Strauss picks key moment to end long wait for a ton
West Indies 243 England 259-3: Captain's first century for 18 months gives England the initiative and lights up Lord's
There was relief and there was elation. The whole ground rose in celebration, the dressing room balcony was full to bursting as the ball seared to the boundary yesterday evening. At last, Andrew Strauss had the elusive century that he and the nation craved.
He had waited 18 months and 26 innings for this moment. It was in November 2009 that he last scored a hundred, in Brisbane against Australia, and that was a solitary achievement in his last 50 innings. It could not go on like that and Strauss, as captain of England, knew it.
That much was plain by the manner in which he greeted the rasping cut for four which, after almost five hours at the crease on the second day of the first Test against West Indies, ended his purgatory. When he eventually freed himself from the ursine embrace of Kevin Pietersen, who was batting at the other end, he raised his arms aloft and turned to each side of the ground in acknowledgement.
This was Strauss's 20th Test hundred in all, his fifth at Lord's, and if it was not Strauss at his most commanding, it personified discipline until the landmark was close enough to touch. Its chief purpose, apart from extending the Test career of one of England's most significant captains, was to take the match out of West Indies' hands. Only the weather can save them from here. England are 259 for 3, already 16 ahead.
It may not be too much of a stretch to suggest that the people willed this hundred as much as Strauss sought it. As he entered the 90s the crowd's apprehension matched his. There was a perceptive lowering in the noise levels, so that the denizens of St John's Wood might have thought the match was already done and dusted.
There seemed no cause for concern as he went to 95 with a four driven straight down the ground. But in the following over he betrayed the level of his desire when he launched into an optimistic drive at Fidel Edwards.
The spectators were aghast as the ball went at speed to slip where Shiv Chanderpaul snatched at the chance and put it down. Then and only then was it seen that Edwards had overstepped the mark and umpire Aleem Dar was signalling a no-ball. These were heart-stopping seconds: 95 is nearly a hundred but it is not a hundred and it is a matter of more than simple arithmetic.
Of course, Strauss recognised then, if he had not known it before, that he could not rush this. All afternoon, the tourists had bowled a negative line outside off stump, perhaps intending to draw batsmen into the shot but much more secure in the belief that they might leave well alone.
It took only another eight balls from there for Strauss to score the necessary runs but it felt like half a lifetime. He left five of them, he scored singles with a tuck into leg side and a drilled shot into the covers. What he needed more than anything was something in his comfort zone.
Then it came with his 213th ball, slightly shorter and just wide enough for him to unleash the sort of cut by which he will be remembered long after he has retired. It was his 17th four, most
of them solidly executed, but it was the 169 balls in his hundred from which he did not score that made it.
Above all, this innings will buy Strauss more time. He was not as clueless as some of those recently carping at the critics, who were actually doing no more than pointing out that he was not scoring many runs. Oh, and that England had lost three of their last four Test matches.
On the eve of this match, he had said that it was not easy simply to go out and knock up a hundred. Nevertheless, it is what international batsmen are paid to do.
It was a largely gloomy day which started as badly as it could have done for West Indies and never grew any better. To its first ball from Stuart Broad, and his first in Test cricket, Shannon Gabriel edged one curving away to second slip where Graeme Swann snaffled a straightforward catch.
England had 89.5 overs to bat and the attention was immediately on Strauss. There were a flurry of runs and of play and misses at the start. Alastair Cook was bowled off an inside edge, his feet too static when he essayed a back-foot forcing shot against Kemar Roach.
Strauss and Jonathan Trott took it a ball at a time. They were happy to build in singles, West Indies from early on had a ring of five or six stopping one and three or four sweeping up on the boundary. There was not much in the wicket and there was no discernible swing for most of the time.
By going along at three or so an over, England could build a position of unanswerable strength. In the late afternoon, Trott fell into the outside off trap, driving and edging behind.
This was a situation custom made for Kevin Pietersen for two distinct reasons. First, the score was 194 for two in the 63rd over and he is in prime fettle again; second, he loves nothing more than to share in his team-mates' celebrations. Strauss was on 96. He duly embraced his captain when the deed was done.
Pietersen was off the mark fifth ball with a four larruped through wide mid-wicket and he fairly slapped another drive from outside off stump down to long on. He looked to be in the mood and it was a surprise when he top-edged a cut from Marlon Samuels to wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin who ended the day with much more composure than he started it.
There were few bright moments for West Indies, though the muscular fast bowling of the Trinidadian, Gabriel, was a glimpse of what their fast used to be like. But this was Strauss's day and he deserved every single loving moment and every single run.
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7 Broad's seven wickets were caught by seven different fielders – equalling a 1929 record
Timeline: How second day unfolded
11.00am Wicket West Indies 243 all out
It does not take long for England to finish the Windies off. The first ball of the day is edged and Stuart Broad has his seventh wicket before leading the team back to the pavilion.
12:05pm Wicket England 47-1
After a steady start from the England openers the partnership is broken when Kemar Roach, right, forces Alastair Cook to drag the ball on to his own stumps for 26.
1:50pm Appeal England 82-1
Jonathan Trott is struck on the pads by Darren Sammy but the umpire says not out; on appeal it appears to clip his leg stump but with it being so close it is the umpire's call.
2.28pm Half-century England 106-1
Andrew Strauss reaches his 28th Test half-century with a four clipped off the captain's legs. England are cruising along and look intent on posting a big lead.
3:17pm Century partnership England 150-1
Strauss clips Marlon Samuels over mid-on to the boundary to bring up the 100 partnership with Trott, as England continue to build a commanding position.
5.06pm Strauss century England 204-2
After surviving a missed catch off Trott, England press on after tea. Strauss reaches his hundred, cutting a wide delivery for four for his fifth ton against West Indies.
6:20pm Stumps England 259-3
Kevin Pietersen departs to a well-held Ramdin catch off Samuels for 32, but the hosts end the day in a strong position, 16 runs ahead and favourites to win.
Lord's (Second day of five): England are leading West Indies by 16 runs with 7 first-innings wickets in hand
England won toss
WEST INDIES - First Innings Overnight 243-9 (Broad 6-72)
S Chanderpaul not out 87
175 balls 12 fours
S T Gabriel c Swann b Broad 0
Extras (b6 lb8 nb3) 17
Total (89.5 overs) 243
Fall: 1-13, 2-32, 3-86, 4-100, 5-181, 6-187, 7-219, 8-231, 9-243.
Bowling: JM Anderson: 25-8-59-2 (9-4-23-2; 7-2-18-0; 4-0-9-0; 5-2-9-0), SCJ Broad: 24.5-6-72-7 (3nb) (5-2-11-0; 3-0-19-0; 5-0-9-1; 3-1-10-0; 4-2-10-2; 4.5-1-13-4), TT Bresnan: 20-7-39-0 (9-4-14-0; 4-1-3-0; 4-1-12-0; 3-1-10-0), GP Swann: 18-6-52-0 (3-0-8-0; 8-4-14-0; 7-2-30-0), IJL Trott: 2-0-7-0 (one spell)
ENGLAND - First Innings
*A J Strauss not out 121
249 balls 20 fours
A N Cook b Roach 26
42 balls 4 fours
I J L Trott c Ramdin b Sammy 58
134 balls 6 fours
K P Pietersen c Ramdin b Samuels 32
51 balls 5 fours
I R Bell not out 5
Extras (b9 lb1 nb7) 17
Total (for 3, 80.2 overs) 259
Fall: 1-47, 2-194, 3-244.
To Bat: J M Bairstow, †M J Prior, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J M Anderson.
Bowling: FH Edwards: 17.2-0-52-0 (2nb) (4-0-10-0; 3-0-6-0; 2-0-17-0; 8-0-19-0; 0.2-0-0-0), KAJ Roach: 15-2-9-1 (4nb) (7-0-32-1; 5-2-5-0; 3-0-22-0), ST Gabriel: 14-1-38-0 (5-0-14-0; 5-0-8-0; 4-1-16-0), DJG Sammy: 22-1-66-1 (1nb) (4-0-13-0; 5-0-23-0; 3-0-6-0; 10-1-24-1), MN Samuels: 12-3-34-1 (6-1-21-0; 3-2-2-0; 3-0-11-1)
England: 50 in 13.5 overs, Lunch: 80-1 in 23 overs (Strauss 31, Trott 17), 100 in 31.5 overs, 150 runs in 44.5 overs, Tea: 167-1 in 51 overs (Strauss 78, Trott 50), 200 in 64.2 overs, 250 in 77.5 overs. A Strauss: 50 off 97 balls (9 fours), 100 off 213 balls (17 fours), Trott: 50 off 105 balls (6 fours).
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and M Erasmus (South Africa)
TV umpire: Asad Rauf (Pakistan)
Match referee: RS Mahanama (Sri Lanka)
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