England pair combine to leave Andrew Strauss a happy captain
Andrew Strauss had double reason to celebrate after England held their nerve against a spirited West Indies outfit to take first blood in the three-Test series at Lord's.
The world No.1 side were given an early scare on the final day when, resuming on 10 for two chasing 191 for victory, the Windies snared two quick wickets to leave the hosts reeling on 57 for four.
However, Alistair Cook and Ian Bell kept the tourists at bay, the pair coming to the rescue with a composed stand of 132 to ensure England opened their home season with a five-wicket victory.
Cook was out for 79 just before the end but Bell, who returned to form with his second fifty of the match, saw the side home, stroking the winning runs to the boundary to finish unbeaten on 63.
The result was welcome relief for skipper Strauss, who silenced critics questioning his future with a superb first innings knock of 122 - the opener’s first century in 18 months. And he was relishing the hard-fought nature of the win too, which the believes will hold his side in good stead for the rest of the summer.
“We felt that the wicket was pretty flat and we had a good chance of getting the target, but you never know and we put ourselves in a tricky position [on Sunday],” the skipper said.
“I thought the wicket would flatten out and Alastair Cook and Ian Bell went about getting the runs in a sensible, civilised way.
“And when you have to dig a bit deeper to get over the line it makes it that bit more satisfying.” On his drought-breaking display with the bat, the delighted 35-year-old added: “It was lovely to score that hundred and when you do that in a winning cause it makes it all the more special.”
That the match was forced to a fifth day was an achievement in itself for the Windies after they conceded an 155-run deficit in the first innings.
But delight at getting Strauss and Co to break a sweat soon turned into belief a memorable upset was on the cards once Jonathan Trott became Kemar Roach’s (three for 60) third victim of the second dig and Kevin Pietersen followed not long after to Shannon Gabriel (one for 26).
But while West Indies captain Darren Sammy was pleased with his side’s fighting spirit, he conceded they need to produce it over the full five days if they’re to have any chance of squaring the series in the second Test at Trent Bridge, which gets under way on Friday.
“We did a lot of good things and we need to look at them and repeat them more consistently,” Sammy said.
“We fancied our chances but once the hardness of the ball went, it became much easier to bat. An experienced side like England’s showed their class and saw them home.”