1st Test, Day2: Strauss' ton powers England past West Indies
One innings into England's Test summer, Andrew Strauss' authority has been emphatically re-established. That it should take place at Lord's was entirely appropriate because there is something about Lord's that encourages the best in him.
One innings into England's Test summer, Andrew Strauss' authority has been emphatically re-established. That it should take place at Lord's was entirely appropriate because there is something about Lord's that encourages the best in him. He is attuned to its trim and orderly air and after an unrewarding winter that brought his right to the England captaincy into focus he has never valued it more.
Strauss has struggled to establish an air of superiority at the crease over the past two years, and his delight at his fifth Test hundred at Lord's suggested that beneath his placid exterior he had felt the tension. An undemonstrative man, he greeted his rasping square cut against Darren Sammy with a roar of satisfaction. It has never become a debate about his fitness to lead, more a growing concern about his batting state of health. That is no longer up for debate and England are better for it. Whatever else will we talk about?
Lord's is never happier than when imagining that it has sustained an England captain, especially a captain as courteous as Strauss, and their fondness for him was apparent in their cheers. "Commendable stuff," one could imagine the members muttering as he crashed a cut or stroked a straight drive, a greater than average number for him, proof enough that he was on his mettle.
West Indies were persistent but no better than that and none of their pace bowlers swung the ball despite the same overcast skies under which James Anderson, initially, and later Stuart Broad had been so impressive on the first day. Strauss' edgiest time came as his century neared and Fidel Edwards and Darren Sammy baited him with a succession of wide deliveries. He flirted with a few and was dropped off a no-ball on 95 when Edwards overstepped and the ball went through the hands of Shivnarine Chanderpaul at first slip.
Jonathan Trott, at his most unobtrusive, was a perfect ally for much of the day in a stand of 147 in 52 overs, but Trott departed for 58, surprised by one that seamed from Darren Sammy, when Strauss was 96. That left Kevin Pietersen to introduce a brief celebratory mood, once the hundred was achieved, until he was out cutting at Marlon Samuels. Two deliveries with the second new ball were enough for the umpires - and probably enough for Edwards who had a calf strain - and even though the floodlights were on they called a halt ten minutes early.
Alastair Cook was the only other batsman to fall, dragging Kemar Roach on to his leg stump before lunch as he cut at a ball that was close to him. Roach is West Indies' primary source of top-order wickets and was initially all jingle-jangle as he dashed in with earrings shining and heavy gold necklace swaying, touching 88mph at times, but for much of the day he lacked the dash that had brought him 19 wickets in three Tests against Australia.
England also had to contend with a Test debutant, Shannon Gabriel, an athletic Trinidadian with a strong action. Rarely for England these days, they had no footage of him, leaving Strauss to learn on the hoof. It was a bit like playing for England in days of yore - or sometimes like playing for the West Indies even now. Technically bereft, England coped rather well, which is a relief to know at a time when the financial markets are in such turmoil that everybody in the country might soon have to trade in their iPads and return to subsistence farming.
When he plays at Lord's, Strauss does not just dominate an attack; it is as if he outranks them. He strolls jauntily down the steps with the Lord's pavilion behind him as if leaving an office in the City for a morning meeting. He was beginning an England summer in the customary manner, with a Test at Lord's and it felt fitting. It was strange to recall that had Glamorgan not hit financial difficulties this Test would have taken place in Cardiff.
He is so comfortable in his surroundings that he began his innings as if embarking upon a series of pleasantries. "Good morning, Mr Roach, my name is Strauss. How do you do?" He got off the mark with a thick edge against Fidel Edwards through gully, but an orderly cover drive in Edwards' next over was the first boundary of 19 filed in the out tray. He likes the ball coming on to him and, even though this Lord's pitch was a slow one, the West Indies attack suited him. He was in his element again and, with no spin bowler other than Samuels' occasionals in the West Indies ranks, he knew that the rhythms of the day were not about to change.
Time to reflect upon his unbeaten 31 over lunch was probably not what Strauss needed, given his habit of getting out when set over his fallow two-year period. He made only a single in the first 35 minutes after lunch as the hum of Lord's provided a soundtrack to a somnolent afternoon. Then suddenly his half-century was secured with three boundaries off Sammy: a clip off his pads, a straight drive that left two fielders sprawling and finally a present outside leg stump which he flicked to the long-leg boundary.
Trott was also not about to be rushed. He might have been out twice on 17. West Indies were confident enough about Sammy's lbw appeal to engage in a bout of hand-slapping only for umpire Aleem Dar's decision to be upheld on review. Then, in Sammy's next over, Trott feathered one. Hot Spot and Snicko both showed contact but West Indies' appeal was half-hearted and Trott got away with it.
Stuart Broad, England's darling of the first day, had needed only one ball on the second morning to round up the West Indies innings, so finishing with Test-best figures of 7 for 72. Gabriel had received his first Test cap in a little ceremony before start of play and pushed respectfully forward to his first ball only to nick it to Graeme Swann at second slip.
That left Shivnarine Chanderpaul unbeaten on 87, 13 runs short of what would have been his 26th Test century. Once again he was the stalwart of West Indies innings, batting in a middle-order position where statistics insist he is most productive. He did not face another ball after taking a single from the first ball of the last over on the first day and watched West Indies' last two wickets fall from the non-striker's end. He is unlikely to learn from the experience; he plays in his bubble and at his time of life, if any new thoughts strayed into it, it would burst at the shock.