Cow Corner

Time to celebrate Strauss after ‘hardest week’

It has not, to put it mildly, been the ideal week for England captain Andrew Strauss, who can now finally enjoy his 100th Test match at his home ground of Lord's.

Strauss, who has always said he "does not believe in airing dirty laundry in public", has battled through an exceptionally tough few days with all sorts of negative comments being thrown at one of his players, his coach and the management personnel with whom he works so closely. It has been a complete mess.

He has been the apparent victim in a 'derogatory texting' row that has led to the banishment of his best batsman, Kevin Pietersen, and been left to rally his players going into the biggest match of the year.

If England cannot pull off a victory in Pietersen's absence in the third and final Test against South Africa, Strauss will no longer be the leader of the world's number one Test side.

Make no mistake about it, Strauss will not remember this, his 100th Test match, at all fondly if it marks the end of his side's reign at the top of the rankings - a status which he describes as what makes him most proud about his time in charge.

Let us remember that he began his captaincy at rock-bottom in 2009 - replacing Pietersen as skipper after the batsman's row with then coach Peter Moores ended with the latter's sacking - and things have not gone too badly since. England rallied round, regrouped, re-evaluated and re-prioritised to good effect under his leadership.

After what he has described as his hardest week as England captain, Strauss will be desperate to come out of it with his side in a position to win the third Test, to level the series against the mighty Proteas, and to retain their status as the world's best.

Becoming only the ninth England player to appear in 100 Tests should have been celebrated during the week preceding the Lord's Test, but instead another tiresome debate surrounding Pietersen has ensued.

Instead of being asked to reflect on his career, his achievements and, perhaps his future at the helm, Strauss has had to spend a week smoothing over fractured relationships and attempting to calm and settle his players.

However we look at it, Strauss has been impressive in the run-up to this game. He has made it clear that he will not tolerate selfishness in his team and was dragged into the situation in an attempt to prevent the dressing room from being left in disarray.

The modest, understated Middlesex man deserved more for his 100th Test and 50th as one of England's most successful captains.

"I feel a little bit let down by Kevin," Strauss said. "It's not a personal thing. I've always got on very well with Kevin. This had been a dispute between Kevin and the board over his availability for the IPL and a number of other points. But once the players became involved, I certainly become very protective of that environment; the values by which we live and treat each other. And I'm willing to remain vigilant about that going forward because I think it's central to why we've become a very good side.

"But I think if we are going to resolve these issues everyone's got to take a bit of a long hard look at how things have developed over the last couple of weeks and say: 'have we all done everything we can to avoid this happening?' We're all going to be required to look at it that way. Cricketers are a pretty forgiving bunch. But we need to bring stuff out in the open. We can't just have it swept under the carpet and I've no idea at this stage how that's going to work out."

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the KP affair, Strauss's only fault has been an inability to unite the two warring, and increasingly polarised, parties. He could not have done more, but all to no avail, it seems.

Strauss has been at pains to insist that his focus is entirely on the Test match after all the furore, and it is hoped that so will everyone else's.

After all, this is a match that England simply have to win, and their captain is determined to ensure that it is one that he and his players will remember for all the right reasons.

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TWEET OF THE DAY: 100th Test and the mess over KP has changed Strauss from cautious to a gambler. Review on Kallis brings a wicket. (@NHoultCricket)

QUIZ QUESTION OF THE DAY: With Strauss becoming only the ninth England player to appear in 100 Tests - can you name the other eight? Post your answers below...

STAT OF THE DAY: Graeme Swann took his first Test wicket since May 28 as he bowled Jacques Rudolph in the evening session.

CHAMPAGNE TOAST OF THE DAY: Graham Onions took a hugely impressive nine wickets as Nottinghamshire were bowled out for 154 at Trent Bridge. The 10th wicket was? A run out.... by Onions!