Vintage Strauss adds some sparkle to England
Captain scores second century in successive Tests to put his team firmly in command and struggling West Indies attack is stretched to the limit
The temptation is to suggest that Andrew Strauss's Test hundreds are like buses. You hang around for ages, wondering if another one will ever come along, and then two arrive almost at once.
Throughout the long period when Strauss's steering and timetable were all over the place there was only one century in 50 innings. Now it is two in successive matches. The 21st of his Test career yesterday against West Indies was almost as inevitable as its immediate predecessor at Lord's a few days earlier had been overdue.
It was, more or less, vintage Strauss. There were few, if any, lapses in concentration of the sort which marked his long lean sequence. He played with the assurance and freedom of a batsman who knew the road ahead was clear once more, favouring the back foot but being partial enough to a front-foot cover drive.
He now stands alone in the ranks of England's Test centurions, one behind three men – Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoff Boycott – who have 22 centuries each. At this rate he will be in the lead by the end of the summer. This innings, which so far has spanned 205 balls and yielded 18 fours, took England to a position from which they should win the Second Test and with it the Investec Series.
They never broke the spirit of their opponents but in the final two sessions runs were being plundered rather too easily. England scored 136 at four an over in the last session, all of them by Strauss and Kevin Pietersen, who was in scintillating touch in fairly battering 72, in their unbroken third-wicket partnership.
It was noticeable that Pietersen's hug when Strauss reached his century was not as overwhelming as it had been at Lord's when smothering was briefly feared. There was not the suffocating relief of it all, presumably.
If England ought to go on to win the Test they have been detained by West Indies for longer than generally expected. This is jolly good for the game at large but the feeling is yet to be shaken that it is the difference between a stay of execution and a free pardon.
For the second match in succession the tourists have demonstrated a sense of unity and purpose, which has been crucially offset by a curious lack of discipline in key compartments of the game – both of them, as it happens, involving feet.
Their early batting was marred by a lack of foot movement which caused, indirectly, the downfall of three batsmen. The bowling yesterday of Kemar Roach, their most incisive performer, was almost totally undermined by his constant no balls.
He overstepped the crease eight times, twice depriving himself of the wicket of Alastair Cook. If he was fortunate that Cook obliged by edging behind for a third time, the damage was done. The bowling seemed to be weakened.
The partnership between West Indies' captain, Darren Sammy, and Marlon Samuels, the highest for the seventh wicket in any Test match in England, represented less a statistical landmark than a small step on the road to sunlit uplands.
But by the end of the second day, England had taken toll of an attack that was already stretched beyond its limits. The prospect of batting fourth on a pitch likely to display some uneven bounce is not exactly to be welcomed but the No 1 side in the world intend to ease that worry by building a significant first-innings lead.
The tourists added 66 to their overnight score, Sammy completing his first Test century to become the first West Indies captain to make one at Trent Bridge. That is a list including Garry Sobers, Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards.
He rode his luck on the second morning, as he had on the first afternoon, and the two successive boundaries which brought him to his glorious achievement came from shots which went through point when they were aimed in another direction altogether. No matter. Sammy not only played with joie de vivre but has already shown himself to be a cricketer of significant character, rising above the derision which has accompanied his tenure.
This innings will have bought him precious time in the way that Strauss's 122 at Lord's ensured the criticism abated. The tourists knew they could not afford to hang around yesterday morning. Despite the heroic endeavours of Sammy and Samuels, who had reached his third Test century on Friday night, they were still some distance short of a workable score on a flat pitch.
The seventh-wicket pair came out blazing. Apart from moving the board along at a decent clip it had the potential effect of getting right up England's pipe. England did well to keep their pipe unblocked.
In this regard, it was perhaps as well they broke through when they did. Tim Bresnan took three of the morning's four wickets in 19 balls. If his final figures flattered him a little after his struggles to find his line on the first day he also showed a determination that he is not about to give up his place to one of a multitude breathing down his neck. Bresnan has a strong neck.
Trent Bridge scoreboard
West Indies won toss
West Indies: First innings (overnight 304-6)
M N Samuels c Anderson b Bresnan 117/261/16/0
*D J G Sammy c Pietersen b Bresnan 106/156/17/1
K A J Roach c Strauss b Bresnan 7/18/1/0
S Shillingford st Prior b Swann 16/21/2/0
R Rampaul not out 6/7/1/0
Extras (b8 lb18 w1 nb1) 28
Total (109.2 overs) 370
Fall (cont): 7-340, 8-341, 9-360.
Bowling J M Anderson 30-12-73-2, S C J Broad 27-4-81-2, T T Bresnan 27-4-104-4, G P Swann 20.2-4-62-2, I J L Trott 5-0-24-0.
England: First innings
*A J Strauss not out 102/205/18/0
A N Cook c Ramdin b Rampaul 24/59/4/0
I J L Trott lbw b Rampaul 35/54/7/0
K P Pietersen not out 72/100/10/1
Extras (b9 lb5 w2 nb10) 26
Total (for 2, 68 overs) 259
Fall 1-43, 2-123.
To bat I R Bell, J M Bairstow, †M J Prior, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J M Anderson
Bowling K A J Roach 15-1-48-0, R Rampaul 18-4-42-2, D J G Sammy 15-0-69-0, S Shillingford 15-2-73-0, M N Samuels 5-1-13-0.
Umpires Aleem Dar (Pak) and Asad Rauf (Pak).
TV Umpire M Erasmus (SA).
Match referee R S Mahanama (SL).
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