Cricket: Andrew Strauss determined to fend off South Africa
Andrew Strauss will emulate Alec Stewart, and chalk up a 21st century first, if he can survive this summer’s Test series against South Africa with his job intact.
Stewart, in the last Millennium, is the most recent England captain to remain in charge through the stresses and strains of a tough campaign at home to these tourists.
With honours eventually even in 2003 and then in defeat in 2008, Nasser Hussain and his successor Michael Vaughan both called time on their own Test captaincy eras.
Present both times in opposition, and leadership, was Graeme Smith – back again to lock horns with Strauss, starting at The Oval today. The sequence did not appear to be unduly troubling the latter, any more than the latest twists in the current Kevin Pietersen saga, on the eve of the first Investec Test.
Pietersen’s omission from England’s preliminary 30-man ICC World Twenty20 squad means, in all probability, he will stay retired from international limited-overs cricket – and his team-mates can set aside any potential distractions from the defence of their No 1 Test status.
As for his own position, back-to-form opener Strauss did not speak today like someone who fears it may be in peril. Asked about Smith’s knack of seeing off his opposite numbers, he said: “I don’t think he sees himself as a ‘captain slayer’. I’m sure he’s going to focus on trying to make sure South Africa play good cricket and that’s what I’ll be doing (with England) as well.”
Strauss can speak with the authority of a leader who has some potent weapons at his disposal, notably an attack adept at bowling the opposition out twice.
James Anderson, Stuart Broad and probably Tim Bresnan – Steven Finn remains an increasingly evident stalking horse, and Graham Onions was already an outsider before he suffered a hamstring strain – are the seamers who will be deployed against opponents almost equally well-resourced, by reputation and on scorebook inspection.
“Our bowling attack’s record speaks for itself,” said Strauss.
“We haven’t needed that fifth bowler while taking 20 wickets pretty much continuously over the last 24 months or so ... our three seamers and Swanny [off-spinner Graeme Swann] have always done a good job for us.
“I am very comfortable with our seamers and with our bowling attack, full stop. I think it’s a match for any side in the world.”
Strauss has a healthy respect nonetheless for tourists who arrive on a mission to knock him and his team off their No 1 perch.
“I’ve always felt South Africa have adapted to English conditions as well as any other team,” he said.
“We expect them to be a very stern challenge to us.”
“They have a proud record and have played a lot of good cricket over an extended period of time.”
Unlike at the start of this summer, when a run of moderate scores prefaced the series against West Indies, opener Strauss is in a position of strength following two recent Test centuries and then another and a 50 for his county after his mid-season break while limited-overs matches filled the schedule.
“Obviously, I’m pretty comfortable with my form,” he said. “I got those couple of hundreds against the West Indies and came back and scored a few for Middlesex last week.
“But as a batsman you need to give the bowlers a hell of a lot of respect and work hard to score your runs.
“Anyone who scores a lot of runs in this series will certainly have deserved to score them.”
Provisional squad (for the ICC World Twenty20 in September): Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire) (Capt), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire), Gareth Batty (Surrey), Ian Bell (Warwickshire), Ravi Bopara (Essex), Scott Borthwick (Durham), Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire), Danny Briggs (Hampshire), Jos Buttler (Somerset), Alastair Cook (Essex), Steven Croft (Lancashire), Steven Davies (Surrey), Jade Dernbach (Surrey), Steven Finn (Middlesex), Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire), Craig Kieswetter (Somerset), Michael Lumb (Nottinghamshire), Stuart Meaker (Surrey), Eoin Morgan (Middlesex), Graham Onions (Durham), Samit Patel (Nottinghamshire), Matt Prior (Sussex), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire), James Taylor (Nottinghamshire), James Tredwell (Kent), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Luke Wright (Sussex).
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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