Strauss delivers harsh batting truths
Captain Andrew Strauss acknowledges England’s batting must improve - and promises it will in the fourth npower Test against Pakistan at Lord’s.
Collapses from both teams have become a recurring theme of a series played under unshifting cloud cover.
And even when the skies brightened to help provide easier batting conditions at the Brit Insurance Oval, England nevertheless suffered their lapse of the series.
The upshot was an unexpected victory for Pakistan, meaning the tourists have a chance to square the four-match series 2-2 over the next five days.
Strauss is enduring a lean patch of his own, although he has been relatively productive since his last hundred, against Australia on this ground 13 months ago.
There have been seven fifties in that time, and Strauss’ liking for his home turf at Lord’s has brought him four Test centuries there.
It is England’s collective rather than his own personal runs output which will be the priority when play begins tomorrow between two teams who are likely to be unchanged. Strauss is not shying away from some stark evidence.
“We’ve won two games of cricket comfortably and lost one,” he said. “But let’s not run away from the fact that we need to bat better than we have done in this series.
“It would be wrong of us to just put our heads in the sand and say everything is fine. We need to improve as a batting unit and individual batters need to improve as well.”
Defeat at the Oval last week was a shock for some observers, who had arrived at a premature conclusion that England would continue to overwhelm outclassed tourists and chalk up a record winning run before the start of the Ashes in November.
Strauss, as ever, sought to put the setback into context.
“It wasn’t the worst since I became captain, because we’ve had some poor performances,” he added. “But we lost a game. That was disappointing, because we should have been better than that.
“There are lessons to learn from the Oval. There is a steely determination about the group to prove that was a one-off.
“We haven’t batted brilliantly. But if you’re scoring 200 and bowling the opposition out for 80 then your batsmen have done a good job
“It is hard to score 500 on a pitch that is doing a lot. But if we’re honest, there is less excuse at the Oval because that was a good wicket.
“We’ve talked about it and there are a couple of areas we want to improve and errors we made that we won’t make here.
“The key is that when you lose a wicket the next guy comes in and establishes himself at the crease and doesn’t allow the opposition to build momentum.”
As for his own mediocre sequence of scores - he averages 28.40 over six innings - Strauss said: “I’d like to think I can do something about it.
“I would like to have scored more runs than I have done this series, clearly. But it has been tough for the opening batsmen, and the ball has been swinging around.
“I would like to get a score both as a batsman and as a captain to lead by example.”
A week ago, it was Strauss’ fellow opener Alastair Cook who was thought by many to need a score urgently to stay in the team.
He responded with a hundred which in all likelihood would have been a series-clinching match-winner had it not been for England’s second-innings collapse.
Strauss never lost faith in his partner, and remains confident in his own abilities too.
He said: “Just as I said about Alastair Cook, as batsmen you are not going to score runs every time you bat, otherwise your name would be Don Bradman.
“You’ve got to realise there are going to be games when things don’t go your way. The key is that when you get in, you cash in.”
Each of Strauss’ five dismissals this series has come against a left-arm seamer - Mohammad Aamer four times and Wahab Riaz once - but he believes he can cope, especially at a venue where he feels so much at home.
“Any bowler that is swinging it away, as Jimmy Anderson showed, is going to be quite potent,” Strauss pointed out.
“Aamer, in particular, has bowled well with the new ball. But I back myself to play him well more times than not.
“If you start looking for too many reasons for things then you’re not concentrating on what you’re trying to do, which is just go out and play.
“I’m pretty happy with the way my batting’s been going and I’ve made useful contributions. But I’ve not got to three figures and I’d like that to change this week.
“Lord’s is a wicket I generally play well on, and I’m confident going into this game.”
Unsurprisingly, Strauss is happy to profess the contrasting opinion that Pakistan - even with Mohammad Yousuf back in harness - are more likely to revisit their collapses.
“Yousuf is a quality player. But we still think there are deep vulnerabilities in their batting line-up, and they’ve proved that so far this summer,” he said.