Andrew Strauss is so painfully sensible, he’s allowed to engage in a bit of nonsense every now and again. Over the last year or so, he’s tended to crave nonsense round about the point that he’s scored 22 runs in a Test match.
“The underpants are ironed, the silverware’s nicely buffed – I feel like indulging myself,” he says and promptly aims a wild drive at a wide one. He did this yesterday, but for once he missed it. He then got right back down to the business of being jolly sensible again.
England’s fifth-best batsman didn’t make too many other mistakes yesterday. There’ll always be a few when you bat all day, but in general he didn’t try to hit deliveries which had a good chance of getting him out and he hit enough of the other ones to get over a hundred runs. England fans tend to take such things for granted these days, but they shouldn’t.
Say what you like about the cheap, oversized banquet that is one-day international cricket – at least it gives batsmen a bit of practice for the matches we give a toss about.
When Andrew Strauss played one-day cricket, he scored more Test runs. He’s averaged 25.50 since he decided he couldn’t be arsed with technicolour nets.
One-day cricket gives players too many matches. Playing just Tests leaves them with too few. We’re generously giving Strauss a get-out here, because the alternative view is that he’s become really bad at batting.
Kevin Pietersen’s out of form. Andrew Strauss has developed a problem against left-arm pace. Those were the stories at the start of yesterday’s play and the evidence came in the form of their recent Test records.
When play did occur, Pietersen looked amazing, but he made the grave error of failing to reach three figures. Never mind that his innings was about ten times as good as Alastair Cook’s second innings hundred at Lord’s, it wasn’t a hundred, so in a few weeks’ time it will be all but forgotten. “He’s only hit one Test hundred since March 2009,” they’ll say, even though that hundred was 227 in an Ashes Test and there was also a 99 in that period.
Andrew Strauss was out to a left-armer again. Never mind that it was one who he faced while scoring a hundred for Middlesex a few weeks ago, this was in a Test – this counted.
There’s truth in that, of course, but his form isn’t really so bad. He was England’s best one-day batsman last summer and played one hell of an innings against India in the World Cup. He didn’t get out to a left-arm pace bowler then, did he?
Oh, wait, he did.
When Tillakaratne Dilshan opened the bowling, Andrew Strauss couldn’t get him off the square. This was largely because he couldn’t make contact with the ball.
When one of the most experienced batsmen in English cricket finds himself in this position against a part-time off-spinner, you have to ask yourself whether his team could ever win a World Cup on the subcontinent? Never say never, but think the word to your heart’s content.
It may have been one of the best campaigns ever from an entertainment point of view, but cricket-wise England were like a baby deer on roller skates going down a hillside – constantly in danger of falling, with every upright second merely postponing the inevitable.
One of the main reasons why England’s World Cup efforts are always so ineffectual is because people like us aren’t particularly bothered when they get knocked out. We would have absolutely loved to have seen England in the World Cup final, but their absence from it brings virtually no pain.
We only ask because they’re hitting the ground running with alarming frequency.
After Ben Hilfenhaus looked forward to a sprint landing last week, some of you questioned our assertion that cricketers no longer know what ‘hit the ground running’ means.
Well, consider this new evidence. England’s captain’s had a go now. Apparently England hit the ground running on the third day of their recent three-day match against Western Australia.
“At the start of play it was looking a tough ask to force a result. We could have gone through the motions, but we came in and hit the ground running.”
So England are on terra firma now, are they? No. Strauss continues:
“We’ve learned a few lessons here at the WACA, and I think we all hope we’ll take that into Adelaide and hit the ground running there as well.”
Having clambered into our DeLorean, we can reveal that this time next year professional cricketers will be using the phrase ‘hit the ground running’ when they simply mean ‘play well’.
“We hit the ground running in about the 38th over after an early collapse” – Andrew Strauss, December 2011
13 sixes in 106 one-day international innings and then he hits five during one knock. Andrew Strauss’s six-hitting has gone up a notch.
It’s now at notch one.
Not sure what notch Shahid Afridi’s up to, but he’s hit 272 one-day international sixes. Afridi’s probably not got much time for notches though, so it doesn’t really matter.
There’s all sorts of odd cricket equipment around these days, but we’ve no idea why someone would attach a handle to their own underwear to better enable them to self-wedgie.
[God knows what this image was. It must have been hilarious though.]
Not Michael Vaughan style painting. DIY style painting. We all know how rubbish cricketers are when it comes to DIY.
Andrew Strauss probably gets a man in to load the next toilet roll.
He doesn’t even know which way he’s supposed to face.
At least he’s pointing the brush the right way though.
Someone rotate that man through 180 degrees and tell him to carry on.
It’s the shape of a club with nails sticking out of it and he’s clumping towards Australia with it, looking like Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York (although Strauss hasn’t got the nauseating stench of an unbearably dull film accompanying him).
It seems such a long, long time ago now, but Andrew Strauss was massively crap for about a year. He then hit a career saving hundred against New Zealand in what had seemed like being his final Test innings. He then hit another hundred against the same opponents shortly afterwards.
At the time, we worried that Strauss was being flattered by his performances against a relatively weak New Zealand side. We were impressed by his resilience at the same time though. When he hit that first hundred, he knew his career was slithering away, but he didn’t let that or the fact that he was batting like a half-cut Phil Tufnell stop him. That’s grit.
Then he was crap against South Africa and it seemed like maybe he had flattered to deceive after all. But had he balls.
Next thing you know, he’s hitting two hundreds in an away Test against India and then hitting hundreds in three successive Tests against the West Indies. Andrew Strauss ruled the winter and he’d barely got going.
It wasn’t so much the runs he scored in this Ashes series, it was the fact that he seemed so solid. For precarious match situations to seemingly have such little effect on the captain of the England cricket team is astonishing. To lead the side to Ashes victory after getting levelled in the fourth Test is even more so.
Andrew Strauss is an England captain who’s quite comprehensively won us over.
The BBC go with “Strauss makes Ashes rallying call”.
England’s captain is geeing up the troops with fist-pumping lines such as:
“You have to earn the right to be on top in a match and that is why what we did at Headingley was a bit of shocker. We have learnt our lessons. It’s vital we make sure we do the basics right.”
Struggling to restrain his adrenaline-fuelled team, he continued with:
“We can take a lot of confidence from the fact that we are at 1-1. There is no reason for us to be negative.”
It’s just like that scene from Braveheart.