Strauss exits as a great
Posted in England
Even at the moment Andrew John Strauss began his Test career in the most resounding fashion imaginable, one could not have imagined the impact he would have on English cricket.
Strauss appeared an archetypal opener when he broke on to the scene as a perfect contrast to the more attacking Marcus Trescothick: a back-foot accumulator who complemented his partner.
He was, too, seemingly very English in character: soft-spoken, unassuming and ego-less.
What we may not have realised in 2004 was underneath his calm exterior were characteristics that only few possess: a steely determination to succeed, adaptability and an incredible aptitude for leadership.
Maybe we should have guessed those were there; Strauss did, after all, start on the biggest stage by striking 112 and 83 at his home ground - Lord’s - against New Zealand.
In the ensuing few years, runs became part of the left-hander’s routine.
He rarely got the deserved plaudits; how often was Strauss mentioned amid the 2005 Ashes celebrations? Not too much despite him being the only batsman to register two centuries in the five-match series.
Strauss gained his first taste of captaincy in 2006, helping England to a 3-0 series success against Pakistan, yet it was not until his place in the side was called into question that we really saw the mark of the man.
He was dropped for the 2007 series against Sri Lanka following a poor run of form, only to return for the tour of New Zealand the next year.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Nothing epitomises Strauss’ strength of character more than the fact that less than a year after seemingly entering the last-chance saloon, he was tasked with leading England into a new era.
In the final Test of the series against the Black Caps, with his career on the line, he began with a duck.
Yet Napier was to represent the beginning of an era rather than the end; Strauss duly delivered when it mattered most second time round, striking an outstanding career-best 177 as England won the series 2-1.
He was awarded the captaincy in Test and one-day international cricket the following year and went from strength to strength, both as a skipper and player.
The aforementioned qualities quickly rose to the surface and, having rallied his colleagues, Strauss led England to a second successive home Ashes win in 2009.
That triumph proved the catalyst for arguably the greatest period of success in the history of English cricket.
Strauss’ crowning moment came with another Ashes victory, this time Down Under as England left Australia with the urn for the first time in 24 years.
In last year’s World Cup, he continued his outstanding form in one-day internationals, producing one of the great innings - a 145-ball 158 in a thrilling tie against eventual victors India.
It was a knock that underlined his adaptability. When he was handed the ODI reins Strauss was not even a fixture in that format, yet quickly established himself as England’s leading light in 50-over cricket.
The showpiece was to prove Strauss’ final act in that arena, but he was not finished in the longer form, duly guiding England the summit of the ICC Test rankings via a 4-0 whitewash of India.
The challenge of an excellent South African side this summer proved too great, but Strauss can walk away safe in the knowledge his name will live long in the memory.
Despite the 2-0 series loss, he still manages to go out on a high having played exactly 100 Tests and led England in 50. The 35-year-old possesses a fine record as a batsman - though it is leadership with which he will be synonymous.
Few at the time will have known it but we were watching someone who would go on to join a pantheon of cricketing greats make his debut on May 20 2004.