Strauss keen to remain in ascendancy
England captain Andrew Strauss urged his side to keep their foot on the gas after they moved 2-0 up in the five-match NatWest Series against Pakistan.
Strauss led the way with 126 and put on 146 for the second wicket with Jonathan Trott, who made 53, as England successfully chased 295 with three balls to spare to win by four wickets at Headingley Carnegie.
Not only was he delighted to claim victory against an improved Pakistan team, but he was content on a personal level.
“I’m very happy with my game at the moment," he said. "And I'm even more happy we’re continuing to win.
“When you’re chasing 290-odd you need one guy to bat the majority of the innings. The partnership with Trotty set it up pretty well, and thankfully we got over the line.
“It was closer than we’d have liked. You need those boundaries in the powerplays and (Saeed) Ajmal bowled very well.
“We’re in a good position in the series. We’re used to winning and we need to continue to do that.
The win lifted England to second in the ODI world rankings, having been fourth at the start of play, and Strauss added: “One of our goals is to get to number one in the world and we’re going in the right direction.
"We have a lot of confidence, and we're a decent unit. That's two crucial ingredients to making sure you win games."
Strauss had two moments of fortune, badly dropped by Mohammad Irfan at short fine-leg on 23 and surviving a caught-behind call on 38 when Kamran Akmal took an outstanding 'catch' diving towards leg, in the belief that a ball from Umar Gul had clipped the batsman’s glove.
The upshot, though, was a superbly paced fifth one-day international century from the skipper, who faced 134 balls in total and hit 10 fours and a six.
While he was happy with his own form, and ultimately the result, Strauss nevertheless pointed out areas for improvement.
"There were some areas we weren't particularly pleased with. Our fielding was really poor," he said.
"That's an area we pride ourselves on, so we're very disappointed with that.
"But they might have gone on to get 320 or 330, so the bowlers did a good job to drag it back."
As for his close call for caught-behind, Stauss explained: “I wasn’t sure it hit my glove. The umpires are there to make a decision.”
Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi, whose side have been thoroughly outplayed by England for much of the summer, said: “I’m quite happy with the performance and with the way the bowlers are coming back. Maybe in the next few games we can play some good cricket.
“Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal and Mohammad Yousuf played very well and I thought it was a very good total. I thought 285 would have been a reasonable total.”
Asked whether his side’s fielding lapses had again proved costly, Afridi grinned and agreed: “As usual!”
He has several concerns, though, ahead of the next match at the Brit Insurance Oval on Friday - not least his own form.
"I have to focus on my batting and bowling," Afridi said. "I'm not really focused because I'm doing other things for the team. But as a captain, definitely I should perform."
As for the 7ft Irfan, he added: "I'm really disappointed from this guy. Cricket is not all about just batting and bowling - nowadays fielding is very important.
"Maybe if he is good in the field I will give a chance, but otherwise, I am not happy."