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Alex Brown at Lord's
July 16, 2009
Andrew Strauss was ruthless in capitalising on Mitchell Johnson's slumping form and shoulders on the opening day at Lord's, but the England captain saw enough in the final session to convince him Australia's pace spearhead was capable of mounting a swift comeback. Strauss, who described his unbeaten 161 as among the best innings of his career, watched with concern as Johnson removed his opening partner, Alastair Cook, then claimed the wicket of Matt Prior with a brilliant reverse swinging delivery that pegged back the off-stump.
Those efforts stood in stark contrast to Johnson's initial spells, during which Strauss and Cook made merry against a man whose body language, as much as his errant lines, indicated a bowler down on confidence. Though justifiably satisfied with a day in which England posted 364 runs, almost half of which came from his own bat, Strauss was wary of discounting Johnson as a threat over the next four days.
"In Test cricket if you feel a guy is a little bit down it's important you take advantage," Strauss said. "[Johnson] has bowled a hell of a lot of good overs recently so we expect him to come back strongly, but on any given day, you feel a bowler is giving opportunities you've got to take them.
"He just looked like he wasn't getting the areas he wanted to. It's important as a batsman if you get loose deliveries you put them away so that he can't come back. For the first session and a half we were able to do that."
Strauss reached several milestones on Thursday, not least a 196-run opening stand with Cook which bettered any previous English first wicket partnership at Lord's in an Ashes contest. He also surpassed 5,000 career runs - becoming the only active English batsman, and 18th over all, to have reached the mark - and will resume on Friday just 16 runs shy of his best ever Test innings.
"Hopefully there is more to come," he said. "In a lot of ways I've felt like I've batted better in the last six months than at any time during in my career. When you're batting like that it's very enjoyable and you don't feel a lot of pressure. Hopefully that will continue for a few years to come.
"When you look at Ricky Ponting scoring 11,000, 5000 seems like you're just out of nappies, really. I'm pretty happy to have got another Test hundred. Each time you get one you're helping your side get in a good position."
Like Ponting, Strauss's batting has not been burdened by captaincy, nor overawed by the big stages. Following four largely barren years in which England have experimented with Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen at the helm, Strauss has proven successful in providing stability to the team while maintaining his standards with the bat.
"In terms of setting the example for the batsmen to go big when they get in it was important," he said. "As a captain you don't want to be scratching around and not scoring runs because it adds more pressure when you don't really need more pressure.
"[The innings] has got to be right up there to be fair. I just think that an Ashes Test at Lord's is pretty much the number one type of Test you can play. To get a hundred on day one is special, and hopefully there is unfinished business and I can get more tomorrow."
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