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Last Updated: Friday, 21 May, 2004, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
England stumble onto golden find
By Scott Heinrich

If England win the toss and bat there's no doubt Strauss could go on and score a hundred
Middlesex coach John Emburey almost gets it right

If necessity be the mother of invention, then in England's case misfortune must be the father of discovery.

Who knows how long it could have been before Andrew Strauss, who at Lord's became the 15th Englishman to score a century on debut, forced his way into the Test side.

The smart money would have had Paul Collingwood, with a 12-month central contract under his belt, ahead of Strauss in the pecking order if, as expected, Nasser Hussain is the next to require a long-term replacement.

But then came Michael Vaughan's freak knee injury.

The England captain has probably played many a false sweep shot in the nets over the years, but none will have had the potential to shape England's future as this one.

Now, after barely more than two sessions of composed batting, Strauss has already made it dreadfully difficult for selectors to banish him to Middlesex when Vaughan returns for the second Test.

Strauss was unflappable at his home ground against New Zealand, full of intent and free of complication.

The water-tight technique he displayed on his few outings in England's one-day colours promised to serve him well in the longer game, and so it proved.

He is no wide-eyed rookie. Strauss's 5,552 runs in first-class cricket include more than 1,400 scored in 2003, the year Angus Fraser's abrupt departure handed him the captaincy and the increased responsibility that came with it.

It boggles the mind to contemplate what head selector David Graveney is thinking right now.

Andrew Strauss and Marcus Trescothick
Could Trescothick have found a new opening partner?

With Hussain making just 34 - another non-failure, non-success - it would be hard to justify retaining him at Strauss's expense.

Indeed, the old soldier now has every reason to look over his shoulder. Hussain insists he is as sharp as ever, but at 36 the light is dimming.

Whether or not they care to admit it, England's opening pairing has required close examination for some time, even if the Test series win in the Caribbean papered neatly over the cracks.

For reasons that are their own, they have been reluctant to move Vaughan down the order to accommodate Strauss, or any opener for that matter.

Vaughan's overall form figures since taking the captaincy last summer demand the pressure be released in some way. His career average at the top of the order is 49, compared with 33 as skipper.

The Vaughan of today is not the free-wheeling batsman that pulverised Australia and India in 2002, but if a move to three or four can precipitate a return to something like his best then it must be worth a shot.

In Marcus Trescothick's long tenure in the opening slot, he has had four different partners - Mike Atherton, Mark Butcher, Vaughan and now Strauss.

First time out with the first three, Trescothick shared in opening stands of nought, four and nought respectively.

One swallow does not make a summer, but compare that with the 190 he and Strauss put on at Lord's and it is not hard to wonder if England have stumbled upon a revealing piece of the jigsaw.

Strauss's unfussy, run-gathering batting style and cool temperament is not dissimilar to that of Graham Thorpe, who was England's last Test debutant in 1993 to score a century.

If Strauss goes on to be nearly as good, England have discovered a genuine talent - even if it was by misfortune and not design.

England centurion Andrew Strauss
"It's unbelievable, just a fantastic day"

Strauss ready for Test spot
18 May 04 |  England
Strauss well equipped
15 Nov 03 |  Sri v Eng

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