England v West Indies, 1st Test, Lord's, 2nd day May 18, 2012

Strauss smiles, Sammy suffers

While England's captain restated his authority as a player, his West Indies counterpart endured a difficult day
18

The leap of joy and roar of satisfaction that Andrew Strauss gave upon reaching his century said it all: this was a drowning man finding land; a starving man finding food. Usually a reserved, modest fellow, Strauss allowed himself a prolonged celebration. It spoke volumes.

The Lord's crowd is invariably generous. But there was real warmth in their lengthy ovation. They knew how important this innings was to England's captain. They were not just delighted for Strauss. They were relieved.

He needed this innings. While he was not in imminent danger of losing his place, the pressure was building. His authority as captain was unquestioned, but he knew his authority as a player was being compromised. It had been 18 months and 26 innings since his last Test century. His average in the last year had been 26. With a tough series anticipated against South Africa, he knew - everyone knew - that he needed to demonstrate that he was still one of the best six batsmen in England.

This innings - even though it is the 20th Test century of his nine-year career - will not completely silence the critics. And nor should it. Consistency remains the requirement and Strauss still only has two centuries in his last 51 Test innings. But this innings was a substantial step in the right direction. He has proved to himself that he can still cut it at this level. He has proved to himself that he can still contribute for his team.

"Having not scored a hundred for a while, there was a bit of pressure on me to go out there some runs for the lads," Strauss said afterwards. "The last 15 runs or so was quite hard work mentally as I haven't been there for a while. It was a great feeling of relief to finally get those three figures. It was a really special moment and a great ovation. It was one of the more special hundreds I've scored.

"I'm employed to get runs for the team and my output hasn't been as high as I would have liked in the last 12 months or so. It felt like one of the more special innings. It was quite hard work. I suppose mentally it's a bit tougher when you are searching for a hundred and you haven't scored one recently.

"It doesn't change anything. I've still got to go out and score runs the next time I bat. I've still got to do my job as captain. Nothing changes. The reality of international sport is that you are under the microscope and you have to perform day in, day out."

Strauss has been under pressure before. In March 2008 he went into the final innings of England's tour of New Zealand knowing that the axe was hovering. Had he failed, his Test career would almost certainly have ended. He denied that this innings was as vital from a personal perspective and also admitted that he had enjoyed some fortune, not least on 95 when he was dropped off a no-ball. "At moments like that you think 'someone up there is looking after me,'" he smiled.

"In Napier I was standing right on the edge of a precipice," he said. "I needed to get runs in that game or it was P45 time. I didn't think I was in that situation today. The truth of the matter is I've been lucky enough to have 20 good days in about nine years. Every single hundred you score is very special."

It is worth reflecting, too, on the stability that is now taken for granted in England's selection process. It was not always like this. There was a time when England used four captains in a summer. There was a time when a team-mate's failure was seen as an opportunity for the individual. The reaction of Kevin Pietersen, the man Strauss replaced as captain of this side and the genuinely ecstatic non-striker when Strauss reached three figures, showed those days are long gone. The team - the land, even - will rejoice in this innings.

This was a chastening day for West Indies. Shannon Gabriel's first ball dismissal meant they had lost their last six wickets for 62 runs and underlined the impression that they have a tail like a diplodocus. More pertinently, in conditions where England's quicks found seam and swing movement, West Indies' bowlers gained little purchase and did not quite have the control to maintain pressure throughout. They bowled as many no-balls as maidens.

"Trying to beat the likes of Strauss, Cook and Trott through attrition alone is like trying to erode Everest with a piece of sandpaper"

There were passages of play when they bowled well. Kemar Roach beat the bat several times and, when he struck Pietersen on the arm with a short ball, showed what might be on a quicker wicket. Darren Sammy, too, might have had Trott given out leg-before and should have had him out caught behind if only West Indies had utilised a review. Gabriel looks to be an exciting prospect.

But it is almost impossible to balance this attack. With Sammy filling the role of third or fourth seamer, it means there is little room for the spin of Shane Shillingford. West Indies could have done with that variation. True, they could have picked Shillingford ahead of Gabriel, but that would have increased the burden upon Fidel Edwards - whose first three spells were of four, three and then only two overs - who does not look fit enough to cope. Gabriel, too, for all his promise and aggression, did not make a delivery leave the right hander or come back at the left. It is a skill he will need to require if he is to flourish at this level.

Without an ability to coax movement from this sluggish surface that resulted in a day of cricket the antithesis of the IPL, West Indies were reliant on a more attritional approach. But while Pakistan showed that England can be undone by flair, trying to beat the likes of Strauss, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott through attrition alone is like trying to erode Everest with a piece of sandpaper. It does not help that West Indies' fielding remains unreliable, either.

Doubts remain over Sammy's worth at this level. For all his positivity and obvious leadership qualities, his bowling does not quite have the requisite bite or control to justify his selection as a player. He produced three fine overs immediately after lunch that saw Strauss bogged down for 40 minutes. But Sammy's next two overs, full of short or wayward deliveries, cost 20 and the pressure was released.

If captaincy was all about character Nelson Mandela would have opened the batting for South Africa and Mother Teresa the bowling for India. It is about skill and talent, too. And while one captain proved himself on the second day at Lord's, another was exposed.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • jevans90 on May 19, 2012, 15:51 GMT

    @Erebus26 The problem for me is that Sammy isn't playing as an all-rounder, he's playing as a bowler. And, while Sammy does a decent job for WIndies with the ball, when as an England fan I see the team-sheet with no Rampaul and no spinner to speak of, I breathe a little sigh of relief. As George said, Sammy isn't quite good enough. He's close, but not quite. Yes, his batting is useful, but you don't pick a no8 in a 4 man attack for their batting, unless there's nothing to choose bowling-wise between him and your first bowling reserve. And Edwards, Roach and Rampaul are all better seamers than Sammy. If he was batting at 6 or 7, the all-rounder argument might hold some weight, but, again, he's just not quite good enough. I rate him a decent one-day bowler who can bat, but is just short that extra something to be a Test regular. Having said that, I agree with you that there's no real alternative as captain, and actually Sammy's bowling isn't the real problem with this team, the top 7 is.

  • on May 19, 2012, 14:16 GMT

    It is so easy to critical. Making decisions is the hard part. Well here I am. I will challenge the writer of this article to dispute this statement. Besides Shiv(batter), Ramdin(keeper), Roach(bowler). There is no other player that worth his place in this team more than Sammy. And none of the above can make a better capt than Sammy. Further, when u r going to criticize someone it is only fair that u name a more suitable replacement. I don't c anyone, as such I can't name anyone.

  • on May 19, 2012, 13:20 GMT

    A very unfair comparison of two captains. Strauss is captaining the best team in the world for goodness sake! He has world class support in both bowling and batting. I have always said that Sammy is a very strong person. I would have given up the captaincy a long time ago! Sammy did not seek to be Captain it was thrust upon him and like a willing team player he took it on. There are persons here naming all the guys that chose to play IPL over playing for country. So what is the point of mentioning here? Gayle,Sarwan et al have all been there before and we have got the same results. The top six batsmen are supposed to do what they are paid to do and then Sammy would be under less pressure.

  • on May 19, 2012, 12:15 GMT

    West Indies can beat England. These are the same blokes we beat before and we can beat them now too. Believe in your self !

  • on May 19, 2012, 11:55 GMT

    People can be so tough on others. Yes STRAUSS is employed to make runs. And for the last 18mths & 26 inning he hasn't been doing that. In other words others have been doing STRAUSS' job for him. ENG was surviving because they have other very good players. Now in the past 18mths Sammy, who is a bowling captain has been taking useful wickets, he took one yesterday, and captaining a team that has 1 & a half batsmen. Sammy has been doing his job. Others with the exception of Shiv have not been doing their job. There is nothing spectacular about Sammy's captaincy & neither is Strauss'. But nobody is seriously talking about axing Strauss, but everyone wants Sammy's head. And they r not saying who they will replace him with. I shall maintain that people don't like Sammy for non cricketing reasons. Ok let's balance the team. Drop Sammy put in Shane & name your captain.

  • Tom_Bowler on May 19, 2012, 7:26 GMT

    Is there a parallel universe in which the West Indies have consistently won Tests with Chris Gayle in the side? If there isn't where does this argument that a sulky, one dimensional FTB will transform the team come from?

  • on May 19, 2012, 3:55 GMT

    Excellent article. West Indies now need party animals Sarwan and Gayle, and mystery Narine. Would love to see Narine against Pietersen.

  • WindiesWillow on May 19, 2012, 3:38 GMT

    Where is this guy's article on Chanderpaul. Seems like it's disappeared from the site. I wanted to comment on the distasteful article but was unable to do so. Anyway, this may be the last time I will comment on any of his articles. Such a biased writer.

  • on May 19, 2012, 2:16 GMT

    George what can I say about your article - right on. The only people who do not get it - the selectors, coaches and administrators. Its time the cricket fans in the Caribbean show their outrage by not turning up at the matches when New Zealand tours. Its time to boycott the matches until the selectors put the most talented and best players on the field and stop telling the public the mediocre team that the have convened are progressing.

  • TheLight on May 19, 2012, 1:56 GMT

    Sammy is a nice guy, a useful cricketer in certain conditions but a useless captain.

  • jevans90 on May 19, 2012, 15:51 GMT

    @Erebus26 The problem for me is that Sammy isn't playing as an all-rounder, he's playing as a bowler. And, while Sammy does a decent job for WIndies with the ball, when as an England fan I see the team-sheet with no Rampaul and no spinner to speak of, I breathe a little sigh of relief. As George said, Sammy isn't quite good enough. He's close, but not quite. Yes, his batting is useful, but you don't pick a no8 in a 4 man attack for their batting, unless there's nothing to choose bowling-wise between him and your first bowling reserve. And Edwards, Roach and Rampaul are all better seamers than Sammy. If he was batting at 6 or 7, the all-rounder argument might hold some weight, but, again, he's just not quite good enough. I rate him a decent one-day bowler who can bat, but is just short that extra something to be a Test regular. Having said that, I agree with you that there's no real alternative as captain, and actually Sammy's bowling isn't the real problem with this team, the top 7 is.

  • on May 19, 2012, 14:16 GMT

    It is so easy to critical. Making decisions is the hard part. Well here I am. I will challenge the writer of this article to dispute this statement. Besides Shiv(batter), Ramdin(keeper), Roach(bowler). There is no other player that worth his place in this team more than Sammy. And none of the above can make a better capt than Sammy. Further, when u r going to criticize someone it is only fair that u name a more suitable replacement. I don't c anyone, as such I can't name anyone.

  • on May 19, 2012, 13:20 GMT

    A very unfair comparison of two captains. Strauss is captaining the best team in the world for goodness sake! He has world class support in both bowling and batting. I have always said that Sammy is a very strong person. I would have given up the captaincy a long time ago! Sammy did not seek to be Captain it was thrust upon him and like a willing team player he took it on. There are persons here naming all the guys that chose to play IPL over playing for country. So what is the point of mentioning here? Gayle,Sarwan et al have all been there before and we have got the same results. The top six batsmen are supposed to do what they are paid to do and then Sammy would be under less pressure.

  • on May 19, 2012, 12:15 GMT

    West Indies can beat England. These are the same blokes we beat before and we can beat them now too. Believe in your self !

  • on May 19, 2012, 11:55 GMT

    People can be so tough on others. Yes STRAUSS is employed to make runs. And for the last 18mths & 26 inning he hasn't been doing that. In other words others have been doing STRAUSS' job for him. ENG was surviving because they have other very good players. Now in the past 18mths Sammy, who is a bowling captain has been taking useful wickets, he took one yesterday, and captaining a team that has 1 & a half batsmen. Sammy has been doing his job. Others with the exception of Shiv have not been doing their job. There is nothing spectacular about Sammy's captaincy & neither is Strauss'. But nobody is seriously talking about axing Strauss, but everyone wants Sammy's head. And they r not saying who they will replace him with. I shall maintain that people don't like Sammy for non cricketing reasons. Ok let's balance the team. Drop Sammy put in Shane & name your captain.

  • Tom_Bowler on May 19, 2012, 7:26 GMT

    Is there a parallel universe in which the West Indies have consistently won Tests with Chris Gayle in the side? If there isn't where does this argument that a sulky, one dimensional FTB will transform the team come from?

  • on May 19, 2012, 3:55 GMT

    Excellent article. West Indies now need party animals Sarwan and Gayle, and mystery Narine. Would love to see Narine against Pietersen.

  • WindiesWillow on May 19, 2012, 3:38 GMT

    Where is this guy's article on Chanderpaul. Seems like it's disappeared from the site. I wanted to comment on the distasteful article but was unable to do so. Anyway, this may be the last time I will comment on any of his articles. Such a biased writer.

  • on May 19, 2012, 2:16 GMT

    George what can I say about your article - right on. The only people who do not get it - the selectors, coaches and administrators. Its time the cricket fans in the Caribbean show their outrage by not turning up at the matches when New Zealand tours. Its time to boycott the matches until the selectors put the most talented and best players on the field and stop telling the public the mediocre team that the have convened are progressing.

  • TheLight on May 19, 2012, 1:56 GMT

    Sammy is a nice guy, a useful cricketer in certain conditions but a useless captain.

  • on May 19, 2012, 1:55 GMT

    No George Dobell. WI should have had him out caught behind if only (West Indies had utilised a review) NO!!! If the umpire had given him out as HE SHOULD HAVE.

  • FreddyForPrimeMinister on May 18, 2012, 23:55 GMT

    Aside from the Sammy criticism, which I think was unjustified, you did make one excellent point, George - and one which again I hope puts to bed one of the great injustices of modern cricket commentary from the media and public alike. Kevin Pietersen is always portrayed as an arrogant, selfish person and definitely not a team man - yet in every interview I've ever seen him give, he's come over as polite and respectful to all his opponents and he always credits his teammates before discussing his own achievements. The genuine pleasure he showed when giving Andrew Strauss the kind of bear hug reserved only for long lost friends was almost as gratifying to see as Strauss's own delight. People should stop knocking our own players and support them through good AND bad times! Top man, KP...

  • on May 18, 2012, 23:52 GMT

    Good assessment,,,,Sammy is just warming bench and keeping good players off the team

  • KeshavSeshadri85 on May 18, 2012, 23:05 GMT

    Sammy is a trier but West Indies really aren't going anywhere with this side. It's time they realized that skill is needed big time. Chris Gayle at the top of the order would make such a huge difference. So too would Narine or any decent spinner. They also need Sarwan back in the middle order and Russel needs to be tried too to beef up the tail. At least that side looks like it could win at home against subcontinent sides and then perhaps against the big guns - S and Aus. It's all well to say hard work pays dividends but for all their hard work, there are no Raul Dravids or Steve Waughs in this Windies side. 8 wins in 80 tests is damning, even a D grade team should have at least a 20% win record, considering so many series at home. Completely agree with George, Windies need firepower, they need raw pace, bamboozling spin, people like Gayle to put the fear of God in the opposition. Attrition can help you draw tests, skill and attrition will win them.

  • on May 18, 2012, 22:00 GMT

    Spot on!!! This crazy talk about good captaincy and improvement is a farce and a comfort for fools. Roach and Shillingford got wickets on helpful bowling tracks that were difficult to bat on. A good bowler gets wickets with consistency on wickets that are even, There is no present day WI bowler that can do that, None of the bowlers take wickets consistently. And I dont have to lament on the batting. That has been in a state of disrepair for so long. The truth is that unless the WI can produce proper pitches for the players to hone their skills on the results will continue to be the same. Poor domestic performances will produce even worse results at international level.

  • FreddyForPrimeMinister on May 18, 2012, 21:55 GMT

    A bit harsh on Sammy, George. Yes he can look pretty innocuous sometimes because of his lack of pace but he could easily have had another wicket or two but for a highly marginal LBW decision and a pretty abysmal appeal for caught behind which was in fact out! I accept that his bowling doesn't have a huge amount of "bite" as you say but generally he has more "control" than any of his fellow bowlers. He is also capable of genuine contributions in the lower middle order and is a better fielder than the majority of other West Indian pace bowlers. His captaincy is also worth an awful lot that is unquantifiable in terms of runs and wickets. I wish the media and WI public would stop denigrating him as a player and actually support him for once. Strauss deserved the same respect and fortunately he was able to ram the criticism down certain people's throats. I'm 100% English but really appreciate Sammy's honesty, integrity and fighting qualities. Good luck to him.

  • Erebus26 on May 18, 2012, 21:31 GMT

    The question who would you bring in for Sammy as an all-rounder and who would replace him as captain? Andre Russell has raw promise but is rather untested at test level, Pollard's batting is far better than Sammy's but I don't think his bowling is good enough in the longer from of the game (I can see Pollard as a no. 6 batsman who can bowl a bit rather than a genuine all-rounder), whilst Dwayne Bravo has suffered from injuries and loss of form over the past few years. He doesn't look like the youngster who performed so well in England and Australia during 2004-05. As for the captaincy issue then who would you pick? Its unlikely anybody will go back to Gayle. Kirk Edwards, the current vice-captain, doesn't look in form and Shiv was never comfortable with the captaincy first time around. Maybe they could consider bringing Sarwan but gain he has a history of poor fitness and he's only just started playing regular cricket at Leicestershire. However, he is in good nick.

  • noplay on May 18, 2012, 20:38 GMT

    George Dobell...you rock!!! that last paragraph lol. And you don't have to make apologies for Sammy, you tell it like it is. This WI team will contnue with some occasional good performances and will be told that they are being competitive. They are not. Sammy is a good captain because Chanderpaul scored some runs on the first day and he will be a good captain when Kemar Roach takes some wickets on the third day. And he will be an even better captain when with WI, having nothing to lose except the match, he comes out, swings his bat and makes some runs. This is not Sammy bashing. This is being realistic about professional sport.

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  • noplay on May 18, 2012, 20:38 GMT

    George Dobell...you rock!!! that last paragraph lol. And you don't have to make apologies for Sammy, you tell it like it is. This WI team will contnue with some occasional good performances and will be told that they are being competitive. They are not. Sammy is a good captain because Chanderpaul scored some runs on the first day and he will be a good captain when Kemar Roach takes some wickets on the third day. And he will be an even better captain when with WI, having nothing to lose except the match, he comes out, swings his bat and makes some runs. This is not Sammy bashing. This is being realistic about professional sport.

  • Erebus26 on May 18, 2012, 21:31 GMT

    The question who would you bring in for Sammy as an all-rounder and who would replace him as captain? Andre Russell has raw promise but is rather untested at test level, Pollard's batting is far better than Sammy's but I don't think his bowling is good enough in the longer from of the game (I can see Pollard as a no. 6 batsman who can bowl a bit rather than a genuine all-rounder), whilst Dwayne Bravo has suffered from injuries and loss of form over the past few years. He doesn't look like the youngster who performed so well in England and Australia during 2004-05. As for the captaincy issue then who would you pick? Its unlikely anybody will go back to Gayle. Kirk Edwards, the current vice-captain, doesn't look in form and Shiv was never comfortable with the captaincy first time around. Maybe they could consider bringing Sarwan but gain he has a history of poor fitness and he's only just started playing regular cricket at Leicestershire. However, he is in good nick.

  • FreddyForPrimeMinister on May 18, 2012, 21:55 GMT

    A bit harsh on Sammy, George. Yes he can look pretty innocuous sometimes because of his lack of pace but he could easily have had another wicket or two but for a highly marginal LBW decision and a pretty abysmal appeal for caught behind which was in fact out! I accept that his bowling doesn't have a huge amount of "bite" as you say but generally he has more "control" than any of his fellow bowlers. He is also capable of genuine contributions in the lower middle order and is a better fielder than the majority of other West Indian pace bowlers. His captaincy is also worth an awful lot that is unquantifiable in terms of runs and wickets. I wish the media and WI public would stop denigrating him as a player and actually support him for once. Strauss deserved the same respect and fortunately he was able to ram the criticism down certain people's throats. I'm 100% English but really appreciate Sammy's honesty, integrity and fighting qualities. Good luck to him.

  • on May 18, 2012, 22:00 GMT

    Spot on!!! This crazy talk about good captaincy and improvement is a farce and a comfort for fools. Roach and Shillingford got wickets on helpful bowling tracks that were difficult to bat on. A good bowler gets wickets with consistency on wickets that are even, There is no present day WI bowler that can do that, None of the bowlers take wickets consistently. And I dont have to lament on the batting. That has been in a state of disrepair for so long. The truth is that unless the WI can produce proper pitches for the players to hone their skills on the results will continue to be the same. Poor domestic performances will produce even worse results at international level.

  • KeshavSeshadri85 on May 18, 2012, 23:05 GMT

    Sammy is a trier but West Indies really aren't going anywhere with this side. It's time they realized that skill is needed big time. Chris Gayle at the top of the order would make such a huge difference. So too would Narine or any decent spinner. They also need Sarwan back in the middle order and Russel needs to be tried too to beef up the tail. At least that side looks like it could win at home against subcontinent sides and then perhaps against the big guns - S and Aus. It's all well to say hard work pays dividends but for all their hard work, there are no Raul Dravids or Steve Waughs in this Windies side. 8 wins in 80 tests is damning, even a D grade team should have at least a 20% win record, considering so many series at home. Completely agree with George, Windies need firepower, they need raw pace, bamboozling spin, people like Gayle to put the fear of God in the opposition. Attrition can help you draw tests, skill and attrition will win them.

  • on May 18, 2012, 23:52 GMT

    Good assessment,,,,Sammy is just warming bench and keeping good players off the team

  • FreddyForPrimeMinister on May 18, 2012, 23:55 GMT

    Aside from the Sammy criticism, which I think was unjustified, you did make one excellent point, George - and one which again I hope puts to bed one of the great injustices of modern cricket commentary from the media and public alike. Kevin Pietersen is always portrayed as an arrogant, selfish person and definitely not a team man - yet in every interview I've ever seen him give, he's come over as polite and respectful to all his opponents and he always credits his teammates before discussing his own achievements. The genuine pleasure he showed when giving Andrew Strauss the kind of bear hug reserved only for long lost friends was almost as gratifying to see as Strauss's own delight. People should stop knocking our own players and support them through good AND bad times! Top man, KP...

  • on May 19, 2012, 1:55 GMT

    No George Dobell. WI should have had him out caught behind if only (West Indies had utilised a review) NO!!! If the umpire had given him out as HE SHOULD HAVE.

  • TheLight on May 19, 2012, 1:56 GMT

    Sammy is a nice guy, a useful cricketer in certain conditions but a useless captain.

  • on May 19, 2012, 2:16 GMT

    George what can I say about your article - right on. The only people who do not get it - the selectors, coaches and administrators. Its time the cricket fans in the Caribbean show their outrage by not turning up at the matches when New Zealand tours. Its time to boycott the matches until the selectors put the most talented and best players on the field and stop telling the public the mediocre team that the have convened are progressing.