Middlesex kept afloat by Strauss

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The Independent Online

Andrew Strauss needs a winter in the Adelaide Cricket Academy about as much as Michael Owen needs to attend finishing school. On the evidence of his performances in this match, and indeed over the season, the Johannesburg-born Strauss is more post-graduate than student.

There are probably rough edges that need to be taken off and facets to his game that need polishing, but he certainly has a more complete look to his batting than many of his colleagues who set off for Australia this autumn as members of England's inaugural Academy squad under the tutelage of its first director, Rod Marsh.

Strauss exhibited aptitude, attitude and bags of ability. Not content with his first innings effort of the previous day, when the left-handed Middlesex opener kept them afloat with a gritty half-century, yesterday Strauss went larger, compiling a fine hundred, his third of the summer and the fourth of his burgeoning career.

His studied knock helped his side wipe out a 90-run deficit on the first innings, thanks to half-centuries in the morning from Shaun Udal and Adrian Aymes, then begin to build a big lead.

As on the first day Strauss had his share of luck. When he had reached 14 he edged a ball from Alex Morris low to slip where Derek Kenway failed to hang on to the sharp chance. Strauss, though, grabbed his chance with both hands.

He remained unfazed when he lost opening partner Robin Weston after the pair had constructed a careful half-century stand – Weston falling two runs after Morris had dropped him at slip off Alan Mullally – and a short while later when Owais Shah had presented Dimitri Mascarenhas with a simple return catch.

If anything their dismissals merely increased his resolve. Strauss found an able ally in the New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming and the pair made fairly untroubled progress through the rest of the morning and into the afternoon.

During their stand of 127 for the third wicket Strauss emerged victorious in a smaller sideshow – reaching 1,000 Championship runs in the season an over ahead of Fleming. It is the first time the 24-year-old has reached four figures, in his brief career, but it most certainly will not be the last. His hundred came up in the final over of the day, after almost five hours at the crease.

Long before that Udal had been reintroduced into the attack and had struck a vital double blow in the space of four balls, first deceiving Fleming with his quicker ball, then accounting for Ed Joyce. Udal's off-spin claimed a third left-hander when he had Paul Weekes caught in bizarre fashion. The batsman attempted a sweep shot, the ball appeared to hit a glove then run up an arm, hit a shoulder and loop obligingly for the sprawling wicketkeeper Aymes to claim the catch.

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