Solid Strauss conducts himself with composure

Australia came to target Andrew Strauss. They will leave knowing that the England captaincy could not be in tougher or more reliable hands. A baton held so tightly for a couple of years by Michael Vaughan and then briefly juggled by Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen is back under control.

Strauss, you may recall, was given the job seven months ago after a spot of difficulty in the camp. Some teams choose to change coaches, others opt for a new leader on the field but England, who seldom do things – good or bad – by half, decided to jettison both Peter Moores and Pietersen.

"Were you thinking, back in January, about winning the Ashes?" Strauss was asked by a journalist during the build-up to this final Test of the summer. "I had a few other things on my plate at the time," replied the Middlesex man. He could say that again.

England went to the Caribbean a couple of weeks after the night of the long knives with a "situation vacant" notice pinned to the coach's kitbag (Andy Flower was only on trial) and amid fears that the team would be split in two by the fall-out from Pietersen's demotion (or resignation, as it was officially termed).

Just as well, then, that England had a rock solid man to pick up the pieces, someone not cosily close to any of the really big names but respected by one and all. And it was a little fortunate, too, because less than a year earlier Strauss had wandered into the last chance saloon as an international batsman.

The left-hander's second innings 177 against New Zealand in Napier towards the end of March 2008 could not have been much uglier. But it bought him time and, by December of the same year, he was playing with such freedom that not one but two hundreds flowed from his bat during a Test against India in Chennai.

Then it was a question of whether captaincy would cramp Strauss's style on the tour of the Caribbean. It didn't. Far from it, in fact, with three centuries in as many Tests against a West Indies attack that felt the full force of his rediscovered love of the cover drive.

As ever, though, for an England batsman – and especially an England batting captain – the real challenge comes when the Baggy Greens are trying to dismantle your castle.

And Ricky Ponting made no bones about the fact that if Australia could leave Strauss feeling weak at the knees then a couple more batsmen might fall down.

Well, Ponting was right to some extent: Pietersen did indeed keel over, thanks to a fragile ankle, and Ravi Bopara bit the dust after too many failures. But Strauss has stood impressively tall throughout and, best of all, he responded to all the pressure associated with a "must win" Ashes decider by batting terrifically well in both innings here.

"I'm in no doubt that my first job is to score runs and set a platform for the rest of the lads," said Strauss on the eve of England's most important Test match for four years. In 2005 he supplied a century to the urn-winning cause, and though he missed out on a hundred this time, his contributions of 55 and 75 set the "over my dead body" tone just perfectly.

Jonathan Trott experienced the great delight of being able to raise his bat to a deliriously happy crowd after reaching three figures. But, long before that, Strauss and his broad bat had gone seven-eighths of the way towards dampening whatever optimism remained in the Australian corner after the dramatic events of 15- wicket Friday.

Talk about revelling in responsibility. An already deeply impressive individual, Strauss has grown in stature throughout this series and only once did he look even remotely close to being rattled.

Being required to contemplate calling up an emergency wicketkeeper, fulfil three television and radio interviews, strap on his pads and face the first ball of the Fourth Test at Headingley – all in the space of 20 minutes or so – was asking too much of anyone, even a cool, calm and collected leader such as Strauss.

It was after that defeat in Yorkshire, though, that the captain really earned his corn. While others talked of recalling a near 40-year-old in Mark Ramprakash, or trying to persuade Marcus Trescothick to come out of international retirement, Strauss spoke of showing composure and putting the pressure back on to Australia.

For three days, England have done just that. Now only the finish needs applying.

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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border