Dignified Andrew Strauss retires – and blames it on his batting

Cook takes England reins after former captain makes 'tough decision' to bring glittering career to an end

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. He wanted to test it one more time against South Africa in the recent Test series which England lost 2-0, and had his suspicions confirmed.

As predicted for at least two years, 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 for one of English cricket's hastily arranged set-piece occasions that he had huge boots to fill.

Strauss had an exemplary career as an international batsman, which was all the more extraordinary for not having played Test cricket until he was past 27, positively ancient in these days of academies.

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 a mature 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.

The victory in Australia two winters ago, when England won 3-1, was the outstanding feature of the Strauss era. He was in unquestioned command of a side which knew what they were doing and how to do it and achieved the sort of sporting greatness that will be preserved forever.

But decline was to set in. As a batsman, Strauss never quite recaptured the solidity that had marked the early part of his career. When he went for 50 innings with only one hundred there was legitimate though mild debate about his position, only partly allayed by two hundreds against a moderate West Indies side earlier this summer.

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 hasn't been something that's occurred overnight, it's been a gradual feeling over the last six or 12 months I suppose, and certainly in the last few weeks it's become more and more apparent that this is the right time."

Strauss is the third successive England captain to resign in the wake of a Test defeat against a South Africa side led by Graeme Smith, after Nasser Hussain in 2003 and Michael Vaughan in 2008. Only Vaughan has led England to more Test wins than Strauss's 24 but he was about much more than that.

In a heartfelt tribute, Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, said it all: "He has inspired his own team and a generation of young players across the country to place integrity, respect for one another and honesty as the cornerstone of building a powerful team ethic and a team spirit which enabled men to want to play for one another." England were lucky to have him.

 

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Handy Andy: Strauss's statistics

Test record

Tests 100 Runs 7,037 Average 40.91 Top score 177 (v New Zealand, Napier, March 2008) 50s 27 100s 21

Test debut New Zealand, Lord's, May 2004.

Final Test South Africa, Lord's, August 2012

One-Day International record

ODIs 127 Runs 4,205 Average 35.63 Top score 158 (v India, Bangalore, February 2011) 50s 27 100s 6

ODI debut Sri Lanka, Dambulla, November 2003.

Final ODI Sri Lanka, Colombo, March 2011

Test record as captain

Tests 50 Runs 3,343 Average 40.76 Top score 169 (v West Indies, Antigua, February 2009) 50s 14 100s 9

First Test as captain Pakistan, Lord's, July 2006

Wins 24 (48%) Draws 15 Losses 11

Series by series as captain

2006 Pakistan (home; four Tests): won 3-0

2009 West Indies (away; five Tests): lost 1-0

2009 West Indies (home; two Tests): won 2-0

2009 Australia (home; five Tests): won 2-1

2009-10 South Africa (away; four Tests): drew 1-1

2010 Bangladesh (away; four Tests): won 2-0

2010 Bangladesh (home; two Tests): won 2-0

2010 Pakistan (home; four Tests): won 3-1

2010-11 Australia (away; five Tests): won 3-1

2011 Sri Lanka (home; three Tests): won 1-0

2011 India (home; four Tests): won 4-0

2011 Pakistan (away; three Tests): lost 3-0

2012 Sri Lanka (away; two Tests): drew 1-1

2012 West Indies (home; three Tests): won 2-0

2012 South Africa (home; three Tests): lost 2-0

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