Strauss's ton not quite a virtuoso performance
Napier: day three of third Test - This was a truly staggering performance by Andrew Strauss, and an innings which lends us great insight into his character.
This was his last chance saloon, and he and everyone knew it.
Therefore to bat eight hours for his highest ever Test score (173no) was remarkable – particularly because in terms of technique he still had problems.
Indeed, this was a personal victory in spite of technical shortcomings which were exposed again when the second new ball was taken and he was well past his century.
Time and again he was beaten outside the off stump by Chris Martin as his front foot remained rooted in within the crease, but it seems inconceivable that he will not play in the first Test of the summer against New Zealand at Lord's...
We must all hope that his footwork returns to normal as a result of the confidence he will have gained from the runs he has scored here.
The best innings of the day came from Ian Bell, who looked in glorious form as he scored his seventh Test century. I can’t remember seeing a better innings than this for a long time.
His cover driving was exquisite, and he really put into context the weakness of New Zealand’s bowling attack and the benign conditions.
England have clearly done enough now to set up the victory they need to win the series, and they will be hoping for another inept display by New Zealand’s batsmen.
But, like Strauss, Jamie How, Matthew Bell and Matthew Sinclair have a lot to prove – there is a team to tour England to select at the end of the match and all three are under pressure.
And there is also Stephen Fleming’s final innings in Test cricket to consider.
But Ryan Sidebottom has the sign over most of New Zealand’s batsmen now, and Stuart Broad is improving with every outing.
Personally, I hope we see some guile introduced to Monty Panesar’s bowling. There is not much turn but there is a little bounce and Panesar will have to tease batsmen out through subtlety rather than help from the pitch.
I am not expecting him to take 5 for 70 (if he did, it would be outstanding) but I do hope we see more in the way of experimentation.