Strauss retires with the dignity he showed as England's leader

Nothing became him more than the manner of his leaving. Andrew Strauss relinquished the England captaincy and retired as a professional cricketer yesterday with dignity and composure. He knew that the time had come to walk off into the sunset.

"It's a very tough decision to make but for me the driver to it all was, quite frankly, my form with the bat," Strauss said. "In truth I haven't batted well enough for a long period of time now and I think for a captain to perform in his role properly it's important, firstly, that you're not a passenger in the side but also that people aren't speculating as to whether you should be in the side or not."

If his departure came as a surprise after 100 Test matches for England, 50 of them as captain, Strauss had clearly recognised that his form at the very highest level would never again reach the necessary standard.

Strauss's successor will be Alastair Cook, who already leads the one-day team and will now combine the two roles. Cook was not merely paying lip service when he twice mentioned to an audience gathered at Lord's that he had huge boots to fill.

It was gratifying to hear him deny emphatically and convincingly that the Kevin Pietersen affair influenced his decision ("it wasn't a consideration at all"), though it is possible to speculate that his lack of runs against South Africa and the way he was dismissed were affected by the shabby dispute.

In all, he held the job for 1,329 days since taking over from Pietersen in tumultuous circumstances in January 2009. In partnership with the coach, Andy Flower, he took England to places they had never been. There were two Ashes wins, home and away, and last summer they assumed the No 1 spot in the Test rankings.

But decline was to set in. As a batsman, Strauss never quite recaptured the solidity that had marked the early part of his career. Strauss, who denied point blank the day before the series began against South Africa that his future was on the line, revealed he had spoken to Flower weeks ago about giving up and said he would talk to him again at the end of the series. "But by the time I spoke to him again my mind was made up and I think he knew that," he said. "I know with my own energy levels and motivation, I wasn't going to improve batting-wise, I'd run my race.

"It's been a gradual feeling over the last six or 12 months I suppose. Certainly in the last few weeks it's become more apparent that this is the right time."

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