It was a privilege to have watched an epic on the greatest stage of world cricket © Getty Images
It was a privilege to have watched an epic on the greatest stage of world cricket © Getty Images

 

By Faisal Caesar

 

England does not have many epic innings to crow about in the annals of ODIs – something which is in sharp contrast to the many classics their batsmen have played in their long Test history.

 

But Andrew Strauss’s craft, courage and temperament on Sunday ensured that his innings will find a place in the pantheons of ODI’s greatest knocks and  English cricket’s folklore.

 

The Bengaluru crowd had already been mesmerized by the wand of the magician Sachin Tendulkar. But what Strauss produced later was an eloquent art in leading from the front in a crisis situation. Take away Strauss’s 158, and the nine other Englishmen who batted on Sunday night scored 180 between them. Take away his partner Ian Bell‘s 69, and Strauss’s single-handed defiance can be seen in perspective.

 

With due respect to the maestro, Strauss overshadowed Tendulkar’s hundred last night. Strauss was batting second, under the pressure of a chasing an awesome Indian score, in front of vociferous crowd supporting the home team. As captain, there was added pressure on him. In contrast, Tendulkar batted relatively freely, in familiar conditions with the crowd behind him.

 

In a format known for innovations and improvisations, Strauss crafted his innings in the classical mould. Not once his innings titled towards the bravado. In the process, he emphatically proved that traditionalism has a place in the abridged version of the game.

 

Strauss was in complete command and control against the Indian seamers, whom he drove and flicked with exquisite timing. The Indian spinners were supposed to trouble the English batsmen, but Strauss dented their confidence – much like Graham Gooch in the 1987 World Cup at Mumbai. Strauss was quick to read the length and used his feet profitably and intelligently. He creamed 107 runs from 98 balls off the Indian spinners.

 

Strauss’s knock had all the ingredients of a masterpiece: It had the heroics of a winner – well, almost – winner, the mental strength to fight heavy odds and the classicism that brings joy to the purist.

 

It was a privilege to have watched an epic on the greatest stage of world cricket.

 

(Faisal Caesar is a doctor by profession whose dream of becoming a cricketer remained a dream. But his passion is very much alive and he translates that passion in writing about the game)