Even honours bittersweet for Strauss
Andrew Strauss revealed mixed emotions in the immediate aftermath of England’s amazing World Cup Group B tie with India in Bangalore.
Strauss underpinned his side’s pursuit of 339 to win, but his downfall for a one-day international-best 158 - the ball after Ian Bell departed for 69 to end a 170-run stand for the third wicket - led to a middle-order collapse.
However, England’s tail wagged and late sixes from Graeme Swann, Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shazad helped put the tourists into a position from which Swann could level the scores with a single from the last ball.
Having been on course for victory when he and Bell were together, Strauss was understandably disappointed not to win but relieved also to avoid defeat in a game that had looked beyond most teams when Sachin Tendulkar’s majestic 120 set up India’s mammoth total.
Asked whether he was happy with the result, the England captain replied: “Yes and no, I suppose is the answer.
“We were in a great position to win the game after 41, 42 overs, then (had) a shocking powerplay and from that stage onwards India were favourites to win the game. All credit to Graeme Swann and Ajmal Shahzad for getting us a tie at the end there.”
Strauss, whose innings occupied 145 balls and featured 18 fours and a six, was able to appreciate the bigger picture as his side, like co-hosts India, remain unbeaten after two games.
“Ultimately it’s just been a great game of cricket, there’s no doubt about it, a great advert for the 50-over format,” he added. “In some ways we’re happy, in some ways we’re distraught but a great game of cricket.”
Strauss, who was named man of the match, hailed his innings as his best in an ODI.
“Given the importance of the game, against India in India in the World Cup, it was obviously crucial one of our players went on and got a big score,” he said.
“It was an innings I’m very proud of. It would have been great to have been not out at the end and seen the boys home. But it was my best one-day knock.”
Zaheer, who took 3-64, returned with a vengeance with the old ball, as Tim Bresnan had in taking three wickets in four deliveries en route to ODI-best figures of 5-48.
Bresnan wrapped up India’s innings with a ball to spare - denying them a further scoring opportunity - a fact that would eventually prove crucial.
Strauss continued: “If Ian hadn’t got out and stayed there till the end, we’d have won. But he did. That’s the way cricket goes.
“Tim Bresnan didn’t deserve to finish on the losing side; Zaheer Khan came back very well. There were so many good performances on each side.
“When we take stock of this game we’ll probably both say ‘look, we’ve got a point - which is an important point - and go on and play better as the tournament goes on.”
England were improved in all departments from their anxious opening win over the Netherlands.
“Coming into this game after the Holland performance, it was great bounce-back and showed everyone around the tournament that we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with,” said Strauss.
“We’ve batted very well twice - important on these flat wickets - which is great.
“Our bowling can still be better than it was today. But our fielding was generally better, and we finished our 50 overs in the field very well - Tim Bresnan bowled brilliantly.
“Then to chase down 338 was a great effort. It was an amazing chase. We didn’t get over the line, but we got up to the line - and you don’t do that very often when you’re chasing that many.”
Strauss had begun to fear the worst after England lost four wickets for eight runs to slump to 289 for six in the 46th over.
“With three overs left, it didn’t look great. The powerplay cost us badly. But it was a brilliant performance from Bresnan and Swann and Shahzad, hitting that six at the end,” he added.
“It would have been bitterly disappointing for us if we hadn’t got something out of the game. The guys can be very proud of what they’ve done today.”