While one former England captain was left to sweat, the incumbent Andrew Strauss bathed in the comfort of certainty at Southgate yesterday. Strauss, who will lead the players out against the West Indies at Lord's, marked his first appearance since the tour by scoring 150 off 167 balls against Leicestershire, his eighth first-class century in his last 19 innings.
Ominously for England, though, the 20-year-old Australian opener Phillip Hughes is on the verge of a second hundred in as many matches for Middlesex. Leicestershire included New Zealand bowler Ian O'Brien for the first time after his work permit problems were resolved but Hughes, who shared a stand of 244 for the second wicket with Strauss, will resume unbeaten on 99 after weather forced play to be halted at tea. Northants pace bowler David Wigley took 4 for 68 as Gloucestershire, for whom Ian Saxelby made a maiden half-century, reached 287 for 8.
In the First Division, champions Durham made a fine start at Taunton, Dale Benkenstein's 110 not out leading them to a commanding 372 for 6 after Somerset had put them in.