'Lord Brockett' thrives in high-pressure world

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The Independent Online

England has a new hero this morning. The Middlesex captain, Andrew Strauss, became the first home player since John Hampshire against the West Indies 35 years ago, to score a century in his maiden Test innings.

England has a new hero this morning. The Middlesex captain, Andrew Strauss, became the first home player since John Hampshire against the West Indies 35 years ago, to score a century in his maiden Test innings.

The South African-born Strauss, dubbed "Lord Brockett" because he is regarded as a bit of a toff, having been educated at Radley College and Durham University, said: "It's been a crazy week and a great day for me."

The most striking thing about his five-hour performance was how calm he seemed. "I think Test cricket examines your temperament far more than county cricket does. It also examines your ability to deal with pressure. There is never a time out there when you feel relaxed and easy.

"And for me today it was fairly high-pressure stuff. The adrenalin started flowing a bit and when I was 98 I tried to drive one that was that was almost a bouncer really. It wasn't great judgement. At times like that you have to try to calm yourself down.

"I think, though, being on my home ground helped me lot. I know the slope well and I know the wicket and also being familiar with the surroundings."

Hampshire, who is now a first-class umpire, did not see Strauss' innings, but he said last night: "It can't have been worse than my innings and I am sure it was much better. I was absolutely crap, I nicked everything. Mine was one of the worst Test hundreds ever seen at Lord's. And I got my just deserts, I was dropped next match having only come into the side because of injury."

Coincidentally, that had been the reason Strauss found himself in the England team - as a replacement for the injured captain, Michael Vaughan. "I thought to myself: 'I've got nothing to lose here, I am coming in probably for just the one game, I feel in good form, I am hitting the ball well', so I was just determined to enjoy it."

He did, and so did his family and his wife Ruth - an Australian actress. On this occasion, she will have been happy to cede centre stage to her husband, and on this evidence there will be many more starring roles for Strauss in the future.

The other success for England was Steve Harmison. With his fifth ball of the morning, Harmison got Jacob Oram playing at one that he could just as easily have left alone. Geraint Jones claimed his third catch of the innings. New Zealand were rocking, Harmison was on a roll and back to the thunderous form he showed in the Caribbean.

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