minimum at all. Granted, Aussies are lucky for us to not have the same score but for 3-4 less wickets but if we can bowl well, then there's DEFINITELY some assistance. Swing, seam and a tiny bit of tweak - If we bowl as well as the openers batted, we'll be laughing.

    Can see Flintoff being the saviour with the ball rather than bat as he has done for a few years now.

  • Comment number 13.

    If Andy continues to play sensibly, there's no reason he won't score his maiden Test double ton.

    In fact, he will have a great chance to reach a tripple. As we all have seen recently, Graeme Swann is a pretty good batsman. And the preeminent nightwatchman Jimmy Anderson can definitely hold an end.

    It will be an interesting day tomorrow!

  • Comment number 14.

    Strauss is playing a great innings, leading by example. It is a pity that only Cook seemed to be paying attention at the lesson on building test innings, and he was unlucky to get the first ball that Johnson bowled straight. The match is pretty well balanced and with England scoring so quickly early on it looked at good track. However much depended on local atmospheric conditions and the heavier, humid afternoon and evening periods got the ball doing a few things. It will interesting to see how Anderson, Flintoff, Onions and Broad bowl on this surface especially in cloud cover with little wind.

    I think this could be a very tight match much like those in 2005. Provided England can keep the Aussies from making another big score in their first innings then it could be a rare win at Lords for the home side.

  • Comment number 15.

    england will scrape to 400 if the're lucky...sadly they should be looking at 500+ easily but yet again they crumble. It would be ok if the bowling today was good but oz were rubbish and had only 3 front-line bowlers for half the innings.
    Now we can look forward to the spinless english attack - unless conditions favour them then anderson, broad and onions will flounder...swann seems to have listened to his hype (as a bowler) and fred will either overdo it for a couple of wickets or injure himself out the tour.
    anyone agree with me that regardless what you say about his recent performances Harmy should have played this test

  • Comment number 16.

    Give Flintoff the push after this match, don't let him muck us around anymore.

  • Comment number 17.

    fred the untouchable...are you sure? actually...give me fred any day, send to county broad to learn his trade some more. I'm not sure I've seen a more over-rated bowler since...ermmm...cant think of anyone more over-rated actually,, no swing, no pace, no bounce...little length...nice look apparently if thats what the ecb want

  • Comment number 18.

    Most posters are a bit nervous as it looks as though Cardiff is being revisited. For me splendidsparrow at #8 strikes a positive and more reasoned note.
    I was happily surprised to see lots of positive batting brought to Lords by the escapees from Cardiff. A right kind of attitude that does inspire hope that Ashes can be regained.
    It is the gaping chasm between 194-0 and 364-6 that is conditioning our reaction. Had it been 100-6 and then 364-6 it would have been a different ball game, with the same end in view. To be criticising KP, Colly, Flinty for a gauche shot selection is nitpicking.
    Scoring 4 an over is a good Test match approach. Today it will be a different ball game. Strauss should be patient to eke out a double or more, and the tail should hang on to their wicket as though it were their first ever toy. Even if England get to 450 they will have a measure of control. With 500+ Aussies will have loads of dirty work on their hands.

  • Comment number 19.

    Wow....plenty of negativity on here boys. To be fair I think the Aussies will have gone off feeling happier than us last night, after a cracking last session pulled them back into the match.

    I certainly think that England let them off the hook. We probably should have been going into day 2 at most 4 down and looking to bat them out of the contest. However 364-6 is by no means a disastrous score at the end of the day. We still have Strauss in looking in imperious form and Broad and Swann can certainly do some damage with the bat. Not to mention Jimmy, who has proven many times that he can hang around and add some valuable runs at the end of an innings.

    We could do with at least another 100 runs at the end of the innings and to put real pressure on the Aussies another 140-150 will be great. This is distinctly possible.

    However, had anyone told me that we would post over 400 in our 1st innings in the 1st 2 test matches I would have been pleased. If we can get to 500 and bat until after lunch on day 2, we will be in a position to control this test match.

    Most people seem to assume that we will bowl as badly in this match and the Aussies will all bat as well (I for one do not think that either will happen). I certainly saw enough yesterday that if (and it's a big if) the bowlers put the ball in the right areas there's enough assistance to keep the bowlers interested.

    A great innings by the skipper though today. Strauss deserves all the plaudits and I hope he goes on for a big double century. Hopefully he will keep his composure and not be too concerned with reaching it for the 1st time.

    Cookie played a wonderful innings today as well. Shame he seems falls so many times between 50-99. He looked completely at ease until he reached the nervous nineties and tightened up a bit with thoughts of his name up on the honours board.

    Bopara looked in fine touch until he got a great ball from Hilfenhous (which was a little lucky to stay straight, as you can see the seem position was there to produce the outswing again). He deserved his wickets though and was the one Aussie player that looked dangerous all day.

    Pietersen looked scratchy early on, but ironically appeared to be starting to find his groove again when he got a pearler of a ball from Siddle. Colly..what happened fella? His bat was turning inwards all game and he was out to a shocker there (I wonder what the press would have said if that was Pietersen?). That wicket more than any other led to the end of day wobble. Even more annoying as it was to Clarke, who was serving up complete pies in his overs.

    A beautiful ball to take out Prior again (disturbingly similar to the ball that got him in the 1st innings at Cardiff as well)..and Freddie poking at one again.

    As for the Aussies. Some real concerns for them in the bowling department I would imagine. Only Hilfenhous bowled well on day 1. Johnston bowled 6-7 good balls all day (2 of which got wickets..which shows what a player he can be), but mostly served up a load of trash. Siddle looks industrious but manageable. Then they are down to part time spinners who looked as likely to take wickets as my mum would (so long as Colly or others don't have brain fades and present gifts).

    The injury to Hauritz may yet prove crucial in this test. 1 less wicket to take in both innings for us (or if he does bat, surely a token one at least). Plus if (heaven forbid) they do what they did in Cardiff, they don't have Hauritz to bowl (and if he does there will be no control).

    I'd certainly be looking to see where he is fielding tomorrow and be sending a few balls his way while we are batting. No point letting his finger rest! I'm sure they are wishing that they had chosen Stuey Clark at this point in time.

    Me..I'm ever the optimist. After feeling incredibly disappointed at the end of the day I have had time to reflect and am feeling a lot more confident now. If we can get through until lunch tomorrow, this test will be ours to win. Then a couple of early wickets with the conditions overhead favourable and we can turn these boys over. I do wish Harmy was there though (hopefully Anderson and Freddie will open the bowling instead).

  • Comment number 20.

    Congratulations to centurion Andrew Strauss.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 21.

    An earlier poster had asked what the press would have said if KP had played that Collingwood had played well I think we all know what they would have said.The double standards of the press stagger me.

    Well done to Strauss wonderful Knock he took advantage of the worst Australian bowling I have ever seen. The Aussies did bowl better after tea it has to be said.

    Going back to KP and how skittish he was. He reminds me a little of how Strauss was after he lost the captaincy to Fred before the Ashes 07. Strauss was in last chance saloon in NewZealand in the winter 08 having had a dreadful 12 months I think Strauss was deeply hurt over his treatment by the ECB and it affected his confidence, see how he is batting better with the captaincy. I am sure that is partly the problem with KP. He was treated badly by the ECB and who ever leaked the story. He has returned to the ranks but instead of being able just to concentrate on his cricket he has had the unrelenting glare of the media on him especially in the West Indies. The breezy confidence does not seem as evidence. People have said how arrogant he has been in the last two matches actually I have seen confusion more than arrogance.

    I think KP needs to sit down with a a good sports pyschologist or a really good and trusted friend and off load what ever is on his mind.

  • Comment number 22.

    " if someone had told you that England could near 450 by lunch on the second morning, would that have have made you happy?"

    Er - maybe, but that is sort of where we were at this stage of the first test. And as it turned out we hadn't exactly batted the Aussies out of the game.

    Peterson has had a lot of stick for being cocky and believing he is invincible and can do no wrong. People keep moaning that he has no humility. But the Aussies have 11 guys who are like that, and that is why they keep winning - because deep down they are all overconfident and arrogant which, while not making them perhaps fit the mould of the proper gentleman cricketer, means that they go onto the pitch knowing they can beat anyone. Sorry but the English mentality of being a gentleman and 'it's not the winning it's the taking part' means that we breed a group of lovely lads, but who don't have the nerve when it counts in the middle. And the one guy with the confidence and arrogance to win against the aussies keeps coming under fire in the media for being so. It's a cliche that nice guys don't win, but I bet the Aussie media are more likely to beat up on their guys for losing than for being a bit cocky.

    Please bring Peterson back as captain - Strauss is too nice to have enough killer instinct. That is a compliment to Strauss's personal nature, but I don't think he is the right guy to be leading a team against the Aussies.

  • Comment number 23.

    Yes, there may well be a lot of negativity on this blog about England's performance; but based on the evidence of the first Test, ask yourself what the score at the end of the day would have been if AUSTRALIA had been batting. All credit to Strauss, he's obviously learned from the Aussies' performance; and Prior got a beauty (yes, Mitchell Johnson CAN swing the odd one in to the right-handers)....but after his heroics in the first match, it was particularly disappointing to see Colly get out the way he did. England have simply got to eliminate this kind of thing. Cook has not 'turned the corner'...once again, when well set, his concentration lapsed.
    However, there does seem to be a bit of help for the bowlers; let's hope it continues. If England's bowlers do no better than they did at Cardiff, then questions need to be asked (of the selectors as well).

  • Comment number 24.

    Shambelly "anyone agree with me that regardless what you say about his recent performances Harmy should have played this test"

    Emphatic no from me I'm afraid, he was sent packing to Trent Bridge where he belongs. There are three main reasons for this;

    a) He's one of the old guard that England need to look to replace anyway

    b) The ECB need to demonstrate that no one is bigger than the team, and HArmison's attitude to playing for England stinks (he acted like a prima donna at Lions match)

    c) He's the modern day Devon Malcolm without the effort

  • Comment number 25.

    The fact is that if England get 450 on this wicket then Australia will get 600 because they dont throw their wickets away. If our top order produces then the middle collapses and vice versa, we never get the whole team working unlike other teams.
    Batsmen get out to shots they had no right to play time after time after time after time. Either heads need to be banged together or get someone in who can do the job, until then we will always be the nearly men.
    p.s. can we get rid of aussie commentators on the bbc, I am sick of gloating aussies when we get out at least an english commentator would sound as fed up as I feel.

  • Comment number 26.

    Usual negativity on here then.

    "The fact is that if England get 450 on this wicket then Australia will get 600 because they dont throw their wickets away."

    What is this 'Australia WILL get 600' business? Will they? Do they absolutely ALWAYS? When did 450 become a terrible score? Would anyone care to tell me what England and Australia's top scores were in the 2005 series?

    "Cook has not 'turned the corner'...once again, when well set, his concentration lapsed."

    Let me get this straight, he hasn't turned a corner because he missed out on a century by five runs? If he'd got five more would that have turned his innings from a missed opportunity into a crushing blow for Australia's hopes in the series? The guy just helped put on a first wicket stand of nearly 200 and he's still getting bagged!

  • Comment number 27.

    I reckon Strauss is a great batsman, but not a brilliant captain.
    Vaughan was a great captain but not a consistent batsman.
    So... why doesn't Vaughan do off-field captaincy, send on the 12th man to tell Strauss what to do when things get sticky. Bingo!

  • Comment number 28.

    beeryswine is correct about the Aussie commentators on test match special. jim maxwell tries all the time to put "the commentators curse' on the england batsmen by saying how well they are playing.
    as for england at lords, they certainly keep finding ways to turn success into failure. now that flintoff has announced his retirement, it maybe better to let him go early. he will be missed but the team should not be subjected to the long goodbye. a quick break is best for the team.

  • Comment number 29.

    Agree with you plugmonkey - there is a bt of negativity on this thread. I think a lot of people have looked at the fast rate of scoring and assumed players got themselves out when in fact only Collingwood (ironically the only patient one at Cardiff) who gave his wicket away.

    Oh and AndyP - it was paisley shirts and suede winkle-pickers for me...

  • Comment number 30.

    Does anyone else think that Peterson should be dropped to spend a few months playing to 20 spectators on the county circuit. He's either badly out of touch or very distracted, would a manager like Alex Ferguson put up with someone repeatedly failing to apply themselves.

  • Comment number 31.

    No one seems to be mentioning the Integrity of the Captain that claimed a catch that clearly hit the grass first. I would imagine that if it was the other way around and it was Ponting that claimed the catch. All hell would have broken out on the British Press Circus, Shame on you Strauss

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    England Captain Andrew Strauss hit a superb 161 on the 1st day of the 2nd Test Match at Lords, Strauss has a good record at Lords having scored a century at the home of cricket on debut against New Zealand back in 2004.

    England were on the brink of losing the first Test Match in Cardiff, but a fantastic last wicket partnership between James Anderson and Monty Panesar which lasted for almost an hour, ultimately secured England a thrilling draw.

    This is Strausss 3rd home series as England Captain, he stepped in for an injured Michael Vaughan to lead his country to a 3-0 over Pakistan while more recently captaining England to a 2-0 victory against the West Indies.

    England were able to use the momentum provided to them by Strausss 1st day century and the home side went on to record their first Ashes victory at Lords for 75 years, once again we appear to be in the midst of an epic Ashes encounter.


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