James Lawton: Strauss must not be stalled by old mindset

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The Independent Online

Could it be that Nasser Hussain, like some fabled old warrior, will at 36 walk away from the battlefield after one of his greatest triumphs?

Could it be that Nasser Hussain, like some fabled old warrior, will at 36 walk away from the battlefield after one of his greatest triumphs?

It may be asking a little too much after his glorious redemption of the moment of light-headedness which robbed the sensationally composed debutant Andrew Strauss of the possibility of two centuries in his first Test.

However, Hussain raised the possibility after nervelessly proceeding to the century which was decisive in beating the weathered, combative Kiwis. He said that he had to think long and hard about his situation and in so doing brought English cricket to one of those moments of philosophical truth has been avoided too often in the past.

At what point do you say thanks and goodbye to your older players? After Strauss' brilliant opening century, Alec Stewart, who many thought had been given a gratuitous extra year at the end of his fine career for England, told the nation that the Middlesex captain might have to step back into the shadows for a little while when Michael Vaughan returned from injury. It was a chilling example of the old mindset.

If Strauss had been a new Australian blood making such a magnificent arrival in a team containing three veteran batsmen, the question probably wouldn't have been asked.

This is why the Australians remain world champions - an ambition which England, with their new array of authentic Test pacemen and the fast-growing assurance of Andrew Flintoff, can now reasonably entertain. But first they must acquire a streak of that Aussie ruthlessness. They must accept that team selection is the last place to inject a whiff of sentimentality.

Strauss must be one of the first names on the team list for the second Test. Ideally, he would be joined by Chris Read, far and away the best English wicketkeeper, a fact which was quite painfully underlined when Geraint Jones dropped a catch which Read would have taken without a flicker on his pulse rate.

That lopped 26 runs off the England first-innings total. One day the beneficiary might be someone such as Ricky Ponting or Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara, and we might be talking 226. It was a great day for England at Lord's but it still left some burning questions. The business of staying on top generally does.

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