Strauss' form indicates troubled mind

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In a perverse kind of way, Andrew Strauss might be enjoying the third Test at Lord's. It is probably a situation he would not necessarily have relished if he knew it was coming, but life is full of surprises, albeit bittersweet ones.

In a perverse kind of way, Andrew Strauss might be enjoying the third Test at Lord's. It is probably a situation he would not necessarily have relished if he knew it was coming, but life is full of surprises, albeit bittersweet ones.

In his 100th Test, Strauss had shown many of the unsung and understated qualities he has before even stepping on the pitch. His team ethic, whatever Pietersen beeps or texts, has made a real impact on the confidence and compact unit that England have become.

If it leads to accusations that England's code is too schoolmasterly, then so be it for the maverick who refutes such values. It obviously works and the 36-year-old has the respect of those that count.

What Strauss may be slightly relieved about (although it must be troubling him internally) is the lack of column inches on his own form. There was a definite feeling that the skipper had to kick on from his two centuries against the West Indies and score some hardcore runs against the very best. It is only going to get more challenging in India this winter for everybody.

Since his sensational start against them in his country of birth back in 2004, South Africa's bowlers have troubled Strauss deeply. The general dip in his Test form over the last two and a half years can be traced back to the away Test series against Morne Morkel and company three years ago when his highest score was 54.

In this series he has had four scores between 20 and 37, but has not managed to cash in against bowling that has been far more potent than the home seam attack.

His form is not horrendous – how can it be when he has scored two hundreds this summer – but there is a general trend of toil and trouble against the better teams or in conditions that require the 'over my dead body' approach he showed to save his Test career in Napier in 2007. Strauss hardly has a Brearely-esque Test average – 41 is on a par with Michael Vaughan – it is just noticeable that it is getting harder for him.

Being number one in the world has been a burden for England. Perhaps here, if anywhere, the Middlesex man has failed in his stated mission to keep moving and keep improving. Even if the team and nothing but the team is the overriding factor, perhaps the quality of some of the personnel is now being raked over.

Is Tim Bresnan really going to cut it on the subcontinent as batter or bowler? Are they going to follow through with virtual debutants like Jonny Bairstow and James Taylor? Does Strauss have one big tour left in him, let alone another Ashes campaign? What to do with KP? It is all mentally draining to stay at the top.

The current English set up slightly resembles the fallout post England's World Cup rugby winning team in 2003. After that high and that number one feeling, things are never the same sometimes…

Of course, the coach of that squad – Sir Clive Woodward – could be compared to Andy Flower for the relationship he enjoyed with his skipper and the striving for any kind of marginal gains in performance. Johnson retired a few months after lifting the trophy in Sydney, citing that his heart knew it was game over.

Perhaps Strauss has climbed enough mountains with England and Flower. We will soon find out what he's got left. Whatever the score, he deserves a break one way or another.

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