Strauss shows sublime skill amid intensity of run chase

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The Independent Online

This absorbing last day's play produced interesting and exciting comparisons between the new and the old. After taking two early wickets New Zealand will have fancied their chances of bowling England out for fewer than 282. It was now that the newcomer, Andrew Strauss, who was again batting with a sublime ease, was joined by the former captain Nasser Hussain, playing in his 96th Test match.

This absorbing last day's play produced interesting and exciting comparisons between the new and the old. After taking two early wickets New Zealand will have fancied their chances of bowling England out for fewer than 282. It was now that the newcomer, Andrew Strauss, who was again batting with a sublime ease, was joined by the former captain Nasser Hussain, playing in his 96th Test match.

Strauss showed an extraordinary maturity when he made 112 in England's first innings. If that had been an object lesson on its own, his skill in coping with a wearing pitch and the tension of a dramatically exciting last day in the second innings was nothing short of miraculous. At the age of 27, he may not be in the first flush of youth but the pressure he faced in this game will have been vastly different from anything else he has encountered on a cricket ground.

There is nothing more exciting in Test cricket than to see a new boy make his mark. Strauss brought a strong, fresh-faced enthusiasm to the game, but he will have been extremely grateful to have had that wily old fox Hussain at the other end. Hussain was on hand to applaud his inexperienced partner's outrageous skill and control, and to caution him when once or twice Strauss' enthusiasm looked as if it might run away with him and generally to offer advice.

There was a wonderful spell of three overs in the middle of the morning session that produced batting and bowling of the highest quality and showed these two batsmen at their best. New Zealand's left-arm spinner, Daniel Vettori, had just come on at the Nursery End and immediately began to cause problems. He now bowled at Strauss with four fielders round the bat pitching the ball in the rough outside the left-hander's off stump.

In this over Strauss' well organised defence coped with five balls; the sixth was just a fraction shorter and pitched outside off stump. Strauss put his right leg across and swept into the gap behind square leg for four. It was a stroke of unusual self-confidence. In the next over, after Strauss had left alone three balls from Chris Martin that were sliding down the slope outside off stump, his fine judgement told him that the next ball was a fraction fuller in length. He seized on it and, moving his right foot forward with his weight leaning into the stroke, he drove imperiously through extra cover for four.

Then it was Hussain's turn. He faced Vettori, bowling round the wicket, in the next over and came two paces down the pitch to the third ball, making room for himself as he drove sumptuously through extra cover for four.

How ironic it was, therefore, that a poor call by Hussain and a slow response by Strauss should have caused the new boy to be run out. But what a day's cricket.

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