Strauss defends England’s underperforming batsmen

Last Updated: Aug 25, 2010, 23:52 PM IST

London: England captain Andrew Strauss has acknowledged concerns over the performances of his batsmen ahead of this week’s fourth and final test against Pakistan at Lord’s.

Strauss has not scored a century for 13 months and his team has lost wickets in clusters in every test so far. Four of the top six batsmen are averaging less than 30 in the series, with Strauss on 28.

England now needs to at least avoid defeat in the match starting tomorrow to win the series. It leads 2-1 but lost the third test by four wickets on Saturday.

The batters’ poor form is a concern three months before England’s defense of the Ashes begins in Brisbane, Australia, on Nov 25.

Opener Alastair Cook lifted some of the pressure on him with 110 in the third test at The Oval, but that has just shifted the attention onto Strauss.

“I would have liked to have score more runs this series, but it’s been tough for opening batsmen,” Strauss said today.

“The new ball has been swinging around, but I would like to get a score as a batsman and a captain to lead by example.”

“As I said to Alastair Cook, you are not going to score runs every time or your name would be Don Bradman. You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth and realize there will be games when things won’t go your way. The key is to cash in when you get in and make it a big score and hopefully the attention goes elsewhere.”

Strauss is a key man with 18 test centuries. His place is not in question, the lack of form may begin to affect him.

“I’m reasonably happy with how my batting is going,” Strauss said. “I’ve made some useful contributions but not got to three figures. But Lord’s is a wicket I generally play well on and I’m confident things will go my way.”

All five of Strauss’ dismissals in the series have been to left-arm pace bowling. The left-hander’s last century was 161 against Australia at Lord’s, and he has since gone 22 innings without reaching three figures, scoring seven fifties in that time.

The century against Australia was his sixth in the seven-month spell that represents the greatest spell of his career. He then averaged just 24.28 in South Africa before skipping the tour of Bangladesh. At least four of his 18 test centuries have been made at Lord’s, where he plays his county cricket for Middlesex.

Looking at the wider picture and the batting frailties generally, Strauss acknowledged there was an issue but sought to keep things in perspective.

“We haven’t batted brilliantly but if you as a side are scoring 200 and bowling the other side out for 80, your batsmen have probably done a reasonably good job on that pitch,” Strauss said.

“It’s hard to score 500 on a pitch that is doing a lot.

“We had less excuses at The Oval where it was a good batting wicket and we don’t want to be collapsing often as you are putting yourself under a lot of pressure. It is something we have talked over and are looking to improve on.”

England is expected to name an unchanged team for the fourth consecutive test and omit Tim Bresnan from the squad. Pakistan is also likely to be unchanged.

Pakistan captain Salman Butt said that to draw a series after being 2-0 down would inspire younger players in the future. Pakistan came from 1-0 down to draw its series with Australia in July.

But not one Pakistani has managed a century in the five tests on the tour so far, compared with England’s three.

“It has not been easy for batsmen this summer with the weather we have had and with the ball swinging around,” Butt said. “It’s not about getting big runs, it is about getting important runs in the context of the game.

“Sometimes all you need from someone is 40-odd or maybe 20 or 30 to get your team home.”