England v SA, 3rd Investec Test, Lord's, 5th day August 20, 2012

Strauss has cause for self-reflection

As Andrew Strauss outlined the reasons England had lost the series, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that to some extent he was talking about himself
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Sometimes it is the words that are left unsaid that say more than those we hear. As Andrew Strauss spoke at the end of the series against South Africa, it was noticeable that he at no stage provided a categorical statement to confirm that he had the inclination to continue as England captain. "We'll see how things go," was as definitive as he wanted to be.

More than that, as Strauss outlined the reasons England had lost the series - poor catching and flimsy top-order batting - it was hard to avoid the conclusion that to some extent he was talking about himself.

It is true that none of England's top-order have covered themselves with glory against South Africa, but none have endured the grim run of form of England's captain. In six innings, Strauss scored 107 runs at an average of 17.83 with a top score of 37. He also dropped Hashim Amla early on in his triple century at The Oval.

Such form could be ignored if it was a one-off, but there is growing evidence to suggest it is not. Since the start of 2011, Strauss is averaging just 31.65 in 19 Tests, with only a fine series against West Indies - a series in which he made two centuries - glossing over an uncomfortably grim personal record. In that period, he has also averaged just 17.62 in five Tests - home and away - against Sri Lanka and 25 in three Tests against Pakistan.

In this series, it never appeared that Strauss would make runs. With feet of iron and confidence so drained that he left a straight ball in his final innings of the series, Strauss looked a shadow of the man who made 10 centuries in his first 30 Tests.

Any other 35-year-old batsman with such a record would surely have been dropped already, but such is the respect in which Strauss is held and the contribution that he has made to England's success, that he has been provided every opportunity to rediscover his form.

Strauss' age may be a key factor. While England's selectors have been vindicated in the past for their faith in the likes of Alastair Cook or Stuart Broad, they were players at different stages of their development: young men of obvious talent who the selectors believed would grow into the role. Strauss is a man trying to recapture former glories. It is not the same thing at all.

It was probably fitting that England's last realistic hope at Lord's departed with a run out. England's cricket in this series has been littered with self-inflicted injuries: the nine dropped catches, the pushes at wide balls that resulted in edges to the slips, the decision to drop Graeme Swann at Leeds and, whoever is at fault, a situation whereby the team's best batsman finds himself a pariah in the dressing room.

Even without those issues, South Africa would have proven hard to beat. With them, it is remarkable that England went into the last session of the series with a chance of retaining their No.1 ranking.

That they did suggests, perhaps, that Strauss remains on the right track. So, too, did the obvious spirit which England showed on the last day of this series. Confronted by superior opposition, England continued to attack with admirable pluck and eventually succumbed with just a little bit of their pride restored.

As Strauss put it: "Spirit is not shown by people clapping on the balcony necessarily, it's everything that goes with performing: how people look after each other; the language that is used in the dressing room."

But England's record of six losses in 11 Tests and only one win in four series this year tells a different story. Failure can no longer be dismissed as an aberration. It has become the norm.

The situation provides a new challenge for Andy Flower. Strauss and Flower have worked as a partnership since inheriting their roles in the aftermath of the Pietersen-Moores sackings in early 2009. In many ways, Strauss has become the public face of the partnership and is the more sympathetic man manager; the smooth PR man who provides an acceptable shop window for the harshness of the factory beyond. Without the soft skills of Strauss, Flower could look dauntingly hard and inflexible.

Flower may now be entering new territory. He has to decide whether to remain loyal to Strauss - admirable only if he really believes that Strauss can consistently score runs at the top of the order in Test cricket - or whether he can start again and rebuild a new team.

It is the challenge that befell Duncan Fletcher who, in remaining loyal to the team who served England so well in the 2005 Ashes, failed to regenerate the side as was required and oversaw a sad decline. Flower cannot allow sentiment to cloud his judgement.

For the first time in three Test tours of England, the South Africa captain, Graeme Smith, did not see the demise of an England captain in the middle of the series. The difference, perhaps, was that this time the teams were scheduled to play only three games. But, in the days ahead, it remains quite possible that Smith may yet claim his third England captain.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • MattyP1979 on August 22, 2012, 2:08 GMT

    Most fans giving Strauss alot of leway which is good. I for one want to see him captain for the next Ashes. He has runs left in him im sure. Another couple of good knocks in Ind will sort his head out. As for the Ind fans quoting history, it is true we haven't won in Ind for a long time. But this CURRENT team is 4-0 up! "Only fools fight future wars with weapons of the past". One thing is for sure if we don't beat Ind we certainly won't lose (unless Trott runs every1 out).

  • StoneRose on August 22, 2012, 1:10 GMT

    Lessons need to be learned but I don't think dropping a whole host of players is the answer. Resting Broad is one answer; don't know if it is the correct one, could he do with more bowling in ODIs - arguably his favourite format - to build rhythm?. The KP issue needs to be sorted - maybe we are underestimating the effect disharmony has on the team. But I think an issue not raised is England's ill-discipline while fielding (e.g. sledging, tutting, chuntering). Perhaps they have focused too much on aspects like this rather than catching well?

  • Manush on August 22, 2012, 0:52 GMT

    Strauss must go without any further extension with grace !! He overstayed thanks to his captaincy, like old days English cricket !!! He is the main cause for top order pressure with his consistent batting failure. Andy and Strauss could have swallowed pride waited for 5 days more and played with Kevin and retain their ranking and later sorted out their ego clash with him instead of losing the position which they earned fighting well together.Poor timing !!! The tour ahead is going to be further disaster for this team. already Pakistan and Srilanka showed the limitations of their batting quality and India will dominate with their own local conditions and take revenge. It was Monty and not Swann who performed better and the rest played below par in bowling department. Only Cook and Kevin play well in India and it is going to be another low for England if the same team is retained.

  • sonicattack on August 21, 2012, 20:23 GMT

    @loudmouth - yes, I like that one! As an England fan in those days you never knew who was going to be picked/dropped/recalled or even made captain...was it Gower who had to admit that he'd never seen one of the fast bowlers selected for one of his teams bowl before? As for Strauss, I think that he should be given time to make his own decision, personally I think that he should lead the team in India and beyond, if only to give @RandyOZ a good reason for posting.

  • Kirk-at-Lords on August 21, 2012, 19:31 GMT

    Mr Dobell lays out a somber tale with admirable balance and restraint. Andy Flower's position appears to be the most delicate and decisive. The comparison with Duncan Fletcher is quite apt. Perhaps the saving grace for Flower and England is that he presides over defeat, while Fletcher basked in success. It is much easier to make changes after the former than the latter. Whether Flower will do so remains to be seen. The tour of India actually offers good cover, since conditions and Indian expectations do not favour England. Cook first made his name as a batsman literally soaring into the subcontinent from Windies. He could become captain of an English flying squadron that could make a cricketing raid on Old Duncker's new backyard. Pietersen would make an excellent wingman, in the circumstances. As with Cook in his time, the tour could offer a chance to blood new talent. A series draw would be an unexpected but welcome triumph, laying the foundation for future greatness.

  • FreddyForPrimeMinister on August 21, 2012, 14:20 GMT

    @FrAnKsTeR_007 - mickey76 mentioned India because that is where the England team go next! He wasn't being one-eyed and derogatory about the Indian team - unlike all the disgraceful bias and scorn that is poured over England every time they lose - or indeed win! Real cricket lovers make rational, intelligent comments not act like schoolboys laughing at a child for wearing glasses. England, as they have acknowledged to a man, have certainly had a wake-up call by an excellent SA team, who were definitely superior in all departments. Aside from the first Test however, England showed they CAN compete but need to sort out a few technical issues with regard to their sudden loss of form in catching and the top order batsmen's concentration in leaving wide balls outside off stump. I also agree that the KP issue must be sorted by BOTH sides - he's too important a player to leave out of a tour of the subcontinent!

  • tanstell87 on August 21, 2012, 14:20 GMT

    So mikey76 thinks England can beat India in India...they haven't done that since 1984 to be precise.........India went onto win in England in 1986 & 2007....now England fans will say 4-0...India too whitewashed England in India in 1993...3-0 it was to be precise !

  • loudmouth on August 21, 2012, 13:47 GMT

    As an Australian fan I'd like to see Strauss dropped / KP brought back as coach and captain / recall Geraint Jones to keep wicket / drop Swan every other game until his confidence is gone and generally run the quicks into the ground. Shame Flower and co have wised up and stuck to the same winning formula. Still I miss the old days when the England team consisted of 40 players on permanent rotation! Congrats Smith & co. A well earned Numero Uno!

  • RandyOZ on August 21, 2012, 13:34 GMT

    Would have to be the worst captain and worst batsman in World Cricket today. How bad is England's depth?

  • screamingeagle on August 21, 2012, 11:50 GMT

    How things change. Strange the way admin and fans react when the team loses. I see parallels with the Indian tour when all and sundry were talking of India needing wholesale changes. Anyway, I feel the series in the SC will be interesting. Indian batting does have a fraility to it now, with RD and VVS gone.

  • MattyP1979 on August 22, 2012, 2:08 GMT

    Most fans giving Strauss alot of leway which is good. I for one want to see him captain for the next Ashes. He has runs left in him im sure. Another couple of good knocks in Ind will sort his head out. As for the Ind fans quoting history, it is true we haven't won in Ind for a long time. But this CURRENT team is 4-0 up! "Only fools fight future wars with weapons of the past". One thing is for sure if we don't beat Ind we certainly won't lose (unless Trott runs every1 out).

  • StoneRose on August 22, 2012, 1:10 GMT

    Lessons need to be learned but I don't think dropping a whole host of players is the answer. Resting Broad is one answer; don't know if it is the correct one, could he do with more bowling in ODIs - arguably his favourite format - to build rhythm?. The KP issue needs to be sorted - maybe we are underestimating the effect disharmony has on the team. But I think an issue not raised is England's ill-discipline while fielding (e.g. sledging, tutting, chuntering). Perhaps they have focused too much on aspects like this rather than catching well?

  • Manush on August 22, 2012, 0:52 GMT

    Strauss must go without any further extension with grace !! He overstayed thanks to his captaincy, like old days English cricket !!! He is the main cause for top order pressure with his consistent batting failure. Andy and Strauss could have swallowed pride waited for 5 days more and played with Kevin and retain their ranking and later sorted out their ego clash with him instead of losing the position which they earned fighting well together.Poor timing !!! The tour ahead is going to be further disaster for this team. already Pakistan and Srilanka showed the limitations of their batting quality and India will dominate with their own local conditions and take revenge. It was Monty and not Swann who performed better and the rest played below par in bowling department. Only Cook and Kevin play well in India and it is going to be another low for England if the same team is retained.

  • sonicattack on August 21, 2012, 20:23 GMT

    @loudmouth - yes, I like that one! As an England fan in those days you never knew who was going to be picked/dropped/recalled or even made captain...was it Gower who had to admit that he'd never seen one of the fast bowlers selected for one of his teams bowl before? As for Strauss, I think that he should be given time to make his own decision, personally I think that he should lead the team in India and beyond, if only to give @RandyOZ a good reason for posting.

  • Kirk-at-Lords on August 21, 2012, 19:31 GMT

    Mr Dobell lays out a somber tale with admirable balance and restraint. Andy Flower's position appears to be the most delicate and decisive. The comparison with Duncan Fletcher is quite apt. Perhaps the saving grace for Flower and England is that he presides over defeat, while Fletcher basked in success. It is much easier to make changes after the former than the latter. Whether Flower will do so remains to be seen. The tour of India actually offers good cover, since conditions and Indian expectations do not favour England. Cook first made his name as a batsman literally soaring into the subcontinent from Windies. He could become captain of an English flying squadron that could make a cricketing raid on Old Duncker's new backyard. Pietersen would make an excellent wingman, in the circumstances. As with Cook in his time, the tour could offer a chance to blood new talent. A series draw would be an unexpected but welcome triumph, laying the foundation for future greatness.

  • FreddyForPrimeMinister on August 21, 2012, 14:20 GMT

    @FrAnKsTeR_007 - mickey76 mentioned India because that is where the England team go next! He wasn't being one-eyed and derogatory about the Indian team - unlike all the disgraceful bias and scorn that is poured over England every time they lose - or indeed win! Real cricket lovers make rational, intelligent comments not act like schoolboys laughing at a child for wearing glasses. England, as they have acknowledged to a man, have certainly had a wake-up call by an excellent SA team, who were definitely superior in all departments. Aside from the first Test however, England showed they CAN compete but need to sort out a few technical issues with regard to their sudden loss of form in catching and the top order batsmen's concentration in leaving wide balls outside off stump. I also agree that the KP issue must be sorted by BOTH sides - he's too important a player to leave out of a tour of the subcontinent!

  • tanstell87 on August 21, 2012, 14:20 GMT

    So mikey76 thinks England can beat India in India...they haven't done that since 1984 to be precise.........India went onto win in England in 1986 & 2007....now England fans will say 4-0...India too whitewashed England in India in 1993...3-0 it was to be precise !

  • loudmouth on August 21, 2012, 13:47 GMT

    As an Australian fan I'd like to see Strauss dropped / KP brought back as coach and captain / recall Geraint Jones to keep wicket / drop Swan every other game until his confidence is gone and generally run the quicks into the ground. Shame Flower and co have wised up and stuck to the same winning formula. Still I miss the old days when the England team consisted of 40 players on permanent rotation! Congrats Smith & co. A well earned Numero Uno!

  • RandyOZ on August 21, 2012, 13:34 GMT

    Would have to be the worst captain and worst batsman in World Cricket today. How bad is England's depth?

  • screamingeagle on August 21, 2012, 11:50 GMT

    How things change. Strange the way admin and fans react when the team loses. I see parallels with the Indian tour when all and sundry were talking of India needing wholesale changes. Anyway, I feel the series in the SC will be interesting. Indian batting does have a fraility to it now, with RD and VVS gone.

  • supacodger on August 21, 2012, 11:49 GMT

    It is definitely NOT time to change the captain. Strauss's batting wasn't great but Cook, Bell and at times Trott have all been out of sorts, too. Strauss is the man to lead England in the next Ashes series, and his form will soon recover. I suspect the media want Strauss to quit because then they will have something to write about, speculating on who should be the next captain. Leave Strauss alone or the pressure will get to him and we'll end up with another unsuitable captain like Pietersen or Flintoff.

  • Selassie-I on August 21, 2012, 11:37 GMT

    I would really like to see Straussy stick around for another year, Joe Root still has some time to go before he can try his hand in tests and I don't think we have too many other options up front. Also Ali Cook probably needs another year before becoming skip.

  • Selassie-I on August 21, 2012, 11:26 GMT

    Mikey76, I'm not too sure I agree withwholesale changes, the last 2 matches have been relativley equal, a big difference bwing the catches and our poorly performing top order. Broad and bell, Broad - Quite clearly injured and putting off his op until after the t20 wc. Should be going for it eralier. But swann has been ok, he's not bowled awefully but the Safs have played him very, very well.. it was clearly the basis of their stratergy. Bell, has been one of our better players.

  • YorkshirePudding on August 21, 2012, 10:21 GMT

    I see George has reverted to type a couple of months ago he was salivatingover struass's hundreds against the WI's saying that he was sent for another year or so. Just shows how little wirters remmber things. The truth is If Strauss has been fighting to maintain order in the dressing room then hes not been able to focus on his own game, especially this last week with the press always asking about KP and KP's supposed comments to the opposition about him.

  • Sanjiyan on August 21, 2012, 9:06 GMT

    @Capt.Meanster Strauss isnt slightly out of form, he is woefully out of form. His average over the past 2 years, barring the series against the windies, is unacceptable. No matter how well hes loved by the administrators and his teammates he cant be carried all the time. Strauss is as much a liability to the batting as broad is to the bowling. They both are sub average and there are hardly any ecouraging signs that they are getting better. The fact that broad insists hes not bowling slower shows hes in denial and has no clue what hes doing, The english management cant ignore the facts anymore. They must make hard decisions for the sake of the english team. If that means dropping strauss as captain and broad then they should do it.

  • Wexfordwonder on August 21, 2012, 9:01 GMT

    I agree PK, England had to push for the win as only a win would se ethem retain their no1 status, for what it is worth. Quite frankly, although SA now hold the no1 position, we/they have some proving to do before they can truly claim to be the best. I, for one, will not be crowing too loudly until, say, end of 2013 if we still hold the no1 spot as we will then have beaten most major teams.

    Anyway, the truth is that a draw would just not have been an option yesterday.

  • venkatesh018 on August 21, 2012, 8:59 GMT

    Strauss's time is up. At least as a batsman. Left-arm over the wicket angle(Zaheer) and Right-arm round the wicket(Morkel) bowling have always found his measure.

  • FrAnKsTeR_007 on August 21, 2012, 8:36 GMT

    @Mickey76,India is just a pushover isnt it??? The topic of the Report was Strauss and So called best English team of all time then why bring India in this??? England is just as good as India in there backyard and no more...India will lecture England on playing Spin,just like Pak did...:)

  • ramli on August 21, 2012, 8:32 GMT

    India in India in tests were dangerous .. not now .. with RD and VVS gone ... India is a side on transition and could be vulnerable ... only hope is to prepare dusty bowls ... therein again ... you risk of losing permanently in overseas series ... oh God ...

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 21, 2012, 7:35 GMT

    LOVE that picture of Strauss :D ! Anyway, it's really unfair to criticize Strauss for this defeat. Sure, he's slightly out of form but that can happen to any player. What about the other batsmen ? They were all highly inconsistent, with the exception of Bairstow of course. To me Strauss is still the best choice for captaining England. He should lead England until the next Ashes series given his wonderful record. Having said that, the ECB MUST sort out the KP matter. KP will be a KEY to England's chances in India. KP is really the only one who can freely play in such conditions. He will bring an added solidarity to an already good team. If there are issues that have really gotten out of hand, then the ECB should bring it to the public's notice and dust off any dizzy hopes people may have of seeing KP back in England colours. I truly believe that there is nothing in this world that cannot be solved through basic conversation and understanding. The coming days will be interesting.

  • dicky_boy on August 21, 2012, 5:49 GMT

    Well I was very confident last year that we would beat England, but both DRAVID and laxman gone , I am not so sure cause we don't get spinning tracks in India only flat beauties, . No one in our country wants to be a test batsmen,. This series seems like it will be closer than I thought

  • Supa_SAFFA on August 21, 2012, 4:52 GMT

    Perhaps Strauss could stay on long enough to mentor a young successor. Bairstow comes to mind. He walks away from Lords with respect in defeat.

  • himanshu.team on August 21, 2012, 4:37 GMT

    It is not very easy to hold on to the number-1 slot for long. In a way, India holding out to that position was in itself a surprise. There is so much of talk about how poor England were in the series and before. I am quite interested in watching what SA do when they go to Australia and later. Mind you, India would be playing back to back test series in the sub continenet for the next year. I am sure we will see the no.1 ranking change hands very frequently in near future.

  • Y2SJ on August 21, 2012, 4:19 GMT

    England was over rated. Just because they won against a mediocre Aus and Indian team they thought they were the best. The series against Pak showed that they can not put up a fight outside their backyard. They can not even fight in their backyard against a hostile SA attack. Highly over rated.

  • __PK on August 21, 2012, 2:48 GMT

    I'm sick of all this rot about England being brave in that test. They had to win the game, a draw was as bad as a loss, they top order folded meekly, so the lower order had nothing to lose by going the slog. Nothing brave about it. As for Strauss, well, for a batsman struggling for form there is no worse way to get out than to leave a straight one. Not a good look.

  • Jimmers on August 21, 2012, 0:03 GMT

    Need Pietersen in India. If he's not on the plane, the rest might as well stay home too. I don't care who the captain or coach is, they need to get the KP issue sorted and move on.

  • mikey76 on August 20, 2012, 23:05 GMT

    Time for some new blood I think. Too many players getting cosy in their positions and not producing the goods on a regular basis i.e Swann, Broad and Bell. It's a shame we go to India in somewhat of a shambles. I felt we could beat them, not so sure now. Definitely a need for five bowlers, with Finn leading the attack.

  • MrMankad on August 20, 2012, 22:11 GMT

    "the nine dropped catches, the pushes at wide balls that resulted in edges to the slips, the decision to drop Graeme Swann at Leeds and, whoever is at fault, a situation whereby the team's best batsman finds himself a pariah in the dressing room."

    ---- the word "donkeys" comes to mind :)

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  • MrMankad on August 20, 2012, 22:11 GMT

    "the nine dropped catches, the pushes at wide balls that resulted in edges to the slips, the decision to drop Graeme Swann at Leeds and, whoever is at fault, a situation whereby the team's best batsman finds himself a pariah in the dressing room."

    ---- the word "donkeys" comes to mind :)

  • mikey76 on August 20, 2012, 23:05 GMT

    Time for some new blood I think. Too many players getting cosy in their positions and not producing the goods on a regular basis i.e Swann, Broad and Bell. It's a shame we go to India in somewhat of a shambles. I felt we could beat them, not so sure now. Definitely a need for five bowlers, with Finn leading the attack.

  • Jimmers on August 21, 2012, 0:03 GMT

    Need Pietersen in India. If he's not on the plane, the rest might as well stay home too. I don't care who the captain or coach is, they need to get the KP issue sorted and move on.

  • __PK on August 21, 2012, 2:48 GMT

    I'm sick of all this rot about England being brave in that test. They had to win the game, a draw was as bad as a loss, they top order folded meekly, so the lower order had nothing to lose by going the slog. Nothing brave about it. As for Strauss, well, for a batsman struggling for form there is no worse way to get out than to leave a straight one. Not a good look.

  • Y2SJ on August 21, 2012, 4:19 GMT

    England was over rated. Just because they won against a mediocre Aus and Indian team they thought they were the best. The series against Pak showed that they can not put up a fight outside their backyard. They can not even fight in their backyard against a hostile SA attack. Highly over rated.

  • himanshu.team on August 21, 2012, 4:37 GMT

    It is not very easy to hold on to the number-1 slot for long. In a way, India holding out to that position was in itself a surprise. There is so much of talk about how poor England were in the series and before. I am quite interested in watching what SA do when they go to Australia and later. Mind you, India would be playing back to back test series in the sub continenet for the next year. I am sure we will see the no.1 ranking change hands very frequently in near future.

  • Supa_SAFFA on August 21, 2012, 4:52 GMT

    Perhaps Strauss could stay on long enough to mentor a young successor. Bairstow comes to mind. He walks away from Lords with respect in defeat.

  • dicky_boy on August 21, 2012, 5:49 GMT

    Well I was very confident last year that we would beat England, but both DRAVID and laxman gone , I am not so sure cause we don't get spinning tracks in India only flat beauties, . No one in our country wants to be a test batsmen,. This series seems like it will be closer than I thought

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 21, 2012, 7:35 GMT

    LOVE that picture of Strauss :D ! Anyway, it's really unfair to criticize Strauss for this defeat. Sure, he's slightly out of form but that can happen to any player. What about the other batsmen ? They were all highly inconsistent, with the exception of Bairstow of course. To me Strauss is still the best choice for captaining England. He should lead England until the next Ashes series given his wonderful record. Having said that, the ECB MUST sort out the KP matter. KP will be a KEY to England's chances in India. KP is really the only one who can freely play in such conditions. He will bring an added solidarity to an already good team. If there are issues that have really gotten out of hand, then the ECB should bring it to the public's notice and dust off any dizzy hopes people may have of seeing KP back in England colours. I truly believe that there is nothing in this world that cannot be solved through basic conversation and understanding. The coming days will be interesting.

  • ramli on August 21, 2012, 8:32 GMT

    India in India in tests were dangerous .. not now .. with RD and VVS gone ... India is a side on transition and could be vulnerable ... only hope is to prepare dusty bowls ... therein again ... you risk of losing permanently in overseas series ... oh God ...