Strauss silences detractors and puts England in charge
West Indies 243 v England 259-3
Friday 18 May 2012
Andrew Strauss today silenced his detractors with his first Test century in 26 attempts, spread over the past 18 months.
Not since his second-innings 110 in the famous Ashes-opening draw in November 2010 had the England captain managed to add to his 19 hundreds at the highest level.
But he did this time - reaching the milestone with his favourite square cut, off opposite number Darren Sammy, for his 17th four from 213 balls in the hosts' ominous 259 for three in reply to the West Indies' 243 all out, on day two of the first Investec Test at Lord's.
For his trouble, Strauss (121no) received a mid-pitch hug from his third-wicket partner Kevin Pietersen - before continuing his own, less bombastic, acknowledgment of applause and goodwill from his home crowd.
There could be no doubting the sense of accomplishment and relief nonetheless after a century which means Strauss' critics must fall silent.
He has famously led England to the top of the world Test rankings for the first time. But after his own relative lack of productivity at the top of the order extended through an awkward winter in Asia, the grumblers were beginning to gather support.
Strauss needed a flying start to the summer, on the ground where he made a century on Test debut eight years ago - and that is exactly what he and his team got today.
A grafting innings was largely free of blemish, apart from a clutch of uncertain shots after tea which culminated in him being dropped at slip on 95 - but off a no-ball from Fidel Edwards.
Strauss has moved up to joint-fourth, alongside Pietersen, in the all-time list of England's most prolific centurions.
He was also recording his fifth hundred at Lord's, putting himself level with Pietersen on that score too and behind only former England captains Michael Vaughan and Graham Gooch.
After the loss of his opening partner Alastair Cook this morning, he shared a stand of 147 with Jonathan Trott (58) as the tourists struggled to remain competitive on a benign pitch but under cloudy, floodlit skies.
Strauss was outscored initially by Cook but was by far the more comfortable of England's two left-handed openers.
He was under way with a controlled push off the back foot for three behind square on the off-side from the bowling of Edwards, from the fourth ball of the innings.
A cover-driven boundary off the same bowler soon followed.
By contrast, slips and gully were kept interested by Cook who edged and smeared four early boundaries - two aerial - off Kemar Roach.
There was some justice for Roach when Cook aimed a cut at him but edged back on to his stumps.
Strauss closed out the session with Trott and began the afternoon cautiously - with one run from 25 balls in more than half an hour as the West Indies pace attack tried to win a patience game.
They failed, Strauss eventually collecting two boundaries from three balls in one over from Sammy - off his hip past square-leg and straight past the bowler off the back foot.
Sammy came mighty close to having Trott lbw for 17, Aleem Dar's not-out verdict marginally vindicated when the West Indies reviewed the decision.
Replay evidence also suggested Sammy should have had Trott caught-behind on the same score. But this time, a half-hearted appeal was followed by an apparently routine decision to resist DRS.
Trott survived to complete his 105-ball 50 just before tea, only to fall in early evening when he went to drive Sammy on the up and edged to a diving and safe Denesh Ramdin behind the stumps.
Pietersen then ushered Strauss past his hundred, and dominated a partnership of exactly 50, before edging a cut at Marlon Samuels into Ramdin's gloves.
Stuart Broad needed just one ball this morning to consign debutant number 11 Shannon Gabriel to a golden duck, and claim new career-best figures of seven for 72.
Broad had Edwards acrobatically caught-behind by Matt Prior with the last ball of the first day.
Today, he immediately produced a testing delivery on a length and near off-stump - which Gabriel edged to Graeme Swann at second slip.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul was therefore left unbeaten on 87, in a total which Strauss would prove significantly under-par.
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