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.

Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home