Defiant Strauss: I'm not stepping down in the middle of a series

 

He was disappointed and he was defiant. If he was going anywhere he was not saying so. It was neither the time nor the place. There was a series still on the line and, if it cannot be won by England now, it can be drawn.

Almost inevitably, it happens to all England captains, or at least those who have been any good at the job and hang around for a while. And now it is happening to Andrew Strauss, the saviour himself, the man who has appeared in more winning England Test teams, 44, than any other player, and who has led them to 21 victories as captain.

But not this winter. The defeat by 75 runs to Sri Lanka yesterday was England's fourth in succession in Test matches, in which period Strauss's top score is 56. It is not an alliance, a losing side and poor captain, to keep somebody around for long.

Strauss, 35, is an extremely wise man. He knows the questions are being asked, some of them by men who have done the job in the recent past and know exactly how it works. All of them have usually managed to get out because they have sensed the time has come – Michael Atherton (though he knows now he should have gone before), Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan all resigned eventually because it was time.

"That's not the sort of question I'm going to answer in the middle of a series," said Strauss when asked about his role after the match yesterday. "My focus is very much on winning the next game. It would be wrong of me to think anything otherwise at this stage. I can understand why it's being asked but it's not something I'm focusing on."

He will have thought about it all right, because he knows there is a certain inevitability about what could happen if England lose the second Test next week and he fails to make runs. If he scores some and they win the legitimacy of the question recedes, if it does not disappear.

At times like these it is natural to think of replacement and renewal. Strauss has no runs, no wins and the credit is running out. The selectors may soon have to engage this issue properly rather than deal in the anodyne response that has become their stock in trade as England have climbed to the top of the world.

"I'm hitting the ball nicely," said Strauss. "I feel in good form but you're judged on your own performances and I haven't performed well enough. Hopefully, I can put it right next week.

"Sometimes it goes with the territory, you go through periods where you can't kick on for whatever reason but suddenly you get through that and it releases a barrier. When that happens you can get a lot of big scores in a row. At the moment it's frustrating for me as much as anyone."

He may, for all anyone knows, be two innings away from the end of his batting career. It is to be hoped not in so many ways. It is to be hoped he goes out at the P Sera Stadium in Colombo next Tuesday and scores a big hundred. It would not terminate the debate exactly, but it would buy time for him and the team.

"My job in the side is to score runs, the same as any other batsman, and I haven't scored as many as I would have liked in the last 12 months or so," he said. "That's very frustrating but, hopefully, I'll put it right next week. If you want to win Test matches you need to get runs on the board and we haven't done that.

"I don't think you need to be a rocket scientist to work out where things have gone wrong. I thought we showed in the second innings that, technically and game-plan wise, there's a lot of skill in our dressing room against spin bowling but we didn't apply ourselves in the right manner in the first innings."

Now, as he pointed out, is not the time to be looking for new blood because there is a series and a ranking at stake. But the selectors had better have a clue about their intentions.

England have not taken a Test match to its fifth day yet this winter and it was always unlikely that this would happen in Galle after 17 wickets fell on the second day. England were much better yesterday, or at least Jonathan Trott was, although there were still too many poor shots in a Test match full of them on both sides. It was absorbing but it was error-strewn.

They regroup in Colombo, probably without Stuart Broad, who has a strained right calf. Strauss said: "A lot of the guys in the side have a great pedigree with the bat and they've got another opportunity to prove it next week." And, the way things are going, another one at Lord's in May should that not work out.

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