Strauss savours 'special' ton
Andrew Strauss toasted his match-settling century as a career moment he would cherish as England rewrote history with a six-wicket victory over New Zealand in the second npower Test at Old Trafford.
Strauss’ 106, his 12th Test hundred, proved the cornerstone of a successful chase of 294 which puts Michael Vaughan’s team 1-0 up in the three-match series.
England began the fourth day on 76 for one and Strauss saw them to within 59 runs of victory, which was achieved off the final ball of the afternoon session.
It was England’s fifth-highest score to win a Test and shattered the previous best of 231 in Manchester.
On a personal level, it was all the sweeter for Strauss given his struggles over the last 12 months, which included being dropped for the tour of Sri Lanka.
“I had a long period of time where I had played in every Test match and I’d probably forgotten a little bit how lucky I am and how enjoyable it is to play a Test match for England,” he said.
“If ever I need a reminder of that, this Test match is a great reminder.
“Wins like this are just so special and when you’re sitting by a fireside when you’re retired, these are the sort of days you’ll really remember.”
Strauss top-scored in both innings for England and he has now piled up 406 runs in four knocks since walking to the crease for his career-saving 177 in Napier two months ago.
“I feel very comfortable at the wicket and very calm,” Strauss added. I haven’t felt frustrated at any stage, even though at times it’s taken me a long time to score my runs.
“Form is that mystery thing and the only way to get it is by scoring runs, but that’s not so easy when you’re out of nick.
“All I know is that having been through a bad period of form it’s really crucial to realise it when you’re feeling alright and make sure you make hay when the sun shines.
“It’s not often you get an opportunity to get a hundred in the fourth innings of a game to help win a game.
“It’s a really special day for me but even more special for the team because we were under the pump for two days and we didn’t play as good a brand of cricket as we’d like to.”
England captain Michael Vaughan, who added 90 runs for the second wicket with Strauss, admitted this comeback verged on his greatest at the top level.
“You always put it up there when you’ve just won the game but it certainly is very close to being as good a win as we’ve had because of where we were yesterday afternoon,” said Vaughan.
“A young side developing showed a lot of character and swayed the game in England’s favour in just an hour yesterday and that pleased me more than anything.
“We are starting to show some good traits; we were dead and buried yesterday afternoon and to be sat talking having won the game is a hell of an achievement.”
The contest swung on Monty Panesar’s spell from the Warwick Road end which reaped Test-best figures of 6-37, the man-of-the-match award and meant New Zealand, minus the injured Daniel Flynn, collapsed from 85 for two to 114 all out.
“You just sensed New Zealand were going to attack Monty and I knew if they did on that kind of wicket - as it was playing then - we were going to create opportunities,” Vaughan said.
“It is amazing how a game can shift in terms of momentum when that does happen.”
And a significant decision off the field paid dividends as the heavy roller applied to the pitch removed the fizz of the Black Caps’ major threat Daniel Vettori.
“We took a little bit of a punt this morning to put the heavy roller on to try to deaden it and take some of the pace out of the pitch and it seemed to work,” Vaughan added.
“There weren’t many gremlins out there, so we could play normal cricket shots and I was very confident we would get over the line.”
New Zealand captain Vettori bemoaned his side’s continued inability to press home advantages created in third innings of matches and said: “When you turn up on the fourth day with high expectations of winning and see the game dragged away from you it is pretty disappointing.
“Yesterday was almost perfect conditions for bowling spin on because it had that sharp turn and only towards the end of the second session today it started to liven up a bit.
“We’ve all acknowledged it was down to the heavy roller, and assessment of the conditions, so you have got to give Michael Vaughan credit for that.”