Strauss the newboy has authority of a veteran

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The Independent Online

Apart from his unquestionable batting prowess, Andrew Strauss could have been designed as a gift for headline writers. Since last May, when he first entered the national consciousness by composing a melodious hundred (see, the name gets everybody at it) on his Test debut at Lord's of all places, he has regularly waltzed home.

Apart from his unquestionable batting prowess, Andrew Strauss could have been designed as a gift for headline writers. Since last May, when he first entered the national consciousness by composing a melodious hundred (see, the name gets everybody at it) on his Test debut at Lord's of all places, he has regularly waltzed home.

This sets him apart from previous batsmen who have enjoyed a similarly explosive start to their England careers. The most recent two to amass 800 runs after only eight matches, as Strauss did here yesterday, were Michael Atherton and Herbert Sutcliffe, names over which nobody broke into dance. The only other player with an equally auspicious start is K S Ranjitsinhji, a sublime batsman with an exotic name posing headline writers real problems, which they overcame by dubbing him "Ranji".

Strauss was born in South Africa but brought up in England, educated at Radley College and Durham University. If he were to score 190 runs in the second Test, his ninth, truly a tall order, he would be level with the legendary Sutcliffe in the number of matches it took to reach 1,000 runs. Strauss played with calm authority in propelling England to a handsome victory yesterday, as he has done perpetually in his brief international career. This was less a waltz than a display of barnstorming: 40 balls, 43 runs including a pulled six off Dale Steyn.

In 37 minutes and 9.4 overs, England had won their eighth successive victory, a sequence they had never before achieved in 127 years and 820 previous Test matches. As Strauss observed after his first-innings century: "What has happened since coming in has been fantastic and I am grateful for being able to play in such a good side." Strauss has made England a better team. His own runs apart, he has allowed the captain, Michael Vaughan, to drop to four and he has brought greater athleticism to the fielding.

Yet it might never happened but for the apprentice left-arm spinner Zac Taylor, who one presumes, will be a perennial presence on Strauss's Christmas card list. Eighteen months ago, Strauss was beginning to think of England as a distant prospect and was prepared to concentrate on the Middlesex captaincy. He was then called up for the one-day squad but the Test side was settled and other batting contenders were verging on emergence.

Three days before the Lord's Test against New Zealand in May, Taylor bowled a long hop in the nets to Vaughan which caused him to pull a muscle. He was out of the Test, Strauss was summoned as a replacement opener, scored 112 and 83, and dramatically hastened the retirement of Nasser Hussain.

So far, he has never looked back. There will be a bad trot because Test cricket is like that. But he has a resilience that is every bit as important as his compact method. His method is not flawless and the pull shot from outside off-stump is a definite candidate for getting him into trouble. But he has that rare ability to concentrate solely on the next ball.

It was Vaughan who put the finger on the man. "His attitude is spot on," said the captain. "He doesn't get too high when he does well or too low when he does badly, he is a level-headed kind of guy, technically pretty good but more importantly the mental side is excellent. He will be great player for us for many a year. He works hard but he is a laid-back guy away from the game which I think helps."

The best winning sequence in Test history is by Australia who triumphed in 16 consecutive matches between October 1999 and March 2001. Strauss and England are a long way from that, but if they break it they will have won the Ashes by next summer.

Classic Strauss

How England's opener has made an impression

I was willing to fight my age, the opposition and the people who were writing me off - but I wasn't willing to fight youth in the form of Andrew Strauss. He scored loads of runs on his Test debut
Nasser Hussain, on resigning as England captain

What a charming little bairn Andrew Strauss is
Mike Brearley, former England captain

He is an intelligent bloke, which helps, because batting requires not just instinct, but intelligence to make that instinct work
David Gower

It's the character of the feller that is hugely important. He has not come in too young, so he's had a lot of Test players around him at Middlesex and he has watched and learned. He is a sensible person who keeps it simple
Mike Gatting

He's going to be a fine player for a long time, he is getting better and better and has taken his game to new levels
Ian Botham

His strength of character is his greatest strength: he has a simple technique, he plays like Andrew Strauss and doesn't try to play like someone else
David Graveney

He's a level-headed sort of guy who doesn't get too high when he does well and doesn't get too low when he does badly. Technically he is pretty good but, more importantly, his mental side is excellent and he's going to be a great player for us for many years if he just keeps working as he has done. He works very hard but he's also quite laid back away from the game and I think that helps
Michael Vaughan

He was so much better than any other batsman in this game
Bob Willis

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