In 2004, when South Africa-born, left-handed, Middlesex captain Andrew Strauss took centre-stage alongside Marcus Trescothick on the infamous Lord’s turf, few envisaged him to form one half of Test cricket’s best opening pair of the time. The opposition was New Zealand, and the Kiwis were left confounded by his century-on-debut that ensued.
By 2005, Strauss, with partner Trescothick, became England’s crown jewel in reclaiming the Ashes after a gap that spanned two decades. Despite being his maiden encounter against Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, his gritty batting peppered with tentative stroke-play notched two centuries over five Tests. Eventual comparisons to Justin Langer seemed inevitable. In 2006, Strauss was made interim ODI captain against Sri Lanka, following injuries to Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff. That maiden foray into authority saw England suffer a series whitewash. Prolonged trust in Strauss was soon rewarded with a Test series victory against Pakistan, before captaincy returned to Flintoff. But the year saw a steady decline in his form, reflecting in England’s 5-0 Ashes whitewash.
The lowest ebb resulted in an omission following below-par performances against the Windies and on tour to India. Before the final innings of a forgettable 3-Test series in New Zealand, Strauss’s fate was pretty much sealed. But a timely 177 at Napier not just bought him time, but also paved way for a revival. The years that followed saw Strauss recapture both forms and captaincy – this time England looking to him to reunite a divided dressing room. In Alastair Cook, he found an opening partner to match the now-retired Trescothick. His leadership was instrumental in England retaining the 2009 and the 2010-11 Ashes proved even more special, as it was the first English victory on Australian soil after 24 long years.
The impact of Strauss’ inspirational captaincy was largely evident when England were crowned World No.1 in the ICC Test Rankings in 2011. Under his tutelage, the English team humiliated the then World Champions India, beating them 4-0 to acquire the mace. However, their reign couldn’t last for more than a year as a determined South Africa dethroned England from the pinnacle of Test cricket in 2012. Strauss then stepped down from captaincy, after playing his 100th Test at the Home of Cricket, his 50th as the England skipper. Not only did he resign from the post, but also announced his retirement from all forms of the game, paving way for his opening partner Alastair Cook to fill a huge void in the team.