Andrew Strauss passed his first true test as England captain yesterday when he scored 128 in the first Test against Pakistan in his initial game in charge. Leading the England side has had a detrimental effect on the game of many players but by making his ninth Test hundred he showed that he has the character to handle the dual responsibilities of opening the batting and captaining the side.
Strauss brought up his century when he clipped the leg-spin of Shahid Afridi to square leg for a single, and helped remove the lingering fear that England could yet lose a Test in which they scored 528 in their first innings. By the end of an intriguing fourth day England, after bowling Pakistan out for 445, had moved to 258 for 7, a total that gives them an overall lead of 341.
While at the crease Strauss would have been wondering about the size of lead England required to make the match safe before they could start thinking about winning the game. Modern pitches tend not to deteriorate like those in years gone by and successful fourth innings run chases are now far more common, but England, even with four bowlers, already should have more than enough. If England declare overnight, Pakistan would need to equal the record chase of the West Indies here in 1984 to win.
The decision of Strauss and Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, this morning will highlight how much faith they have in their bowlers. A more confident and adventurous partnership may have declared last night and attempted to take a wicket or two before the close. But the inconsistent and relatively inexperienced nature of England's bowling attack, along with the ability of Pakistan's batsmen, may encourage them to bat on this morning before declaring.
Successive England captains have stressed the importance of scoring runs while in charge. The media and supporters are always going to study and question the tactics of a captain - it comes with the territory - but the one discussion he cannot afford taking place is his worth to the side. Strauss' place in the England team is not in doubt, but if the selectors felt the job would affect his batting they would be reluctant to consider him in the future.
Strauss' hundred, like those of Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell in England's first innings, was understated. There were very few shots that stood out but he manoeuvred the ball around magnificently and kept the scoreboard ticking over.
With a first-innings lead of 83 England could afford to be positive, and Strauss and Marcus Trescothick gave them a solid start. Trescothick was dropped by Kamran Akmal on 12 but he failed to make the most of his good fortune when a weak dab at Umar Gul was deflected on to leg stump.
Cook soon followed when he pulled Gul to Mohammad Yousuf, Pakistan's double centurion, at mid-on. On 64 for 2, and with a lead of 147, England were hardly in trouble, but they needed a good partnership to settle the nerves of a dressing- room that has become accustomed to losing.
Strauss and Kevin Pietersen provided the team with the stability they were after with a 77-run partnership. Strauss collected runs in his usual areas - square of the wicket - while Pietersen plundered the ball down the ground.
Pietersen was bamboozled by Afridi when on 41 - the 14th time in 29 innings he has got out between 13 and 45 - and Paul Collingwood played a lazy shot - trying to work the ball against the spin of Danish Kaneria - and was caught at mid-off. Ian Bell was run out by Strauss as he attempted to score his 100th run and Geraint Jones edged a Kaneria leg-break to the wicketkeeper.
Strauss' defiant knock ended two balls later when he edged a Kaneria googly to slip and the standing ovation he received from a capacity crowd would have sounded as sweet as that when he scored a hundred here on his Test debut.
It had taken England 50 minutes to bring Pakistan's first innings to a close yet they failed to prevent Yousuf from scoring his second consecutive double hundred against them. He completed a brilliant 223 against England in Lahore in December 2005 and this innings was just as skilful.
Pakistan's total was built around a fantastic partnership of 173 between Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq on Saturday. They made batting look easy. Inzamam, who scored 69, is an extraordinary player. He looks lethargic and cumbersome, and one would expect him to struggle against fast bowling.
Yet the captain's ability to judge the length of a ball as soon as it leaves the bowler's hand is second to none. Inzamam seems to have more time to play the shot of his choice than any other player and it came as a major surprise when Liam Plunkett bowled him behind his legs. Akmal, the Pakistan wicketkeeper, was the only other player to give Yousuf support and the pair put on 99 for the seventh wicket.
The fourth day began with Pakistan still 119 runs in arrears, but with one of the world's most dangerous batsmen at the crease. Yousuf may have been unbeaten on 185 but Afridi was the man England needed to dismiss. They had a recent experience of how destructive he can be when he hit 92 off 85 balls in Faisalabad during the winter, and they knew that an hour of him at the crease could place them in a perilous position.
Afridi's cavalier approach allowed him to race to 17 but a mistimed heave at Matthew Hoggard ended his stay and Pakistan's chances of making life uncomfortable for England. Gul fell to Hoggard in the same over and Yousuf, on 194, looked like he could fall short of his fourth double century. But Kaneria gave him the support he required and the 31-year-old reached the landmark he wanted when he edged Hoggard through first slip for four.
Scoreboard from Lord's
England won the toss
England - First innings 528 for 9 dec (P D Collingwood 186; A N Cook 105, I R Bell 100no).
Pakistan - First innings
(Friday: 66 for 3)
Mohammad Yousuf c Jones b Harmison 202
469 min, 330 balls, 26 fours, 1 six
Mohammad Sami c Jones b Hoggard 0
14 min, 12 balls
*Inzamam-ul-Haq b Plunkett 69
177 min, 115 balls, 10 fours
Abdul Razzaq c Jones b Harmison 22
77 min, 69 balls, 1 four
ÝKamran Akmal c Jones b Pietersen 58
101 min, 82 balls, 8 fours
Shahid Afridi c Bell b Hoggard 17
36 min, 20 balls, 3 fours
Umar Gul c Jones b Hoggard 0
3 min, 2 balls
Danish Kaneria not out 1
19 min, 5 balls
Extras (b7 lb14 w7 nb5) 33
Total (514 min, 119.3 overs) 445
Fall (cont): 4-68 (Mohammad Sami) 5-241 (Inzamam-ul-Haq) 6-300 (Abdul Razzaq) 7-399 (Kamran Akmal) 8-435 (Shahid Afridi) 9-436 (Umar Gul) 10-445 (Mohammad Yousuf).
Bowling: Hoggard 33-3-117-3 (nb5,w1) (7-1-27-0, 6-0-20-1, 3-0-7-0, 4-0-11-0, 4-1-14-0, 4-0-21-0, 5-1-17-2); Harmison 29.3-6-94-4 (7-2-14-2, 1-0-1-0, 5-1-23-0, 5-0-25-0, 6-2-13-1, 5.3-1-18-1); Panesar 27-3-93-0 (2-0-10-0, 1-0-1-0, 11-0-39-0, 9-3-26-0, 4-0-17-0); Plunkett 21-3-78-2 (w4) (2-0-14-1, 6-1-17-0, 6-2-19-1, 3-0-16-0, 4-0-12-0); Collingwood 7-1-31-0 (w2) (2-0-19-0, 3-1-4-0, 2-0-8-0); Pietersen 2-0-11-1 (one spell).
Progress: Third day: 100: 137 min, 29.3 overs. 150: 182 min, 40.4 overs. Lunch: 165-4 (Mohammad Yousuf 66, Inzamam-ul-Haq 44) 48 overs. 200: 243 min, 57 overs. 250: 298 mins, 69.1 overs. Tea: 291-5 (Mohammad Yousuf 132, Abdul Razzaq 21) 79 overs. New ball taken after 80.2 overs at 291-5. 300: 348 min, 83 overs. 350: 405 min, 94.4 overs. 400: 458 mins, 107.2 overs. Close: 409-7 (Mohammad Yousuf 185, Shahid Afridi 0) 109 overs. Fourth day: Innings closed 11.49am.
Mohammad Yousuf's 50: 123 mins, 79 balls, 8 fours. 100: 209 mins, 157 balls, 15 fours. 150: 358 mins, 244 balls, 20 fours, 1 six. 200: 465 mins, 325 balls, 26 fours, 1 six. Inzamam-ul-Haq's 50: 128 mins, 89 balls, 7 fours. Kamran Akmal's 50: 84 mins, 69 balls, 7 fours.
England - Second Innings
M E Trescothick b Umar Gul 18
41 min, 29 balls, 3 fours
*A J Strauss c Imran Farhat b Danish Kaneria 128
301 min, 214 balls, 13 fours, 1 five
A N Cook c Mohammad Yousuf b Umar Gul 4
27 min, 19 balls
K P Pietersen st Kamran Akmal b Shahid Afridi 41
86 min, 70 balls, 6 fours
P D Collingwood c Salman Butt b Danish Kaneria 3
7 min, 5 balls
I R Bell run out (Inzamam-ul-Haq/Kamran Akmal TV replay) 28
63 min, 61 balls, 3 fours
ÝG O Jones c Kamran Akmal b Danish Kaneria 16
67 min, 54 balls, 1 four
L E Plunkett not out 5
13 min, 10 balls, 1 four
M J Hoggard not out 0
8 min, 5 balls
Extras (b4 lb6 nb5) 15
Total (for 7, 310 min, 77 overs) 258
Fall: 1-38 (Trescothick) 2-64 (Cook) 3-141 (Pietersen) 4-146 (Collingwood) 5-203 (Bell) 6-250 (Jones) 7-253 (Strauss).
To bat: S J Harmison, M S Panesar.
Bowling: Mohammad Sami 6-1-23-0 (one spell); Umar Gul 16-3-57-2 (nb3) (10-2-38-2, 6-1-19-0); Danish Kaneria 29-4-73-3 (1-0-2-0, 21-3-56-1, 7-1-15-2); Abdul Razzaq 7-0-31-0 (one spell); Shahid Afridi 18-1-59-1 (nb2) (17-1-58-1, 1-0-1-0); Imran Farhat 1-0-5-0.
Progress: Fourth day: 50: 57 min, 12.2 overs. Lunch: 51-1 (Strauss 26, Cook 2) 13 overs. 100: 111 min, 25.1 overs. 150: 176 min, 41 overs. Tea: 154-4 (Strauss 74, Bell 4) 42 overs. 200: 226 min, 57 overs. 250: 294 min, 73.5 overs.
Strauss's 50: 105 min, 69 balls, 8 fours. 100: 234 min, 168 balls, 11 fours.
Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and S J A Taufel (Aus).
TV replay umpire: P J Hartley (Eng).
Match referee: R S Madugalle (S Lanka).Reuse content