James Lawton: With his usual class, Andrew Strauss proves the doubters wrong
Strauss refused to accept that he had lost his ability to lead a highly competitive team and score a few runs
It's just as well Andrew Strauss isn't the kind of guy to hoard vindication. Otherwise, he might have been seriously tetchy when he was required to leave the batting crease at Trent Bridge yesterday with England just a few runs short of series victory over the West Indians.
The point you could hardly avoid is that Strauss, of all leading English sportsmen, is possibly in least need of the passing gratification that comes with a rush of glory. He knows what he has done, for himself as a cricketer and for the team he has nursed so successfully for so long.
This reality can be measured in every nuance of his reaction to victory and the extremely occasional defeat.
If someone like John Terry rushes to the spotlight, as he did in a way that made the flesh crawl in Munich recently, Strauss is a rather different kind of captain. He knows what he has done – and what he might just achieve again.
He wasn't thrilled of course at his premature exit, not with a mere 45 against his name – after the two straight centuries which have left him one short of the record 22 mark of Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoff Boycott – but then when he stretched out in the dressing room he could indulge in some fully fledged self-satisfaction.
Most of it, surely, had to centre on the fact that in the often treacherous business of captaincy few men have ever re-exerted themselves quite so impressively.
For some of us, it may have been a phantom threat to his leadership after the difficulties against Pakistan and Sri Lanka but undoubtedly some pressure was building. He pined for a century after 50 Test innings and nearly two years and of course he had been around cricket long enough to know that nothing feeds on itself quite so voraciously as a morsel of doubt.
At Lord's and at Trent Bridge, Strauss produced again that quality that has so distinguished his stewardship of England alongside coach Andy Flower.
He went back to the basics of his own game and got it right and perfectly so. He took nothing for granted in his own position and demanded no less of players who yesterday scored a seventh straight series win at home – and retrenched their position as the world's No 1 Test team before the coming challenge of South Africa.
You do not do this out of some knee-jerk reaction to passing crisis. You do not re-make yourself under the recurring pressure of world-class sport. If you have done your work, and learned your lessons, you simply apply the values you have come to trust.
They are the ones that have informed Strauss every step of England's march from the shambles that followed the divisions which led to the resignation of Kevin Pietersen to their current position of strength.
Such details of progress tend to be lost from time to time. When Pakistan were working their resurrection in the Emirates, the achievements of Strauss since that first setback in Jamaica were suddenly lost from sight. The crunching Ashes triumphs were of distant memory. The discarding of India suddenly meant little. But what Strauss refused to accept was that he had lost his ability to both lead a highly competitive team and score a few runs. It is his style to take such positions with remarkable equability.
Once again there was little hint of triumphalism in his victory speech yesterday. He paid tribute to those pockets of serious West Indian resistance which required bursts of excellence from men like Tim Bresnan, Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and, certainly not least, himself. He regretted those moments when England could have been more clinical but overall they had fought hard to inflict their status as the world's No 1 team. They had been required to get a little stronger at some brittle places.
That, of course, was the least that could be said for the stylish resistance of the notorious under-achiever Marlon Samuels and the menace of Kemar Roach. Yes, it's true, the West Indians still lack so much of the old steel, the consistent ability to produce bold and sumptuous cricket, but there have been times when they have questioned England, not least when Samuels heaved Graeme Swann for two massive sixes yesterday morning as they ebbed towards final defeat.
The Test and the series was over then but it was a last statement that in different circumstances the West Indians might have proved more of a threat. These, though, would have involved an England team which had forgotten how to turn the screw, especially on its own soil, and one which had lost belief in the leadership of the man who had taken them to the top of the world.
At 35, Strauss is not likely to permit such laxity any time soon. Plainly he has the stomach for a few more battles – and a sharpened hunger for at least a century or two of runs. Of course, there is more than one way of hoarding a bit of vindication.
Platini must now act after Campbell's warning
It may have been tempting to believe that Sol Campbell was being somewhat alarmist when he warned black and Asian fans that the price of watching England in Ukraine could be a trip home in a coffin.
It is the kind of imagery that tends not to enliven Foreign Office advisories but then it is hard to imagine any warning as starkly dramatic as the one contained in the images BBC Panorama presented to the former England defender before last night's shocking broadcast.
The one that no doubt most provoked Campbell's reaction was of a young Asian fan who, having retreated, dazed and battered from an assault launched by young, Hitler-saluting thugs, was then attacked once more, almost casually by a passing youth. Police watched with what could only be described as mild curiosity.
If Uefa president Michel Platini was not yesterday beating on the doors of the Ukraine authorities demanding the strongest action – as in the rounding-up of known ringleaders who are not exactly stealthy in their hatred – both he and his organisation must stand guilty of the gravest negligence.
Euro 2012 was supposed to be about a gift of encouragement to a region in sore need of a benign gesture, a helping hand. However, as Sol Campbell has pointed out without a breath of exaggeration, it is surely one that cannot be allowed to threaten innocent lives.
Quins' victory does not absolve Richards' sins
Could it be that Harlequins' fine win in the Premiership final only temporarily affected the balance of their director of rugby Conor O'Shea's understanding of what is most important in any sport?
Let us hope so in the wake of his assertion that in the defeat of Leicester the last traces of the Bloodgate scandal had been wiped away. Three years is a brief time in which to assign such monumental cheating to a forgotten past but you wouldn't have thought so listening to the tribute by O'Shea to Dean Richards, the man who managed to corrupt the thinking of an entire team.
Here is O'Shea's warm contribution to the rehabilitation of the recently appointed boss of Jonny Wilkinson's old club Newcastle, "Our performance is a massive tribute to many, including Dean Richards, who put so many of the structures in place. You worry how Newcastle will go in the next few years under his control."
Yes, of course you do – but maybe not in the way O'Shea intended.
From Richards, there has also been a startling declaration. It is that for the moment at least he has no hard ambition to coach England. It seems they have still a lot of work to do.
It's not true you couldn't make it up. But it probably helps when you operate where, apparently, just about anything goes.
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