Strauss takes confidence from draw
Monday 21 December 2009
Andrew Strauss believes his England team will take great heart from their nerve-shredding draw at Centurion as they head into next week's second Test in Durban.
It was only the backs-to-the-wall heroics of number 11 Graham Onions - blocking the final over from South Africa's Makhaya Ntini last night - which salvaged a stalemate, even though England had looked well-placed for a comfortable draw on a teatime 169 for three.
Kevin Pietersen (81) then ran himself out to end a stand of 145 with Jonathan Trott (69), and the second new ball brought five wickets for 13 runs in 11 overs to leave Paul Collingwood and Onions in last-ditch strife.
Reflecting on an outcome which had obvious echoes of England's similarly fraught draw in Cardiff at the start of last summer's Ashes, Strauss admitted: "If we'd lost, it would have hurt us pretty badly.
"But we can be very confident going into Durban, because I think we've played some very good cricket here. We had to dig deep a few times, and players were able to do that.
"We're a confident group, and I don't think anything has happened in this Test that will knock us considerably."
A seesaw contest had one last twist as Test debutant Friedel de Wet (four for 55) put England in dire straits.
Strauss added: "It's not quite the same as Cardiff.
"For the majority of that day we were behind the eight ball and looked like we were going to lose - so to get out of jail there was a massive plus.
"For the majority of the day this time, we looked like we were going to draw the game - and in the end it was very important to get out with that draw."
Strauss was delighted too to see Test match cricket deliver such a stirring battle - in an era when Twenty20 is, according to some, threatening its survival.
"It was an outstanding Test match, full of ebbs and flows and both sides with opportunities to get on top," he said.
"It was great to see the crowd here completely enthralled by what was unfolding, and we hope there will be more games like that to come in the series."
It is a moot point whether Ian Bell, selected as an extra batsman here but contributing only seven runs in his two innings, will be involved in the remaining three matches.
"I wouldn't ever judge a player on one Test match," Strauss advised.
"You can get a couple of good balls.
"But one thing we'll be stressing is the importance of staying positive and backing our gameplans. That is crucial.
"Some players got some pretty good balls in this Test match - and you have to be pretty phlegmatic, shrug your shoulders and hope it doesn't happen the next time."
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