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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 December, 2004, 17:24 GMT
Strauss waltzes into record books
By Oliver Brett

Andrew Strauss
Strauss milks the applause on reaching his century on Saturday

That England have unearthed a diamond of rare value in Andrew Strauss is something the weary bowlers of New Zealand, West Indies and now South Africa are acutely aware.

On his Test match debut at his home ground of Lord's, Strauss announced himself with a dominating century in the first innings which he almost repeated in the second.

Three Tests later, he returned to his favourite surface to do to West Indies precisely what he had forced the Kiwis to suffer.

And now, on his first overseas Test, he has added a third thrilling century, against a South Africa attack featuring two of the top 10 bowlers in the world.

In the 1890s, Ranjitsinhji became the first English player to follow a century on his home debut with one in his first Test abroad.

It has taken more than 100 years for Strauss to become the second Englishman to achieve the unusual feat which has been recorded just six times in all.

The main feature about his innings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday was the sheer quantity of runs played square of the wicket on both sides off the pitch and off the back foot.

He admitted at the end of the day's play that he purposefully set out to attack Makhaya Ntini, seeking to put the pressure firmly back on Graeme Smith's team.

CENTURIES ON TEST DEBUTS HOME AND AWAY
Ranjitsinhji
Harry Graham (Aus): 1893-95
Ranjitsinhji (Eng, pictured): 1896-97
Lawrence Rowe (WI): 1972-75
Kepler Wessels (Aus): 1982-83
Azhar Mahmood (Pak): 1997-98
Michael Clarke (Aus): 2004
Andrew Strauss (Eng): 2004

Ntini is not a bowler to take liberties with and, as Marcus Trescothick could testify, has caused plenty of left-handed openers plenty of problems with the ball bouncing across their bows at speed.

Strauss elected to resist the temptation to drive the full balls.

But he happily disposed of the short ones - whether with back foot forces or square cuts through the covers or with some ferocious pull shots to the straighter deliveries.

Those same pull shots were occasionally his downfall against West Indies in the summer.

And early on in his innings, after he had twice been hit in the body by Ntini, he showed he can be fallible when taking on the cross-batted shots through midwicket and square leg.

He was far more watchful against wily old Shaun Pollock but was ferocious in his treatment of the novice pairing of Dale Steyn and Zander de Bruyn.

Showing he possesses the middle gears as well, he was able to push Andrew Hall and Graeme Smith into the wide open spaces that opened up shortly before stumps.

Educated at the Oxfordshire public school of Radley, home to what is said to be the largest expanse of playing-fields in England, Strauss is no show pony even if his background is rather different to many of his team-mates.

Arguably, his most useful apprenticeship in the game came when he played club cricket for the famous Mosman side in Sydney, where he was a team-mate of Brett Lee's.

It was there that he first encountered sledging - and there is no doubt that he will get plenty of that in South Africa, because he was born in Johannesburg before his family left when he was six.

But while Hall and co may chunter away at him, so far in what will be a tough, engaging series Straussy is rightly letting his bat do the talking.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Report: BBC's cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew



SEE ALSO
Clarke joins special Aussie elite
20 Nov 04 |  Other International
Strauss eased into the big time
22 Jul 04 |  England


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