'You've got to ride the wave for as long as possible'
Test-match centuries are becoming second nature to Andrew Strauss. Today's 147 at the Wanderers was his third in four Tests this series, and his fifth in 11 since making his debut at Lord's last May. By the close, however, his untimely late dismissal had taken the gloss off a fine day for England, as he readily admitted afterwards.
"I was guilty of getting out at a bad time," he said, after falling to the second new ball with just eight scheduled overs remaining. "It's tricky to change your mode of batting from the old ball to the new so I was disappointed with that, and to lose [Graham] Thorpe as well. But it was a pretty good day, so we mustn't don't lose sight of that."
After winning their first toss of the series, England had to endure a typically tricky period in the first hour of the day, but they came through unscathed and were set up for the day. "There was a bit of lateral movement in the first hour," said Strauss, "and Shaun Pollock is always going to be there or thereabouts. But after that, the ball started coming onto the bat better and it became easier to drive, and the outfield gave pretty good value for shots as well."
The backbone of England's innings was provided by a second-wicket stand of 182 between Strauss and Robert Key, who made 83. "I enjoy batting with Rob," said Strauss. "We were at the academy together and we made a big stand against the West Indies at Lord's, so I'm familiar with him. He's pretty miserable out there really! He's always complaining and moaning about everything in life - not enough sun and what have you. But he's laid-back at the crease and good fun to bat with."
Strauss, as everyone now knows, was born in Johannesburg, but he emphasised that he had left the city at such a young age that it was difficult to get carried away by the significance of a century in his home-town. "Every hundred is a great occasion," he said, "and this one is no different. This is an important game - we are one-all with two to play, and it was important to get stuck in to push ourselves into a position of ascendancy.
"When I kept playing and missing at Pollock, I thought I must have done something right in a past life," he added. "But when you're in good form you've got to try and ride the wave for as long as possible. We all know what bad form is like - you start wondering where your next run is coming from. But I'll just watch each ball as hard as possible and drag this form out for as long as possible.
"Generally, it's been a pretty good day," he concluded. "There's a tinge of disappointment that it finished in the manner that it did, but if we get over the first hour tomorrow, there's no reason why we can't get a good score. From the position we're now in, we've got to go 400-plus, I should think."
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Cricinfo.