England v Pakistan, 1st Test, Lord's, 4th day July 16, 2006

Strauss century puts England in charge

England 528 for 9 dec and 258 for 7 (Strauss 128, Pietersen 41) lead Pakistan 445 (Mohammad Yousuf 202, Inzamam 69, Akmal 58, Harmison 4-94) by 341 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out

Andrew Strauss marked his debut as England captain the same way he'd marked his debut as a player © Getty Images
Heading into this Test, Andrew Strauss, England's third-choice captain, was determined to lead from the front. On the fourth day he backed words up with deeds and a century in his first match at the helm has guided them to a commanding advantage of 341. England are comfortably placed but it was a nip-and-tuck battle throughout the day as Danish Kaneria and Shahid Afridi produced high-quality spells of legspin on a wearing surface.

There are many special relationships around the world but Strauss and Lord's can rank near the top. He marked his Test debut with 112 against New Zealand in 2004 and later that summer stroked his first one-day ton against West Indies on the same ground. His latest century, the ninth of his career, puts him in an exclusive club of England captains to make a century in their first match in charge. Previously it was just Archie MacLaren against Australia in 1897-98 and Allan Lamb against West Indies in 1990. Strauss's 128 is the highest of the three.

It certainly wasn't Strauss at his most fluent as the bowlers - especially Kaneria and Afridi - made him work hard for the runs. He has had plenty of starts throughout the season but here he took on the responsibility of marshalling the innings. Strauss realised the importance of his presence when Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood were dismissed in consecutive overs during the afternoon session.

The moments surrounding his century were rather chaotic. In desperation to reach the landmark he ran out Ian Bell, who had played well for 28, when he misjudged Inzamam-ul-Haq's gazelle-like qualities at midwicket. It was a rare high-point in a Pakistan fielding effort that has rarely lifted above miserable throughout the match. However, Inzamam showed that maybe Jonty Rhodes's efforts with the team have not been entirely wasted and if he can do it, surely his team-mates can follow suit.

As Bell dived forlornly for his crease, Strauss will have had flashbacks to his debut against New Zealand. On that occasion, Nasser Hussain ran out Strauss for 83 before earning redemption with a matchwinning century in what turned out to be his valedictory innings. The outcome here will be less drastic and Strauss soon tucked the ball off his hips again to reach three figures off 168 balls. Whether it turns into a matchwinning effort remains to be seen.

Danish Kaneria made life tough for England's batsmen © Getty Images

England lost their best chance of forcing a result when Pietersen's aggressive 41 was ended by a sharp spinning legbreak from Afridi. It took a while for Inzamam to introduce his spinners in tandem - following Umar Gul's success against Marcus Trescothick and Alastair Cook - but when he did the battle took on a different complexion for the England batsmen. Strauss's correctness had been complemented by Pietersen, who began to treat Kaneria with the same aggressive intent that had seen off Muttiah Muralitharan during the first two Tests of the summer.

It was Afridi who caused Pietersen most problems and removed England's main chance of increasing the tempo during the final session. Again, though, the sharp glovework from Kamran Akmal was the exception rather than the rule. He earlier palmed an edge from Trescothick away from the slips to add to his catalogue of errors during the match and never inspired confidence. At least when Pietersen charged and missed he was in the right position to complete the stumping.

Then, in the next over, Pietersen's dismissal took on more significant proportions when Collingwood tried something too expansive, too early. As the first innings showed, England's tail can't be relied upon for much in terms of runs so Bell now played a vital hand. The fifth-wicket stand added 57 in 19 overs and tempered any Pakistani ambitions of running through the order before Bell was sold a dummy by Strauss.

The effort England had to expend for every run, plus Kaneria's quick removal of Strauss and Geraint Jones in one over just before the close, emphasises the importance of their 83-run lead. Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison produced an efficient display to mop up the remaining Pakistan wickets for the addition of 36, but not before Mohammad Yousuf registered his fourth double century. Like Strauss, it was more of a scramble over the line that a triumphant charge as Kaneria just about held firm at the other end of long enough and the 200 arrived with an edge to third man.

It is Strauss, though, who will be in the happier camp tonight. Pakistan have only chased 300 successfully once before in a Test match, against Australia at Karachi in 1994, but this match has already shown the current team's fighting qualities. There are still tickets remaining for the final day's play and given the unpredictable nature of both sides it could be well worth turning up.

How they were out

Pakistan - overnight 409 for 7

Shahid Afridi c Bell b Hoggard 17 (435 for 8)
Clubbed to deep mid-off

Umar Gul c Jones b Hoggard 0 (436 for 9)
Regulation thin edge, low catch

Mohammad Yousuf c Jones b Harmison 202 (445 all out)
Trying to steer to third man


Marcus Trescothick b Gul 18 (38 for 1)
Inside-edge onto leg stump

Alastair Cook c Yousuf b Gul 4 (64 for 2)
Clubbed pull to mid-on

Kevin Pietersen st Akmal b Afridi 41 (141 for 3)
Beaten in the flight, sharp turn, quick work by keeper

Paul Collingwood c Butt b Kaneria 4 (146 for 4)
Tried to hit over midwicket, leading edge to mid off

Ian Bell run out (Inzamam) 28 (203 for 5)
Caught short by direct hit from midwicket

Geriant Jones c Akmal b Kaneria 16 (250 for 6)
Played away from his body, thin edge

Andrew Strauss c Farhat b Kaneria 128 (253 for 7)
Edged googly to slip's right

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo