Andrew Strauss’s 158 off just 145 balls must rank as one of the great World Cup innings © Getty Images
Andrew Strauss’s 158 off just 145 balls must rank as one of the great World Cup innings © Getty Images


By David Green


Andrew Strauss’ exquisite innings against India on Sunday should have had a few cricket pundits cringing with embarrassment.


Many of these so-called experts had voiced doubts as to whether the England captain’s reliance on the cut and pull would be suited to a World Cup staged on the slower pitches of the subcontinent.


Indeed, there was even the faintly ridiculous spectacle last summer of a Sky Sports pseudo-selection committee comprised of Michael Atherton, Darren Gough, Alec Stewart and Derek Pringle ruling Strauss out of their 15 for the tournament.


Strauss went out and scored a brilliant hundred against Pakistan at Headingley immediately after that broadcast was aired to leave Gough and Co with egg on their faces. Now, it should be the village stocks for them.


Strauss was aided on Sunday by a belter of a pitch, poor Indian bowling and the curious field placings of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But even so, Strauss’ 158 off just 145 balls must rank as one of the great World Cup innings.


Sure, Strauss cut and pulled ferociously, but he scored all around the wicket too as evidenced by his wagon wheel and the straight six he dismissively hit off Yuvraj Singh was the final irrefutable proof – if any was needed – that Strauss’ doubters didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.


Strauss has too much class to emulate Nasser Hussain’s infamously angry signal to the press box after he scored a 100 against India at Lord’s in 2002, but if the current England captain had done something similar nobody really could have blamed him.


Strauss’ first incarnation as an England ODI batsman may not have been overwhelmingly successful, but it should be remembered that he was required to perform a different role to the present – either as an accumulator in the middle order or as the foil to the aggressive Marcus Trescothick.


But since his second coming in the Caribbean in 2009, we have seen an emphatically improved model. Indeed, since the start of 2010, Strauss ranks as one of the best openers in the ODI format with 1231 runs at 53.52 from 23 matches, including three hundreds and nine fifties.


And the most impressive part of these stats is that they have been compiled at a run rate of 95.79. That’s seriously rapid.


He may not be as obviously destructive a batsman as a Virender Sehwag or Chris Gayle and may lack the sumptuous style of a Hashim Amla or Sachin Tendulkar, but these figures show Strauss is just as effective. Humble pie all round again for Gough and Co.


(David Green is the brain behind the irreverent The Reverse Sweep blog and also writes for a number of cricket publications and sites such as World Cricket Watch. You can follow him on Twitter also @TheReverseSweep. David was a decent schoolboy and club cricketer (and scored his maiden 100 the same week that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first Test ton) but not good enough to fulfil his childhood dream of emulating Douglas Jardine by winning the Ashes in Australia and annoying the locals into the bargain. He now lives with his wife and two young children in the South of France and will one day write the definitive biography of Hedley Verity)