Free-scoring Strauss sets the tone
Andrew Strauss is relishing being in the form of his one-day career after his second century in three innings propelled England to another victory over Pakistan.
The skipper’s 126 was the highlight of a well-judged pursuit of 295 to win the second match of the NatWest Series at Headingley Carnegie, their seventh success in eight matches in all forms of cricket against Pakistan this summer.
It was Strauss’ second hundred in three one-day innings, and underlined his growing importance to an England team in a form of the game in which his worth has sometimes been questioned.
Although he was dropped on 23 by Mohammad Irfan and survived a passionate appeal for caught behind off Umar Gul when he had made 38, he batted with typical fluency in hitting 10 fours and a six off 134 balls.
Strauss claims his sparkling run owes much to increased freedom with the bat, as well as the sort of aggressive intent that served England so well during their World Twenty20 triumph earlier this year.
“I’ve worked very hard on trying to expand my game a little bit,” Strauss said after collecting the match award and seeing his side established a 2-0 lead in the series with three games remaining.
“We’re trying to play positive cricket with the bat, so it’s important I can lead by example.
“When you’re in form, you don’t feel as pressurised to hit the big shots - they tend to come a bit more naturally.”
As Steven Davies did at the Emirates Durham ICG on Friday, Strauss’ efforts overshadowed the contribution of Jonathan Trott, who made a composed 53 off 71 deliveries in a second-wicket stand of 146 in 26 overs.
Trott has now passed 50 in each of his last five one-day innings, and his role in an England side brimming with confidence was not lost on Strauss.
"He's a very calm presence," the skipper said. "He's in outstanding form at the moment, and he doesn't get too caught up in the emotions of the game. He just goes and does his business."
Trott eventually perished to a run-out, having been sent back by Strauss after setting off for a single to Shoaib Akhtar at short third man which was never feasible.
"I think Trotty heard someone say 'yes'. But it wasn't me, so it was one of those unfortunate situations," Strauss explained.
Strauss gave Pakistan and the Leeds crowd credit, too, for playing their part in a thrilling contest that suggested the tourists are beginning to come to terms with the corruption charges which have rocked their tour and cost them three players.
"The crowd were very boisterous, very noisy. I think they thoroughly enjoyed their day, and it was good to see so many people here supporting both sides," Strauss added.
"Pakistan stuck together very well. It's obviously a tough time for them, with a lot of distractions off the pitch.
"The last two games they've played very well, and it goes to show that they're a dangerous side and not easy to beat."