Strauss shines as Somerset dominate in draw

If the forthcoming Test series goes well for Andrew Strauss and England, Somerset should be top of his Christmas card list.

Updated: July 17, 2011 22:59 IST
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Taunton: If the forthcoming Test series goes well for Andrew Strauss and England, Somerset should be top of his Christmas card list. After finding form in the first innings, he made the most of his second knock with an unbeaten 109 as India were left with precious little to take from the match other than Suresh Raina's 103 earlier on the final day.

However, like in the first innings where Arul Suppiah outshone the England captain with a career-best 156, the limelight was taken away by another Somerset batsman as Peter Trego hammered a 57-ball 85 off the struggling Indian attack before the home side, somewhat sympathetically, declared at tea to allow India another brief innings. At least Gautam Gambhir and Abhinav Mukund eased themselves to an unbroken 69 before another shower ended the match, and India headed to London with their tail between their legs.

Trego arrived with Amit Mishra on a hat-trick but wickets were soon a long way from the legspinner's mind as he was left watching the ball sail regularly into the stands. Trego's half-century came up with the third of four consecutive leg-side sixes, and the umpires twice needed to find replacement balls. At one stage Mishra had bowled three overs for 61 and it went from a being a tough warm-up for the tourists to something of an embarrassment, although they will try to play down the significance.

It was no surprise that the home side didn't enforce the follow-on after India were bowled out and the Somerset opening pair again made comfortable progress. Zaheer Khan didn't take the field - and neither did Sachin Tendulkar - but the team manager insisted he was purely resting which seemed an odd decision after a wicketless first innings where Zaheer looked in far from peak form. And if he didn't want to show himself to Strauss again, that suggests the pressure has shifted.

The remaining India bowlers went through the motions and the pattern was similar to the first innings. Munaf Patel was steady but unthreatening while Sreesanth was expensive. Strauss dominated the scoring, although not quite in the fashion of the opening day as Suppiah rode on the confidence of his first-innings hundred.

Strauss had barely an alarm as he cruised past fifty and tucked into some friendly bowling. He took three consecutive boundaries off Sreesanth, who kept dropping short, and also came down the pitch at Mishra to drive him for a straight six - many more of those would follow. Trego's onslaught meant he was quickly catching Strauss, but the England captain went to his hundred from 122 balls with a late cut shortly before tea.

Mishra had provided India with momentary relief when he claimed two wickets in two balls but they were costly successes. His figures would soon take an even greater hammering, probably leaving him wishing he hadn't broken the opening stand. Suppiah lost his shape when he came down the pitch and got an outside edge to backward point then James Hildreth edged a legbreak behind first ball.

Earlier, Raina gave India their one bright spot for the match as he raced to an unbeaten century to lift the visitors to 224. He added a final-wicket stand of 84 in 12 overs with Munaf of which the No. 11 contributed 6. Raina needed just 37 balls to go from his fifty to a hundred as he cut loose after Sreesanth had lost his off stump to become Charl Willoughby's sixth wicket.

Rania drove, pulled and flicked five sixes which damaged Willoughby's figures while Alfonso Thomas also took some punishment. His hundred arrived from 110 balls courtesy of a misfield at mid-off but he didn't have the chance to add many more as Munaf was lbw to legspinner Max Waller soon after.

Raina's innings - and Yuvraj's duck on the second day - will have sealed the debate over India's No. 6 spot for Lord's. Strauss probably would not have minded having an extended look at Raina, someone England haven't faced before in Test s. He has gained more than he may have expected from his brief stint in the south-west.

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