Runs in the bank with added interest for the accumulator

It has been like the old days, the ones he must have feared would never return. Andrew Strauss chaperoned England yesterday to within sight of a historic, wholly unexpected victory. His unbeaten 73 in England's second innings, to follow his 123 in the first innings, was clinical in method and execution. Throughout its six hours he played rigidly within his limitations.

Strauss did nothing that could remotely be conceived as flash. It was the innings of a fastidious banker (and there are not many of those to the pound these days), determined to ensure that all the figures balanced precisely, taking no risks, steering clear of fancy-dan hedge funds.

Like two or three others among the England batting line-up, Strauss entered the arena at Chepauk on Thursday under some scrutiny. His career as an opening batsman appeared to be on the slide. One of the others was Paul Collingwood, who accompanied him in a critical and unbroken partnership of 129, the highest of the match.

Collingwood had a bum rap in the first innings when, not within a country mile of hitting the ball, he was given out caught at short leg. He has made a career out of atonement allied to justification and if you asked him what sort of situation he would like to bat in he would probably ask for something like 44 for 3 with the bowlers on top and the match going down the pan.

But if England go on to win, this could easily become Strauss's Match down the years and that would be expiation indeed. After a miserable 2007 he had been dropped for the tour of Sri Lanka last winter, partly because of his poor form, partly because the sub-continent was the last place the selectors assumed he could resurrect it. Recalled for the New Zealand tour, he eventually scored some runs, possibly saving his career at Napier in March when he made 177.

The good form continued when the Kiwis visited England in the summer but those runs were put into context upon South Africa's arrival. Strauss batted seven times in the series, never made more than 62 and was four times caught by wicketkeeper or slips fending or parrying dangerously close to his off stump. It was career on the line time again.

Yet in Chennai, he has appeared unburdened. Unaffected by the lack of practice, possibly encouraged by it, he has played with all the certainty of purpose he exhibited in those heady, formative days.

India have helped. Their bowlers, especially Zaheer Khan, might be masters of reverse swing but they have been too clever by half. Before the cute covering of the ball to disguise the smart grips it is essential to remember first principles.

Perhaps they did not attack Strauss enough in his vulnerable areas, perhaps he did not permit them to do so. As he had in the first innings, he scored most of his runs square of or behind the wicket. There were 42 of them yesterday, cut, dabbed, pulled, clipped or glanced, and only three scored in the V down the ground. In its way, it was masterful.

He has three times before scored a hundred and a fifty in the same Test match, twice in his first eight matches, days of wine and roses. In his debut he made 112 and 83, infamously run out by Nasser Hussain on the verge of history.

It was never an easy game for him but for a while because of his phlegmatic approach he made it seem easy. The likelihood was that it would all catch up, that opposition bowlers would exploit those off-stump weaknesses. So they did, but Strauss may also have been disrupted by being overlooked for the captaincy (in Australia two winters ago) when he should not have been.

He would deny it and he is not the type of man to bear grudges or have issues but he must have been hurt and that can have its own, uncontrollable ramifications. Any talk of drinking in the last chance saloon, any whispers that Michael Vaughan might be lined up for a return to the opener's berth, have been silenced.

The innings was not quite impeccable. He was dropped on 15 when he got a thick outside edge to Amit Mishra, the sort of a chance that a wicketkeeper-captain will always struggle to hold because he has so many other matters on his mind which can only dull reaction times standing up.

No side has ever made more than 276 to win a Test match in India and only 36 of the 217 Tests in the country have been won by the side having to bat fourth. The highest fourth- innings score at Chepauk is 364 in a draw, the highest to win is 158. It looks like Strauss and England. What a turn-up both those outcomes would be.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness