'I thought I must have done something good in a past life'

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Andrew Strauss last night provided part of the explanation for his extraordinary run of form. "When I kept playing and missing Shaun Pollock I kept thinking I must have done something good in a past life or something," he said after accruing his fifth and perhaps most handsome century in an international career which has so far spanned only 11 Test matches.

"It's important to ride the wave as long as possible. We all know what it's like when you're in bad form and you don't know when your next run is coming from." Divine intervention or not, Strauss exhibited a quality which can be as important in big-time batting as magnificent strokeplay.

Pollock was intermittently extremely dangerous early on and came close to the England opener's edge at least four times. But Strauss refused to be embarrassed out.

He clearly enjoyed his long stand with Robert Key and his partner's droll humour. They put on 182 yesterday.

"I enjoy batting with Rob and we know each other well from our time at the National Academy. He's just pretty miserable out there to be honest, always moaning about things like there not being enough sun or whatever, but he's fun to bat with."

Strauss exonerated his partner for the confusion when he was on 95 and was almost run out as Key turned one backward of square and Strauss set off for a run. "All sorts of things are going on in your mind when you're in the nineties."

Strauss considered it to be England's day, although they lost two late wickets, including his to the second new ball.

"You change your mode of batting from old ball to the new ball and I was guilty of getting out at a bad time. It was disappointing to lose Graham Thorpe as well but we've still had a pretty good day and would have settled for that at the start."

As for the home side, they had their own method for working their way back into the match with England dominating proceedings at 227 for 1. At tea, the South Africa coach, Ray Jennings, said that he and captain Graeme Smith decided he fast bowler Makhaya Ntini had been a little dull all day and plunged him in the ice bath. "That made him mad," Jennings said. Ntini dismissed responded by dismissing Key and Thorpe.

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