It is indeed rather sad that the form of an England captain that has had more success than many is the main talking point at the start of what could prove to be a career defining summer for this current crop of England test players.
One century in his last 49 innings is a statistic that will hurt Andrew Strauss but he is not the type of cricketer to fade and disappear back into the county ranks. It would be an unceremonious end to what has been a career of ups and downs. The highest points are undeniably the three victorious Ashes series (two as captain) and taking the England side to the top of the world test rankings in 2011.
Strauss has fought fire with fire when his position has been questioned in the past by those in the press. Not one for a brash exchange of opinions in Sunday newspaper column, expect classy innings to remind those in the media, and the England faithful why he has been a lynchpin in one of the most successful England sides of all time. Few can forget his unbeaten 173 against New Zealand in 2008 whilst in a similar putrid vein of form, an innings which has probably allowed him the time in the bank to go on and achieve what he has individually and as a leader since then.
Undoubtedly, the summer will pose one of the biggest challenges of his England side. Many expect the Test series against West Indies (Lords, 11AM GMT Thursday 17th May) to be a walk in the park in early season English conditions which traditionally have those used to warmer climes calling for the knitwear. Yet, they are a talented bunch of players that are capable of hurting teams on their day. Granted, if this England side plays to their potential, only one result can be expected but let us not underestimate a side that has shown signs of improvement under skipper Darren Sammy.
After the West Indies comes the main event. South Africa arrive on English soil for the first time since 2008 hungry to topple England from top spot in the world, with the firepower to do just that. In Dale Steyn they have the best seam bowler on the world scene at the moment, capable of making the most technically astute test batsman quiver in his boots. In Amla, Smith and A. B De Villiers, they have batsman capable of making telling scores in all conditions.
With their poor sub-continent form behind them, England will be keen to not only establish some form going into the series against the Proteas, but also to settle on a best 11 for all conditions. With Jonathan Bairstow set to make his debut tomorrow, England have made a bold choice in leaving out Nottinghamshire’s James Taylor who was tipped by many to take the spot vacated by the struggling Eoin Morgan. Bairstow will in all likelihood slot in at number 7 and will have a chance to cement his spot for the summer.
In the bowling department, the last bowling spot looks set to go to either Graham Onions of Durham or Middlesex’s own Steven Finn. Finn has the attributes to be a handful on any surface while Onions tests batsman’s techniques with almost every ball, a knack that proves essential on English wickets in April & May.
Some tough decisions lie ahead for the selectors and a tough summer is well and truly upon the English team as summer tries to poke its head around the door at long last. For the fans, relish what could be an extremely interesting summer
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