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
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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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • JG2704 on January 22, 2012, 11:28 GMT

    @ A Listless Maverick on (January 20 2012, 05:38 AM GMT) - The English Media have been talking plenty about our failings. If you knew our media before making such uneducated comments then you'd know that they take greater pride in shooting our sportsmen down compared to bigging them up. Have you read any article saying that England batted well? And in the 2nd inns Gul was the main man and as far as I know he was not bowling the doosra or teesra or any kind of spin. If you don't think Eng deserve number 1 ranking then tell me who deserves it more than them and I'll produce stats which trump your arguments. Australia and England Media ganging up from teams from the SC? Ludicrous comments

  • JG2704 on January 22, 2012, 11:28 GMT

    @Meety on (January 20 2012, 02:26 AM GMT) - Bell could be accused of being poor , but I wouldn't say it was irresponsible - like Trott and KP in the 2nd inns. I thought Tremlett bowled ok and while I think Monty should come in , I feel that he should come in for a batsman. I agree that Morgan didn't look the worst of the England batsmen but still averaged about 20 and I strongly think we need a 5 man bowling attack. Obviously Bell and KP have not performed on tour so far either but I feel that they have performed better than Morgan over recent times.

  • JG2704 on January 21, 2012, 13:06 GMT

    @Meety on (January 20 2012, 02:26 AM GMT) - Bell could be accused of being poor , but I wouldn't say it was irresponsible - like Trott and KP in the 2nd inns. I thought Tremlett bowled ok and while I think Monty should come in , I feel that he should come in for a batsman. I agree that Morgan didn't look the worst of the England batsmen but still averaged about 20 and I strongly think we need a 5 man bowling attack. Obviously Bell and KP have not performed on tour so far either but I feel that they have performed better than Morgan over recent times.

  • mudassar786 on January 21, 2012, 0:30 GMT

    Only guy that has class in the whole england setup an the talk of him being dropped. Maybe they want to get rid of him because he gives credit where its due ( Pakistan ). Its so sad every time any Asian player does well against English or the Aussies he is then accused of wrongdoing. NO CLASS AT ALL. Thats why i always support the opposition of Eng an Aus. Instead of blaming opposition an throwing stupid comments out ( Bob willis ), you should help the England team with there only 1 weakness in the whole game and that is playing spin. Every other department is covered. If England learn to play spin as they do everything else, i honestly think they would be 1 for sure an for a long time. Too all the people moaning about England being the number 1 side claiming it is not deserved should look at the rest an then seriously tell me over the last 2 years any1 better? I doubt it. In my opinion England are number 1 not because they are all conquering but because the rest have not been great.

  • 5wombats on January 20, 2012, 23:15 GMT

    @Valavan (January 20 2012, 09:23 AM GMT). Man - your posts absolutely crack us up! We laugh so much!!! Love it! Dead right - England took india apart last summer, and india fans are foolish enough to keep coming onto this Pak V Eng forum reminding us of it. @TheBengalTiger; Are you sure you know what the word "Hypocritical" actually means? Didn't see any comment from you on the 3rd Test Australia V india - why was that? Not being hypocritical are you? I suppose when your own team (india) is getting flogged, again, maybe you prefer to look away.

  • dummy4fb on January 20, 2012, 22:58 GMT

    Strauss is class yes hes been out of form but seriously he could walk into most teams...

  • JG2704 on January 20, 2012, 22:47 GMT

    @ A Listless Maverick on (January 20 2012, 05:38 AM GMT) - The English Media have been talking plenty about our failings. If you knew our media before making such uneducated comments then you'd know that they take greater pride in shooting our sportsmen down compared to bigging them up. Have you read any article saying that England batted well? And in the 2nd inns Gul was the main man and as far as I know he was not bowling the doosra or teesra or any kind of spin. If you don't think Eng deserve number 1 ranking then tell me who deserves it more than them and I'll produce stats which trump your arguments. Australia and England Media ganging up from teams from the SC? Ludicrous comments

  • Nutcutlet on January 20, 2012, 22:05 GMT

    @Dravis_Gravitas. You have it one, sir! It sticks out like a sore thumb! I love teaching as much as I love my cricket and literature. Best wishes to you and all genuine fans (fans who care about the game rather more than nationalistic interest, especially).

  • Patchmaster on January 20, 2012, 22:00 GMT

    WHy is there never in interview the Graham Gooch (the batting coach) How did he prepare the players for this match ? How can he explain the failure ? WHy is Gooch never answerable for thee ENG collapses ? He just seems to be on a very friendly wicket, i.e. lots of money - no pressure.

  • Sports4Youth on January 20, 2012, 19:42 GMT

    The pitch and the conditions in UAE is no different from India/Pak/SL, so their torment is going to continue. Also by the time they arrive in SL then India they will not have the excuse of practice on such conditions.

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