Strauss realising extra responsibility

There have been plenty of cases in cricket of captaincy adversely affecting a player's form but Andrew Strauss is experiencing the opposite effect.

updated: February 27, 2009 10:24 IST
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Bridgtown, Barbados:

Captain Andrew Strauss spanked a magnificent 142 and shared a record opening stand with Alastair Cook as England posted a formidable 301-3 against West Indies on day one on Thursday of the fourth Test.

Strauss, who won the toss in good batting conditions, lashed 18 fours and a six in notching his 16th Test century. The 31-year-old faced 210 balls and batted four hours, 10 minutes.

"I feel pretty balanced and I'm seeing the ball pretty well," Strauss said. "I think we all know when you feel like that and you're in good nick, you have to make it count. And I was delighted to get a hundred today."

Fellow left-hander Cook provided sound support with 94 but fell just short of an eighth Test ton. Cook cracked nine fours and a rare six off 187 deliveries.

The pair dominated the first two sessions at Kensington Oval in tallying 221, a record opening stand for England against West Indies.

The home team, which endured a sloppy day in the field, hit back in the final session with three quick wickets before Kevin Pietersen (32 not out) and Paul Collingwood (11 not out) restored England's advantage in an unbroken stand of 42.

Jerome Taylor (1-45), Sulieman Benn (1-59) and Daren Powell (1-72) were the successful bowlers for the Caribbean men.

"Winning the toss this morning we really wanted to go after the West Indian bowlers and put them under a bit of pressure," Strauss said. "We were able to do that, so 301-3 at the end of the day is a pretty nice way to start the Test match."

Strauss, on the back of his 169 in the last Test in Antigua, dominated the early exchanges with Cook playing a typically resolute role in their partnership.

The England skipper, cheered on by a large English contingent that ruled the crowd of close to 10,000, had two slices of luck shortly after reaching his half century.

On 50, Strauss edged Benn's left-arm spin between wicketkeeper and a very wide Devon Smith at slip while, on 58, a regulation slip catch was floored by his counterpart Chris Gayle off Fidel Edwards.

The pair took lunch at 108-0 and further sapped West Indies by batting undefeated throughout the second session.

Strauss continued to show more enterprise and reached his third century off West Indies, and second in successive matches, in 144 balls. It was his fastest Test hundred and was brought up when he deposited Benn onto the roof of the Greenidge & Haynes Stand at midwicket with a disdainful six.

With England 1-0 down in the five-match series, Strauss admitted that an aggressive approach was part of the plan.

"I suppose as much as anything it's the quality of the wickets we're playing on," he said. "Having assessed it for the first seven or eight overs, I think both Cookie and I felt that the percentages were in our favor to go after them a little bit."

The pair passed two records during its association, eclipsing the previous best England opening stand on the ground, of 172 between John Edrich and Geoff Boycott in 1968. They then erased the best ever opening stand for England against West Indies, beating 212 between Reg Simpson and Cyril Washbrook in 1950 at Nottingham.

England resumed after tea in total control at 221-0 but West Indies produced its most inspired display in the evening despite some more fielding lapses.

Powell, wayward in the first two sessions, made the initial breakthrough by rocking back Strauss' middle and off stumps with a stunning yorker.

Cook, searching for his first Test ton since December 2007, survived a couple of chances on 85 and 86 before he miscued a hook at Taylor and Ryan Hinds clung on to a fine diving catch at midwicket.

When Benn found bounce and turn to remove Owais Shah for 7, England was 259-3 and in danger of spurning a good start.

West Indies could have made it even worse just before the close as Edwards supplied a hostile burst with the second new ball.

The Barbadian pacer should have claimed the key wicket of Pietersen when on 20 but a top-edged hook was put down at fine leg by Taylor to complete a forgettable day in the field.