Pakistan v England, 1st Test, Dubai, 3rd day January 19, 2012

Underperforming Strauss feels the heat

The form of Andrew Strauss is starting to cause concern. While the rest of the top seven - with the possible exception of Eoin Morgan - have enjoyed a year of feasts, Strauss is enduring something of a famine

On a day bursting with batting ineptitude from England, it might seem harsh to highlight the failings of just one man. Particularly when that man might have just been the victim of an umpiring error.

Andrew Strauss walked off shaking his head in disbelief after he was adjudged caught down the legside off Umar Gul, with the third umpire Steve Davis upholding Billy Bowden's decision because the Hotspot technology was unsighted.

But the form of Strauss is starting to cause concern. While the rest of the top seven - with the possible exception of Eoin Morgan - have enjoyed a year of feasts, Strauss is enduring something of a famine.

The figures make grim reading. Since the end of the Ashes, Strauss has passed 50 just once in 12 innings. He hasn't scored a century for 12 Tests and he has only made one in his last 26. Since the start of the Sri Lanka series in England, he averages just 23.41. That is less than Graeme Swann's Test batting average. And he bats at No. 9.

It would be disingenuous to consider Strauss purely a batsman. He provides far more than runs to the team cause. His calm leadership has been a key component in England's rise to No. 1 in the Test rankings and he remains a reliable slip catcher. Those things shouldn't be underestimated. If captaincy is just about tactics and field placements, then Strauss may be considered no better than average; if it is about leadership and uniting a team, then he must be considered very good indeed.

Ultimately, however, runs are the currency that counts. Just as the days have gone when any Test side could accommodate a keeper who did not also offer runs, so have the days when a side could find room for a captain like Mike Brearley who compensated for his lack of runs with his astute leadership.

Strauss has one big advantage over Brearley: the current England captain has proved that he has the ability to prosper at this level. In a 39-Test career, Brearley never scored a century and finished with an average below 30. Strauss has made 19 Test centuries and averages over 40. He's only 34, too. There's no reason to suspect that age is catching up with him.

Let's be clear: Strauss is not about to be dropped. In a different era - an era of panicking selectors and weak management - he may well have been looking over his shoulder. But under this regime? No chance. Not yet, anyway. Strauss will have the fulsome backing of Andy Flower and will be given more time to rediscover his form. That is surely the way things should be, too. Besides, the opening position is perhaps the only batting spot in the side for which there are not copious potential replacements in county cricket. There is no one pushing for Strauss' place in the side and Alastair Cook is in no hurry to assume the captaincy.

There is, perhaps, more danger that Strauss will feel he is not pulling his weight and resign. It will be increasingly difficult to lift a tired team - and there will be moments in the next year when this England team looks distinctly jaded - if he is consumed by worries about his own form. His personal pride, too, will not allow him to feel like a passenger.

It's not the first time Strauss has experienced a lean patch. On the tour to New Zealand in 2008 he was probably within one innings of being dropped. He had gone 15 Tests without a century and looked almost unrecognisable from the pleasing left-hand batsman who had scored a century on debut.

On that occasion he responded with a century in Napier that revitalised his career. England will be hoping a similar revival is just around the corner. Otherwise someone is going to have some tough decisions to make.

Ultimately, if England keep winning, Strauss' form is easy to overlook. If they start losing, however, the pressure will begin to build.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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