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Lawrence Booth: Strauss is the answer to Twenty20 woes

April 1st, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England, Miscellaneous, Twenty20

England have so many ponderables on their plate that the role of Andrew Strauss in this summer’s World Twenty20 may be well down the menu. But in a winter where a new era for English cricket seems to have begun every other week, Sunday’s win in Barbados may have continued the trend. Strauss, apparently resigned to playing for Middlesex in the county championship at Chelmsford and Bristol in June while the rest of the world goes biff, bang and wallop elsewhere, might just have caused the brains trust to think again.

In an innings reduced to 20 overs by the Bajan weather, his unbeaten 79 from 61 balls was probably his best one-day innings yet. That’s not hard, you may sneer, and you’d have a point. But the signs since he assumed the captaincy are that Strauss has more shots than we ever dreamed of – even when he was taking apart South Africa in 2004-05. And since England would dearly love one leader for all three formats (it’s one of the reasons Kevin Pietersen was chosen in the first place), they may need little encouragement to give him a go in June.

Ever since the third Test in St John’s, Strauss’s response to his own clarion call for responsibility has been one of the tour’s few heartening motifs. Successive Tests brought tone-setting, first-innings scores of 169, 142 and 142. Just as notable were the strike-rates. Over his Test career Strauss has scored at just under 50 runs per 100 balls. But his 169 came at a rate of 60, his first 142 at 67, and his second at 52. Then, while others were falling around him, he hit a hundred in vain in the second ODI in Guyana. Sunday’s dashing knock merely was no fluke.

To the coruscating cut and withering pull, Strauss has added strokes down the ground and footwork against the spinners. And it was his assault on Sulieman Benn’s left-arm spin in Antigua that gave his team-mates the confidence to treat Benn as something other than the world-beater they discerned in Jamaica. So far, Strauss has been little short of Gooch-like: tactically conservative, it’s true, but a leader by example.

He is far from a panacea, and his Twenty20 record is modest (an average of 18 from 28 games with a strike-rate of 117). But England’s Twenty20 record (won six – one of them against Zimbabwe – and lost nine) is not even worthy of that accolade. And they have so far tried 11 different opening partnerships. He can hardly do any worse.

The management had apparently decided Strauss was not cut out for Twenty20 and were going to look elsewhere come June. But the reality is they have been looking elsewhere for some time and Strauss is evolving with the times. Oh, and so far he’s only opened once for England in a Twenty20 international. The result? An innings of 33 off 21 balls against Sri Lanka at the Rose Bowl in 2006. At the very least he deserves another go.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for The Guardian. His third book, Cricket, Lovely Cricket? An Addict’s Guide to the World’s Most Exasperating Game is out now published by Yellow Jersey

Posted in England, Miscellaneous, Twenty20 | 1 Comment »

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