More than his batting numbers
Statistically, Andrew Strauss' career isn't among the best of those who've played 100 Tests. After 99 matches, he has scored 7016 runs at 41.27, which is a fairly modest average in today's age of 50-plus averages. In terms of runs, 20 other batsmen in the 100-Test club had scored more runs after the 99th, led by Brian Lara, who had 8833 in a similar stage of his career, and Kumar Sangakkara, who had 8572. Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain who played his 100th in the first Test of the ongoing series at The Oval, had 8042 runs after his 99th - 1026 more than Strauss - at an average of 49.64. In terms of averages, 35 batsmen had a higher number than Strauss after their 99th Test, led by two Indian batsmen: Rahul Dravid averaged 58.16 going into his 100th, with Sachin Tendulkar close behind at 57.99.
But then, there's more to Strauss than just his batting. There's his man-management skills and his understated leadership style, which has probably played a significant role in him being one of the most successful captains that England have ever had. Under him, England won an Ashes series in Australia for the first time in 24 years, and then took over as the No. 1 side in Test cricket - though ironically, they might no longer be the top team after Strauss' 100th Test is done. The Lord's Test will also be Strauss' 50th as captain, and in the overall context of his career, his contribution as leader has been as vital - if not more - to the team as his performance as a batsman.
It's true that Strauss' overall numbers with the bat don't compare favourably with the top names, but there have been periods when he has stacked up well with the best. Unfortunately, consistency as a batsman hasn't been one of his virtues.
The start to his Test career, though, was perfect. Against New Zealand at Lord's, Strauss became the 15th England batsman to score a century on debut, and the first since Graham Thorpe in 1993. He was also only the second England batsmen to score a century on debut at Lord's, and the first England opener to start his Test career with a hundred since Arthur Milton, way back in 1958. The dreamy start got dreamier still, as Strauss creamed another hundred - at Lord's, no less - against West Indies in the same season, and then, even more impressively - scored three more in the five-Test series in South Africa. After 12 Tests, Strauss had struck five hundreds and averaged 56.63.
Then came a prolonged slump, as in his next nine series, only once did he average beyond 40, against Pakistan at home in 2006. On the other hand, there were several low points, most noticeably on the Ashes tour in 2006-07, when ten innings fetched him 247 runs, and a highest of 50. After scoring five hundreds in his first 12 Tests, he could only manage five more in his next 28.
Over the next couple of years, his form rose again, with an impressive Ashes campaign in 2009, and runs against New Zealand, India, and West Indies. However, since then he has been in a bit of a slump again, though he did score two hundreds against West Indies earlier this season. Those hundreds broke a spell of 25 consecutive Test innings without a ton, but despite those hundreds against West Indies, Strauss' numbers since the beginning of 2010 are pretty ordinary. (Click here for Strauss' series-wise averages.)
|Jan 2005 - Dec 2007||34||2252||35.74||6/ 7|
|Jan 2008 - Dec 2009||26||2144||51.04||8/ 7|
|Jan 2010 onwards||30||1649||33.65||3/ 9|
While's Strauss' numbers after 99 Tests don't compare favourably with the world's best, his stats are pretty good when compared with England's best. However, Strauss has also had the benefit of playing in an era which has been good for batting: the last column of the two tables below list the overall averages in the 99 Tests that each of these batsmen played, and it's clear that the averages are higher in the last 15 years or so. For example, in the first 99 Tests that Dravid had played in, the overall batting average was 33.27; however, the corresponding number for Viv Richards in his first 99 Tests was 28.59, which means the average in the matches Dravid played was about 16% higher. Similarly, the average in Strauss' 99 Tests has been higher by about 15% compared to the Colin Cowdrey's matches, and about 12% higher than the first 99 Tests that Graham Gooch played.
|Batsman||Runs||Average||100s/ 50s||Overall ave*|
|Rahul Dravid||8492||58.16||22/ 41||33.27|
|Sachin Tendulkar||8351||57.99||30/ 33||32.93|
|Javed Miandad||7549||56.76||21/ 36||31.12|
|Jacques Kallis||7840||56.40||24/ 38||31.07|
|Ricky Ponting||7990||56.27||26/ 32||32.12|
|Kumar Sangakkara||8572||55.66||25/ 35||32.12|
|Mahela Jayawardene||7926||52.84||24/ 32||30.58|
|Allan Border||7650||52.76||23/ 35||30.56|
|Viv Richards||7268||52.67||22/ 33||28.59|
|Sunil Gavaskar||8394||52.46||30/ 36||31.88|
|Batsman||Runs||Average||100s/ 50s||Overall ave*|
|Geoff Boycott||7441||48.63||20/ 39||30.21|
|Colin Cowdrey||6940||46.58||20/ 37||28.33|
|David Gower||6985||44.49||14/ 35||29.55|
|Graham Thorpe||6678||44.23||16/ 38||30.24|
|Graham Gooch||7573||43.77||17/ 41||29.04|
|Andrew Strauss||7016||41.27||21/ 27||32.53|
Though he has played in a batting-friendly era, Strauss' job is still a relatively tough one - opening the batting, and often in England, where conditions can be quite favourable for new-ball bowling. Among England's openers, Strauss is fifth in terms of aggregate; overall for England, he is in ninth place; in terms of Test hundreds by England's batsmen, he's just one short of equalling the record. Those are impressive numbers, even in this era.
Apart from his individual contributions, Strauss has been one half of England's most prolific batting pair (in terms of runs scored, at least). With Alastair Cook, Strauss has put together 5219 partnership runs, with 4677 of those being for the first wicket. In terms of partnership runs, they are well clear of all other England pairs: in second place is the Atherton-Stewart pair, who scored 3687 runs in 89 innings at an average of 42.87. In fact, Strauss-Cook is the only England pair who've batted together more than 100 times.
Overall, this pair has the fifth-highest number of runs, the sixth-highest number of century stands, and the third-highest number of partnerships. Given that neither of the top two pairs who played together most often are still active - Greenidge-Haynes batted together 148 times, and Dravid-Tendulkar 143 times - Strauss and Cook have an excellent chance to become the leading pair in Test cricket in terms of innings batted.
Strauss hasn't had much success in the ongoing series so far, scoring 86 runs in four innings, but he'll be pleased that the next game is coming up at Lord's - it's fitting too, that Strauss will bring up his 100th at the same ground where he started off with a century on debut. In fact, Lord's has been particularly kind to him: in 29 Test innings at the ground, Strauss has scored 1541 runs at an average of 55.03. His second-best venue in terms of runs scored is The Oval, where he has scored only 554 runs in 17 innings. Only one batsman has scored more runs at Lord's than Strauss - Graham Gooch aggregated 2015 runs in 39 innings. In fact, Strauss' tally is in the top ten in terms of runs scored by any batsman at a single ground.
|Graham Gooch||21||2015||53.02||6/ 5|
|Andrew Strauss||17||1541||55.03||5/ 6|
|Alec Stewart||20||1476||44.72||3/ 8|
|David Gower||17||1241||44.32||2/ 8|
|Kevin Pietersen||14||1228||61.40||5/ 3|
|Geoff Boycott||16||1189||45.73||3/ 6|
|Alastair Cook||13||1078||51.33||3/ 7|
And then, as mentioned earlier, there's his immense record as captain. Only two England captains - Michael Atherton and Michael Vaughan - have led in more Tests, while only Vaughan, with 26, has more Test wins than Strauss' 24. With a 30-Test cut-off, the only England captain with a better win-loss ratio than Strauss is Mike Brearley, under whom England had a 18-4 record in 31 matches.
Among all captains who've led at least 40 times, only five have a better win-loss ratio than Strauss, with Steve Waugh way ahead of the rest. If England win at Lord's, Strauss will move up to fifth place, ahead of Cronje's win-loss ratio of 1.45. More importantly, England will stay ahead of South Africa as the top Test side. That'll be a fitting way to celebrate Strauss' 100th Test match, and his 50th as captain.
|Steve Waugh||57||41/ 9||4.55||71.92|
|Viv Richards||50||27/ 8||3.37||54.00|
|Ricky Ponting||77||48/ 16||3.00||62.33|
|Clive Lloyd||74||36/ 12||3.00||48.64|
|Hansie Cronje||53||27/ 11||2.45||50.94|
|Andrew Strauss||49||24/ 10||2.40||48.97|
|Mark Taylor||50||26/ 13||2.00||52.00|
|Peter May||41||20/ 10||2.00||48.78|
|Imran Khan||48||14/ 8||1.75||29.16|
|Graeme Smith||93||43/ 26||1.65||46.23|
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter