Strauss relieved by tailenders' heroics
A strange mix of pride and guilt permeated Andrew Strauss's reaction to England's sensational escape in the first Test at Cardiff, as he lavished praise on the character of his lower-order, in particular the final pair, James Anderson and Monty Panesar, but admitted that, as a senior batsman who ought to have been leading the rearguard himself, the final stages of the match had been "horrible" to watch.
"I was at the edge of my seat," said Strauss. "As a batsman, to have to watch Nos. 10 and 11 do your job for you is not a place you want to be really. We always thought we were probably a wicket or two too far down to expect to draw the game, and when those two guys went in, it was probably only with about 18 balls to go we thought we'd got a sniff.
"My biggest fear was Monty getting himself run out, he's quite keen to get that quick single," Strauss admitted. "Thankfully he held it together, but all credit to them, they had to withhold a hell of a lot of pressure there, and it was horrible watching from the dressing rooms."
Nevertheless, for all the pride washing around the England dressing-room, Strauss was honest enough to admit that his team had been lucky to get away with the series level, after a batting performance that - at least for the first innings and a half - lacked the requisite commitment for such a high-octane Test match. England came out in the first innings intent on making a statement and dominating the Australian bowlers in the manner that had proved successful in 2005, but the plan backfired when they gave their wickets away cheaply, and allowed the Aussie juggernaut to pile on the big runs instead.
"Look, I think you're right that the top order didn't perform well enough," said Strauss. "If we are honest to ourselves, the way we've done in the first innings - making 336 for 7 on day one - in hindsight wasn't a brilliant effort. As batsmen we take that on the chin, and will make amends next time we play."
The lessons weren't learnt immediately as England continued to ship wickets in the early part of their second innings, before the tail - just as they had done first-time around - bailed out the big guns with discipline and determination. "All had a part to play in our own downfall," Strauss added. "The wicket still very flat, as these guys proved, and there are a lot of ways to stay in there, but we didn't manage to find them. So in that respect we will learn the lesson."
"There is a lot of pride in how these guys played. The second half of the order stood up to be counted, but really it's relief we got through the game and it's still 0-0 going into the Lord's Test. We're not going to sit here and pretend we are happy with the way we performed this week. We were down on where we needed to be, and Australia showed us they are going to be a tough nut to crack, no doubt, and we need to get better."
That process of improvement will begin on Monday morning, when the selectors sit down to discuss the squad for the second Test. Despite their blanket heroics with the bat, England's bowlers still failed in their primary role of taking wickets, and having conceded their highest total in Ashes contests for 75 years, there are sure to be changes in the line-up.
Steve Harmison comes into consideration for one of the spinners, as does Graham Onions for Stuart Broad, whose role lacked definition in this game. But for the moment, the feeling that the campaign is still intact will be quite enough for England to be going on with.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo