Cricket: England v West Indies

Simon Hughes: Strauss back to fluent best

With his confidence restored, Strauss made a more fluent hundred than at Lord's

Simon Hughes: Strauss back to fluent best

I’ve been worried about Andrew Strauss’s batting for the past year. I thought he’d lost his fluency and might never get it back. He kept grinding his way to 25 runs then getting out to loose shots.

Then he made the hundred at Lord’s and, although it wasn’t a particularly attractive innings, it deflected a lot of the criticism which had been building about his place in the England side.

It’s one of the great mysteries of batting that a score of 70, or 80, does not have the same power to restore a batsman’s confidence as a hundred. It’s ridiculous that a few extra runs mean so much, but they do and the ball and chain was removed at last.

With that hurdle removed, everything became so much easier at Trent Bridge. Everything he did carried greater certainty and this was a much more fluent hundred than the one at Lord’s. Early on, he played a forward defensive shot with a huge stride and a bent front leg. He hardly ever does that, so it really was a sign of restored confidence.

We must say, too, that he had everything in his favour. The pitch was very flat and the bowling was ordinary. Kemar Roach bowled a lot of no balls early on and that drained his confidence. Rampaul was the one bowler to be a consistent threat. So, England really had to worry about one bowler.

Everything fell for Strauss in beautiful batting conditions, but he earned his luck with the way be battled through at Lord’s. Had he not made that hundred there, he would have been feeling a little bit more nervous and might not have played so well.

Even with their limited resources West Indies should have tried bowling around the wicket to Strauss. He’s not half the player when bowlers try this tactic against him. When South Africa arrive, Morne Morkel will immediately bowl at him from around the wicket and I expect will cause him problems.

Having said that, Strauss is building up some useful form and confidence ahead of the battle for world number one Test status.