Sri Lanka in England, 2006 May 18, 2006

Flying leaps to fumbling fingers

Andrew Strauss was the culprit for two of England's nine dropped chances at Lord's, but is confident the team will recover from the disappointment of not forcing a win



Down she goes: Andrew Strauss spills Mahela Jayawardene at Lord's © Getty Images
It was one of the moments of the Ashes - Andrew Strauss diving full length to his left to pluck Adam Gilchrist's edge out of thin air at Trent Bridge. Surely, after that, a regulation chance would be pocketed with ease. Of course, cricket is not like that as Strauss found out, twice, at Lord's this week when he shelled two against Sri Lanka. Both were simple for a Test slipper, but the first-innings miss was hidden away among a rush of wickets whereas the second, Mahela Jaywardene on 58, was altogether more vital.

Strauss is a phlegmatic character who is able to put a bad trot, with the bat or in the slips, to the back of his mind. If a flying chance comes his way at Edgbaston he'll probably snaffle it, but that doesn't disguise the fact that England's catching is again in the spotlight. "The slip catching aspect of last week was very disappointing from our point of view," admitted Strauss. "It is something we work very hard on and we take pride in taking a high proportion of all our catches but we have just got to keep working on it.

"To dwell on it too much would be wrong; the nuts and bolts of our game - the batting and bowling - on a very flat wicket were exceptional. Our bowlers did an exceptional job and we let ourselves down a little with our catching, but heading into the next match there is no reason it should affect our confidence."

Numerous theories have been put forward to explain England's fumbling: complacency, poor sighting at Lord's, the fact they drop them in practice to take the rebounds and even because Duncan Fletcher is left-handed. Typically for Strauss, though, he sees things in a much simpler fashion: "From my point of view the two that I dropped I saw them all the way in, I suppose I misjudged the pace a little bit but I don't whether that's anything to do with the pitch to something like that.

"If we starting talking about it being the Lord's cricket ground's fault then we probably aren't focusing on what we really need to do, which is just to practice hard in the next week and not lose confidence. The key to catching is confidence and the more you catch, the more likely you are to take the next one that comes along. Life goes on and you can't think about chucking balls around your house and trying to catch them."



Strauss: 'It's going to take a lot more than one bad day to get rid of all the confidence in the England dressing room' © Getty Images
He was also quick to praise the Sri Lankan effort, batting 199 overs in the second innings, to save the match after following on. "Sri Lanka started playing better towards the back end of the game. Their batsmen probably applied themselves a little better in the second innings and the wicket got flatter. All credit to them for sticking in there when it looked like a hopeless cause. Those two factors played a big part and in the end, we had 28 chances to take 20 wickets."

England's pursuit of those 20 wickets resulted in Andrew Flintoff sending down 51 overs in the second innings, the most by an English seamer for 13 years. In the current climate of packed fixtures lists and fear of burnout, it was an unexpected workload for the fulcrum of the side, but Strauss played down the concerns.

"A lot has been made of that final day, but what you have to remember is that the weather was always likely to play a part and there was a feeling we had to try and wrap it up sooner rather than later. What he did, which is what most captains would have done, is to turn to his main bowlers. I don't think you can fault him for that and I guess hindsight is a great thing as well."

Strauss was speaking at the launch of Primary Club Juniors, of which he is the President, a new section of the charity for the blind and partially sighted. Strauss admitted he qualified more than once for the senior club - which a cricketer at any level who has been out first ball can join - and remembered his most memorable failure when he was playing for Oxfordshire Under-19s. "I didn't know anyone so thought I would let my bat do the talking and clipped the first ball sweetly off my hip to short-leg. It was a very painful walk back."

Strauss took part in a game with some of the children who benefit from the club's funding. He batted and bowled blindfolded, managing to connect with his first ball before playing all round a straight one. "It's incredibly disorientating," he said, "but even though I wasn't very good it was great fun."

He didn't have much fun over the last three days at Lord's, but one of the great qualities of this England team is how they bounce back from disappointment. Strauss is adamant the team will examine their mistakes, then move on. "It's going to take a lot more than one bad day to get rid of all the confidence in the England dressing room."

For more information about new junior section of The Primary club visit www.primaryclub.org/juniors

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo