Strauss plays captain's innings

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The Independent Online

England captain Andrew Strauss hit his 16th Test hundred to power his side into a strong position against West Indies at Kensington Oval.

Strauss followed his 169 in the drawn match in Antigua last week by reaching three figures again before the halfway point of the opening day of the fourth Test.



He did so in great style, hauling a delivery from spinner Sulieman Benn into the second tier of the Greenidge & Haynes stand as the tourists charged to 166 without loss in Barbados.



Strauss took advantage of being dropped on 58 to reach his latest hundred from 144 deliveries - in addition to that monstrous blow, he also struck 15 fours.



Opening partner Alastair Cook, the vice-captain for the Test series, supported with his third consecutive half-century.



It was a strong statement from an England team attempting to overcome the odds to win a campaign they trail 1-0 with two matches to play.



They went into this contest without Andrew Flintoff, whose hip injury puts any future participation on this tour in doubt, and first-choice wicketkeeper Matt Prior due to paternity leave.



Fast bowler Steve Harmison was also left out on selection grounds, with Ryan Sidebottom preferred, as three changes were made to the XI that came so agonisingly close at the Antigua Recreation Ground.



Strauss exposed Daren Powell's continued misdirection in this campaign by hitting three boundaries in the Jamaican fast bowler's opening couple of overs, which cost 18 runs, a period that catalysed the England scoring.



A gift of a delivery was pulled for four powerfully and he followed up with a pristine off drive for another boundary next ball.



His most audacious stroke of the first session, however, came in the next over of the innings, the eighth, when he drove ferociously on the up off Taylor to beat mid-off and register a third boundary in quick succession.



Another poor delivery from Powell was then cracked by Strauss off the back foot between gully and the slips during a personal run-glut of 23 runs from a dozen deliveries.



Cook also took advantage of Powell's profligacy, hammering another long-hop to the rope at point, a stroke that encouraged West Indies captain Chris Gayle to post a sweeper.



It made little difference, however, as Strauss twice beat Brendan Nash in the deep with a combination of power and placement.



His half-century arrived with a cover-driven four off giant spinner Benn, his eighth of the innings, but the assault on the hosts' back-up bowlers continued in an over that included three Strauss fours.



When Strauss did make an error moments later on 58, with an edged drive at Fidel Edwards, he was inexplicably reprieved by Gayle flooring a dolly at slip.



But England's tactical attacking policy was evident when Cook launched Benn for only the second six of his 40-match Test career, via a slog-sweep over midwicket before lunch.



Cook's more sedate contribution saw him spend two and a half hours over his 50.



Six overs later, Strauss was receiving a hearty response from the thousands of Brits who packed the stands at the famous old ground.



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