Graham Gooch defends Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen

Graham Gooch had to go into bat for Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen last night, after each had put himself under a little more urgent pressure to score runs.

While the England captain did so by deed - bowled through the gate by a near unstoppable inswinger from Mohammad Asif in England's 39 for one on a drastically rain-shortened day at Lord's - Pietersen did so by word.

His public admission that his confidence has suffered badly in the near 18 months since he last scored a century means the scrappy 80 he made to help win the Edgbaston Test three weeks ago is no longer the currency which will silence the doubters.

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Strauss's travails, in a series against Pakistan characterised by a lack of collective runs and the clatter of wickets under cloudy skies, have taken his personal account to 155 in seven innings.

There have also been less than complimentary observations about his captaincy in an npower series England lead 2-1, with four days left to decide their superiority or otherwise.

England batting coach Gooch sees mitigation in conditions and opposition for his team's mediocre returns, but he sees no sign of the strain taking its toll on Strauss. "I haven't seen anything get to him. I think he's captained the side really well," said Gooch.

"With every batsman, if you don't score runs, you can't be completely happy. That's not just him personally, that's anyone - because that's your role in the side, to provide the platform for your bowlers to win the game.

"But the Pakistan attack are decent. They get something out of the pitch, and it's a challenge - that's for sure."

In former England captain and opener Gooch's expert opinion, there is no evidence yet to conclude Strauss is really struggling. "He is not out of form. What happened here today and at The Oval... I've been there ... you are vulnerable if you get a good ball and your judgment is not spot on.

"In the last two Tests, he's been out too early to say his game is not working. But confidence only comes from spending time at the crease."

Similar remarks apply to Pietersen, who has had no domestic cricket this summer because of the abrupt end to his employment at Hampshire.

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"He's got to transfer the way he prepares and practises into the middle," Gooch advises. "Obviously he's desperate to make a score, like any player. But you've got to get the balance between attack and defence, what I call how you manage the batting. You get confidence from scoring runs in the middle. That is an important part of feeling good as a player.

"Kevin's situation with Hampshire is between him and them.But ideally, you'd like to be playing some sort of cricket at some stage - because you need that rhythm."

England might easily have suffered worse losses than Strauss's solitary wicket, after being put into bat in awkward conditions in the only hour of play possible.

There was, perhaps, a little relief in Gooch's voice when he conceded batting has been far from easy throughout the series. "Both bowling sides have had good conditions to bowl in, but that doesn't mean you can't score runs," he said.

"On a flat wicket, invariably it's your bowlers who have to take 20 wickets and win you the game. On wickets we've seen this summer, it's possibly a batsman who can win you the game - because 60 or 70 on this sort of wicket is worth maybe 120 or 130 on a flat one."

ENGLAND First Innings

A J Strauss b Asif.............................................13

A N Cook not out...............................................10

I J L Trott not out...............................................8

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Extras w5 nb3 pens 0........................................8

Total 1 wkt (12.3 overs)......................39

Fall: 1-31 To Bat: K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, E J G Morgan, M J Prior, G P Swann, S C J Broad, J M Anderson, S T Finn.

Bowling: Amir 5.3-2-18-0; Asif 6-1-17-1; Wahab Riaz 1-0-4-0