Strauss needs a total revival

What do England do with Andrew Strauss now? Even his most ardent fan would have to admit that his second-innings 44 at the Basin Reserve was far from convincing.

Yes, he fought hard on a testing pitch, like a man playing for his Test future. And yes, he was probably unlucky to be given out lbw to a ball that pitched just outside leg stump. But for the second consecutive Test since his recall he has failed to post a significant score or play an innings to convince people that better times lie ahead.

What the selectors have to decide before next week's Third Test in Napier is whether Strauss has the potential to regain the form that made him one of the most respected and highly thought-of cricketers in the world. It will not be an easy decision, because Strauss brings far more to the England team than merely runs and catches.

He is a strong, emotionally consistent, hard-working, selfless, team-orientated man who sets the right example to team-mates, whether younger or older.

It is these qualities, as muchas the belief that the form he showed between 2004 and 2006 would return, which encouraged Michael Vaughan and Peter Moores to select him for this tour, even though he had done nothing to show that he had overcome the problems that have been affecting his game.

Captains and coaches want Strauss-like characters, natural leaders, in their team. The great Australian side of the past decade consistently contained eight or nine such figures. The departure of Marcus Trescothick and Ashley Giles has deprived Vaughan of two such characters, and this would have influenced his handling of Strauss.

Such a player still has to perform to retain the total respect of the dressing room, though, and that is why Strauss needed a big innings here. The selectors set a much-needed precedent when they dropped Matthew Hoggard and Stephen Harmison, a move that has had a positive influence on the team's performance, and Strauss will be fully aware he could follow them in the not-too-distant future.

Such a situation can only exacerbate his anxiety because he, like any England player, has a lot to lose, both financially and emotionally. Being demoted to three, a batting position that does not appear ideally suited to him, does not help either, but he has brought it all on himself by failing to score enough runs when opening.

The best No 3s dominate opponents, often setting the tone of an innings. Strauss has strong scoring areas but does not possess the aura or threat of No 3s such as Ricky Ponting, Kumar Sangakkara, Rahul Dravid or Younis Khan.

It is not only Strauss who is unsettled by the uncertainty. Owais Shah, his Middlesex team-mate, must be wondering what he has to do to get a Test berth. Shah has spent the entire Test winter ferrying drinks out to batsmen and running shuttles during the lunch and tea intervals. In the warm-up games he has played he has done little wrong, but the selectors must doubt his ability to succeed. Why else would they have picked Ravi Bopara ahead of him in Sri Lanka and Strauss here?

Meanwhile, at 29 he is slowly getting older, and it will not be long before the selectors turn to youth for the middle order.

Michael Atherton used to say ugly 40s were the most important innings he played, because they kept him his place and gave him another chance to find form. Strauss has probably done enough to keep his place for the final Test in Napier, but Shah could replace him if the selectors look to shake the batting up for the first Test of the summer. A victory for England here would obviously lessen Shah's chances.

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

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific