On the Front Foot: Strauss makes picture-perfect start in quest for job security

  • @stephenbrenkley

How splendid England looked in white as they posed for the official tour photograph yesterday. The picturesquely appointed Warner Park Stadium in Basseterre formed a stupendous backdrop. But how would they line up? And would there would be blood spilled on the outfield before it was done? The seconds ticked by, the chairs were in place, the photographers waited. There were seven chairs at the front. This is obviously in photographic terms the most auspicious row, the one on which the senior men sit. Make the front row, sir, and you know that you have done something in English cricket. But this was no ordinary picture, not after all that has happened. Andrew Strauss, obviously, would be bang in the centre at the front as the new captain. The big issue was who would flank him. Then it happened. Out strode the Big Two: Kevin Pietersen sat on Strauss's right hand, Andrew Flintoff on his left. The front row from right to left read: Bell, Collingwood, Pietersen, Strauss, Flintoff, Harmison, Anderson. Auspicious indeed. Anderson (31 caps) may consider himself fortunate considering that both Alastair Cook (36 caps) and Monty Panesar (35) have played more. Not that OTFF is trying to provoke disharmony. The backroom staff were in the middle row. It seemed strange that Ref Dickason, the security chief, was in the centre immediately behind Strauss. But maybe he was watching the captain's back.

Windies in a rich vein of form

West Indies have named only six millionaires in their squad of 14 for the First Test against England. Five of the team who so resoundingly hammered England in the Stanford Twenty20 for $20m in November have been ignored. Given the rewards on offer in other countries these days it may not be the richest team ever to take the field, but it will be indubitably the wealthiest West Indies team. Pity the five who didn't make a million that scintillating Antiguan evening. The squad also features the late-developing 31-year-old Bajan opening batsman Dale Richards, who has had a blazing start to the domestic season. It illuminates their continuing opening difficulties since the days of Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes. There is also a place for the Australian-born Brendan Nash, who recently became the first white player to be picked for West Indies since Geoff Greenidge 36 years ago.

Douglas faces dismissal

An election is imminent in St Kitts. Although it need not be called before October, the feeling is that the long-serving prime minister, Denzil Douglas, will go to the polls sooner rather than later. The capital, Basseterre, is filled with slogans saying "Get Dem Out". If the Labour government are indeed removed, it could mean that cabinet minister Ricky Skerritt may want back his old job as manager of the West Indies team.

Early test of Clarke's resolve

The itinerary for England's tour of South Africa next winter has been announced. It contains only four Test matches, not the expected five, thus diluting the claim of the England and Wales Cricket Board chairman, Giles Clarke (who is also about to contest an election), that it would retain icon status in future and be a five-match series – in the week that he held a convention to look at ways of ensuring the status of Test cricket.