Centurion Strauss eyes series win

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The Independent Online

Andrew Strauss is today hoping to mark his 100th one-day international cap with a piece of prized history for his England team too.

Should the rain stay away from Kingsmead, England have the chance to beat South Africa 3-1 by taking the final match of the series.

They would become only the second team - after Australia - to defeat South Africa on home soil.

Alternatively, a washout would hand England the series anyway.

Whatever today brings, though, Strauss is already enthused by a longer-term vision - one in which he adds many more good memories to a career with England which has so far had relatively few ODI highlights.

Pressed to recall his favourite moments since his debut six years ago, he can nominate only a couple.

England's improbable tri-series success down under - between the debacles of the 2006/07 Ashes and 2007 World Cup - was a proud moment.

So too was their run to the final of the Champions Trophy at The Oval, where West Indies fought back in near darkness to steal the silverware. "Winning the one-day series in Australia was quite a big highlight, given it had been such an arduous and difficult tour," said Strauss.

"There was also the final of the Champions Trophy in 2004. Unfortunately, we didn't get over the line - but some of the cricket we played there was pretty good."

England have regularly flattered to deceive, however, often following a fine performance with another below-par - a trait they remain guilty of, even in the era of Strauss' captaincy.

Yet he is optimistic enough to believe there may well be sustained success to come.

"During those nearly 100 games I've played, we've never really been particularly consistent - so there haven't been an amazing number of good times," he admitted.

"Let's hope there are more to come in the future."

England revealed their inconsistency most recently in a 6-1 series defeat at home to Australia just two months ago.

But Strauss reports that experience helped an "honest" new England spot the errors of their ways.

"Sometimes, you need to go through those tough times to see the light and realise where you're going wrong and where you need to be," he believes.

"There was a realisation among the whole squad in that Australia series that we're not as good as we want to be - and if we want to be better we've got to do things differently."

Among the improvements has been England's adoption of ODI-specific middle practices - with prescribed runs-and-overs scenarios - leading up to matches. "In a lot of ways, I get the feeling we've maybe been lagging behind some of the other sides in this respect for while now," the captain concedes.

As for his own three-figure milestone, meanwhile, Strauss is not getting carried away.

It follows Paul Collingwood's all-time England high 171st ODI cap at Centurion just a fortnight ago.

But the England captain points out neither is a major body of work, compared with superstars from other countries who have racked up three or four times as many appearances.

"As Colly said the other day - when he got his (record) cap - when you look at guys who've played 400 odd games, you realise you're a pretty small fish in a big pond," said Strauss.

"But it's still a nice achievement."