Peter Roebuck: Strauss and Langer cut from same hard-wearing cloth

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The Independent Online

Days dominated by these doughty left-handers are unlikely to contain those moments of insouciance that attract admirers of nouvelle cuisine. They work at their cricket and it shows. They are defiant and disciplined. While some batsmen are oblivious to danger, they understand the perils of the next ball and prepare themselves accordingly.

Neither man expects the game to come easily. Neither plays with a smile, except the rueful grin that appears when a moment of danger has passed. Grimacing is their natural mien. Doubtless they sleep on beds of nails so that a corrosive softness cannot creep into their souls in the unguarded time reserved for shut-eye.

The Australian relishes boxing rings and the martial arts. At the Academy he was forever shinning up ropes, lifting weights and practising. Strauss is a more confident type but he also enjoys the sense of pitting himself against a formidable force and coming out on top. It is satisfaction that he seeks, the feeling of a job well done.

Of course the similarity between the pair is not surprising. Although Strauss is too intelligent a man to copy anyone lock, stock and leg glance, he clearly learnt a lot in his time under Langer's captaincy at Middlesex. Perhaps he found the model he needed as he made his way from promising youngster to hard-boiled professional. Distant figures may inspire but they cannot point the path.

Watching Langer digging away at the crease like a peasant trying to grow vegetables in a barren field, he must have felt, "I can do that". Perhaps he had doubted his abilities. Now he understood that it is not their extent that counts, but the use to which they are put. He had found a fellow thinker and subsequently made his way from the Mosman third grade team to Test match cricket.

Strauss played a fine innings on the first day of this match. No one was surprised because staunchness of character and technique have been revealed often enough. Like his opening partner, Marcus Trescothick, he is most effective when he has thought about his game and built a plan.

At first Shane Warne worried him from around the wicket. At Lord's he lost his wicket without offering a stroke. Determined not to succumb meekly a second time, he countered with optimistic sweeps and failed again. From the third Test onwards he has found a balance between defence and attack. Batting with impressive organisation and purpose, he played the innings that might secure the Ashes.

Langer lost nothing in comparison. Originally a grafter, he has learnt to expand his game without endangering his occupation. On the introduction of spin he was down the pitch and taking the initiative. Nowadays he counts among the game's fastest scorers. Not that he has changed in every way - even now he takes some convincing that he has been dismissed.

Strauss scored a hundred. Had not the Australians lamely left the field for bad light, Langer might by stumps have followed suit. They are sturdy characters capable of surviving the buffetings of time.