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August 20, 2012
Andrew Strauss has no immediate intentions of marking his 100th Test by resigning from the captaincy after England's 2-0 Test series defeat against South Africa, their heaviest defeat in a home Test series for 11 years.
"Hope so," was his brief response when he was asked at the presentation ceremony at Lord's if he wanted to captain England as they try to reclaim the top Test ranking which they have held so shakily for the past year.
But there was little disguising that England's poor performances in their year as Test No 1, his own poor form and the stand-off with Kevin Pietersen, all hang more heavily upon him than he cares to indicate.
Half-an-hour later, pressed whether his enthusiasm for captaincy of the Test side had been galvanised by a spirited run chase on the final day at Lord's, he was more equivocal and declined to reaffirm his desire to remain in the role unconditionally.
"It's probably hard to answer that after the week that's just gone by," he said. "It's been a tiring week. I've great faith in the team; I've great faith in the set-up. I've still got a lot of desire there. I'm keen to get away for a few days and have a bit of a break. Then we all need to sit down - myself and Andy Flower in particular - and try and map out the way forward. I've got great faith in the talent in the dressing room, and also the desire in the dressing room and we're going to need that."
During England's time as No 1, they have lost six of their 11 Tests this year, losing to Pakistan in the UAE and at home to a South Africa side who out-performed them in all facets of the game. The last time England lost a home Test series by more than one match was against Australia, who prevailed 3-1 in the 2001 Ashes.
Strauss, who failed to make a half-century in the series, admitted that it had been a difficult year, one which he would remember: "Not with a great deal of fondness".
He said: "We have had some tough times and I think that is a good thing. Test cricket tests out your character and your resilience. When you are No. 1 people are trying to gun you down and we have come unstuck a few times. I think we have learned a lot along the way.
"We've lost a lot more than we would have wanted to. Maybe that tag of being No 1 hasn't sat as comfortably as it should have done with us. We haven't been in that situation before, and maybe we've learned from some important lessons on how we should approach it in the future. Our first priority is to get back in that situation.
"Whether it was because of a change of mindset - from being the hunters to the ones that are hunted - I don't know. Or maybe we came unstuck in the sub-continent and lost a bit of confidence along the way. I don't know the exact answers right now. But those are the sort of questions we need to find answers to.
"When you reach No. 1 you have to up your performance, you can't rest on your laurels, you can't afford any bad days, you have to be hungry, just as motivated. Although I can't fault the effort the guys have put in, in certain areas we haven't been quite on the ball.
"It will be a shame to hand over that mace to South Africa but right at the moment they deserve to be No 1 and we will come back."
Strauss identified England's poor catching and flimsy top-order batting as the primary reasons England lost the series. "The obvious thing to focus on is that our batting was below-par and we dropped catches," he said.
"In a three-Test series in particular, dropping those sort of catches against a good batting line-up can be the difference between winning and losing games. We've got to sit back and have a look at everything, really: how we're training; everything we can control; can we do it better?
"We were never favourites to win the game today, but I thought the spirit the guys showed and the never-say-die attitude they displayed was a great credit to all the players. This was how I expected the whole series to play out - very close games of cricket, small margins between the sides."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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