Monday, October 05, 2015
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Strauss guides steady England


engAndrew Strauss has struggled to find an air of superiority at the crease over the past two years, but there is something about Lord's that encourages the best in him. He is attuned to its trim and businesslike air and after his troubled winter he has never needed it more.

Strauss averages 55 at Lord's with four hundreds and he was in good order against West Indies on the second morning. He strolls down the steps with the pavilion behind him as if leaving an office in the City for a morning meeting. He was so comfortable in his surroundings that he began his innings as if embarking upon a series of pleasantries. 'Good morning, Mr Roach, my name is Strauss. How do you do?'

England reached lunch on the second day in decent order - 163 behind with nine wickets remaining. Strauss and Alastair Cook, were in spritely mood, beginning an England summer in the customary manner, with a Test at Lord's. It was strange to recall that had not Glamorgan hit financial difficulties they would have been playing in Cardiff.

Cook was the batsman to fall in the 23 overs before lunch, dragging Kemar Roach onto his leg stump on 26 as he cut at a ball that was too close to him. Strauss' cut shot, by contrast, was in good order. Roach, who took 19 wickets in three Tests against Australia, is West Indies' primary source of top-order wickets and was all jingle-jangle as he dashed in with earrings shining and heavy gold necklace swaying. He was the quickest bowler on view, too, touching 88mph at times.

England also had to contend with a Test debutant, Shannon Gabriel, a 24-year-old Trinidadian. Rarely for England these days, they had no footage of him, leaving Strauss and Cook to learn on the hoof. It was a bit like playing for England in days of yore - or probably like playing for West Indies even now. Gabriel is powerfully built with a strong action and his second ball whistled past Cook's outside edge, but like the rest of West Indies' attack he failed to find much swing in overcast conditions, a far cry from how James Anderson had begun England's attack on the first morning.

Strauss got off the mark with a thick edge against Fidel Edwards through gully, but an orderly cover drive in Edwards' next over was the first boundary of the morning filed in the out tray. He likes the ball coming on to him and, even though this Lord's pitch is a slow one, the West Indies attack suited him. He was in his element again and, with no spin bowler in the West Indies ranks, he knew that the rhythms of the day were not about to change.

Jonathan Trott's arrival at the crease coincided with drinks - this should be made compulsory under ICC regulations because it allows enough time for Trott to scratch his guard as long as everybody sips their drinks slowly - and settled in against Darren Sammy's medium pace.

Stuart Broad, England's darling of the first day, needed only one ball on the second morning to round up the West Indies innings, so finishing with Test-best figures of 7 for 72. Gabriel had received his first Test cap in a little ceremony before start of play and pushed respectfully forward to his first ball only to nick it to Graeme Swann at second slip to leave Broad on a hat-trick in the second innings

That also left Shivnarine Chanderpaul unbeaten on 87, 13 runs short of what would have been his 26th Test century. Once again he was the stalwart of West Indies innings, batting in a middle-order position where statistics insist he is most productive. He did not face another ball after taking a single from the first ball of the last over on the first day and watched West Indies' last two wickets fall from the non-striker's end. He is unlikely to learn from the experience; he plays in his bubble and at his time of life no new thoughts are about to enter it.

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