Strauss backs Broad and Cook
England captain Andrew Strauss could lead his team into the Ashes this winter on a record-equalling run of success but there were still a couple of clouds on the horizon following today's nine-wicket win over Pakistan.
The result put them 2-0 up in the npower series and represented a sixth successive Test victory as Strauss and Jonathan Trott each made 53 not out to pass a modest target of 118 - but only after Alastair Cook had failed again, registering his seventh successive score under 30 since March.
The behaviour of Stuart Broad was also a bone of contention, following his £3,000 fine from the International Cricket Council for 'throwing the ball inappropriately' at Pakistan batsman Zulqarnain Haider.
Strauss, however, appears to have no significant concerns on either count and hopes the fine can be put behind him.
“It was one of those situations where the bowler throws the ball back at the batsmen often - but in this particular case, it didn’t look good. He understood that he overstepped the mark and he has paid the price for it.
“But what I would say is that generally over the summer he has been outstanding in terms of the way he has gone about his business - so let us just hope this is a one-off incident.
“He is maturing - and when you mature you learn from mistakes. I am very comfortable in my own head that this will be a one-off situation. We have to remind ourselves all the time that there are lines there that you don’t want to overstep. Stuart received a timely reminder of that.
“You want aggressive characters in your dressing room and guys who want to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and have a bit of fight about them.
“So it’s always that managing of where the lines are and making sure people don’t overstep those boundaries.”
As for vice-captain Cook, a central plank in England's planning for the Ashes and beyond, Strauss continues to express huge confidence in his opening partner's capacity to regain top form.
"Opening the batting in Test cricket can be tough at times - and when you're down on confidence it can be exploited more than other areas in the batting line-up," he said.
"But Alastair Cook has played some outstanding innings for England in the past.
"He's a very valuable member of our side, and I have every confidence he will come back and play some valuable innings in the near future.
"He's a top-quality opening bat, and three Tests don't change that."
Strauss can be involved only in an advisory capacity when it comes to picking Cook or anyone else in the squad for the third Test at the Brit Insurance Oval, which starts on August 18.
He said: "I'm not a selector, but he has my full backing because I honestly think a big score is around the corner."
Irrespective of Cook's contribution, England are in position to wrap up series victory - and then equal their best ever sequence of eight Test wins by the end of this month if they are successful at Lord's as well.
"Any time you win six in a row, you are pretty happy with yourselves," added Strauss.
"But we are still conscious there are plenty of areas where we need to improve, so we are not getting too carried away.
"The first job is to make sure we win the series next week and then push on from there."
England had to work hard yesterday as Pakistan fought back in the second innings, and Strauss agreed: "It's a reminder that Test cricket is a tough game, and you don't have everything your own way all the time.
"It doesn't matter how good you are. As the wicket died a bit, we were forced to work very hard for those final wickets. Thankfully, we came out the other side."
Strauss' opposite number Salman Butt must somehow try to rally his team - with the anticipated addition of veteran batsman Mohammad Yousuf but the confirmed absence of injured seamer Umar Gul at The Oval - in time to stay in the series.
He believes he has seen enough on occasions, but not yet consistently, to conclude Pakistan are capable of much better.
"Since we arrived in England, there have been glimpses that this side can win," he said.
"But unless and until we get a good show in all three aspects - batting, bowling and fielding - it will be difficult."
The bowling of Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Aamer and Saeed Ajmal has been Pakistan's strength.
But they have let themselves down in the other disciplines, Butt estimating 14 wicket chances were missed in the field in Birmingham.
"We need to work hard on our fielding and our batting," he added.
"The guys themselves realise we need 20 wickets to win a Test match - and if we miss 14 in a Test match that is going to be hard.
"A culture change in one series is virtually impossible.
"It is the individual who needs to understand what has happened, and only that will change them.
"Change in culture can come afterwards; change has to come in the individual first."