Cow Corner

Strauss’s slump is becoming an issue

Cow Corner

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When England are winning and their collective batting is thriving, even the worst runs of form from a captain can be brushed to one side; but when the team is struggling and the batsmen are to blame, it becomes an issue.

In terms of the immediate future, there is no doubt that Andrew Strauss is the right leader of this England team but, the longer his poor form continues, questions will have to be asked.

Strauss has just one century to his name over the course of his last 48 Test innings and an average of 25.50 in the last calendar year. There lies the issue.

England's batting let them down against Pakistan in the UAE, and Eoin Morgan was the man to make way after a pretty horrendous collective failure and Andy Flower and Strauss reminded everyone of the standards which were expected.

Equally, history suggests that when an England captain relinquishes the role in one or more formats, his leadership in the Test arena can subsequently end up being undermined.

The 35-year-old desperately needs a strong series with the bat to silence his doubters, but long-term England need to be proactive and prepare for what is next.

Given that Strauss has not scored a Test hundred since Brisbane in November 2010, it is perhaps fair to suggest that his critics have had time to build their case.

The Middlesex man did make an impressive century earlier in the tour, but it was against a Development XI in Colombo and he has not managed to replicate his form in Galle.

The apparently vacant number six spot in the batting line up could be seen as a potential way for Flower and the England selectors to groom the next man in line for a place in the top or middle order, while Strauss's replacement is Cook-in-waiting.

None of England's top six averaged more than 26 in the whitewash against Pakistan and Strauss should not be isolated in terms of having to deal with his place being put under scrutiny.

The issue for England now, though, is how the side can be encouraged to develop and not be allowed to stagnate; this has been Strauss's challenge, but now personal form has demanded that he re-focus as an individual.

There may not be an in-form young batsman demanding selection on the periphery of the side, but there is no doubt that the upcoming County Championship season represents a golden opportunity for a player to seize the initiative.

If England go on to be successful on this tour of Sri Lanka then Strauss's form as a batsman may well again be brushed under the carpet, but if results do not go the tourists' way in this two-Test series then further questions will be asked.

Strauss has missed out twice in Galle with poor dismissals: an ill-advised and rash attempted sweep to a full, straight delivery in the first innings, and a fluffed drive when down the wicket in the second. He simply has to find something special to haul himself out of the extended rut that he finds himself in.

The unbeaten partnership between Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen at Galle is only the fourth time England have mustered a 50 partnership all winter. Only one of those went past 57. The standards have dropped considerably since the English summer.

Strauss, as the captain, must not only be held responsible for his own drop of form, but also for the collective failings of his side in one of the three facets of the game over the course of the winter.

He promised that lessons had been learned and he was resolute in ensuring that his side were better prepared and wiser for the second leg of their winter travels.

The pressure will only have mounted on the England captain as he rallies his side from the balcony in Galle - hoping they can stage a remarkable run-chase on day four - before switching his focus back again to his batting ahead of the second Test in Colombo.

Strauss will undoubtedly go down as one of the finest and most successful England captains of all time: he now has to decide how the final years of his reign are to be played out.

Strauss - Test average per year:

2004 — 60.68

2005 — 35.86

2006 — 39.65

2007 — 28.80

2008 — 48.60

2009 — 53.27

2010 — 34.57

2011 — 28.72

2012 — 25.37

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STAT OF THE DAY: England have only managed to score 200+ to win in the subcontinent on three occasions: 209-5 (Lahore 1961/62); 209-1 Mirpur (2009/10); and 208-4 (Delhi 1972/73)

TWEET OF THE DAY: "Fascinating day's play if England can get through the first hour then it's on! Pitch not a mine field! Early to bed in the uk. #youneverknow" (Sir Ian Botham - @BeefyBotham)

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: I'd like to see our county batsmen (and those who graduate to Test level) get REAL coaching/training/practice in batting against spin bowling. Can the ECB not replicate (via an indoor facility) the conditions that our batsmen seem to find so hard to cope with? Surely this would give them some opportunity to improve what seem to be completely inadequate skills/preparation for playing in the subcontinent...? (Chris C)

REHASHED QUOTE OF THE DAY: Arthur Milton on playing spin: "It is all about inches. Those between your ears."

SHOTS OF THE DAY: Graeme Swann enjoyed day three more than anyone, taking six for 82 and celebrating wildly on each and every occasion...

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