A great day for England, they’ve put themselves in charge of this Test. This highlight was, of course, Andrew Strauss’ unbeaten century, his fifth at Lord’s. He looked fluent almost all day (until he got into the nineties) and hit some of the best drives down the ground one can hope to see. Upon reaching the milestone, he got what sounded to me like an unusually sustained ovation from a packed Lord’s. Every second of it was absolutely deserved, one could see the determination writ across Strauss’ face during his innings and his delight was palpable when he got to his century. I noted three types of reactions. Most common was the delight. I think almost every England supporter wanted to see Strauss score a century and as noted above the appreciation shown by the Lord’s crowd was immense. The second, and rather amusing, reaction was from the people quickly covering themselves by explaining why all the previous ‘questions’ had still been warranted. As I mentioned the other day, I don’t think they were justified, but I do accept that if they were then this innings would not have changed that. It would simply have meant that he had answered the questions they had set. I still found it amusing to see how quickly people started to defend themselves, however. The reaction that was not amusing (but was at least in a small minority) was that of those who immediately said that a hundred against the West Indies was meaningless. I’ll be the first to admit that runs against a small side should be noted and treated as such, but if a batsman is poor enough to be dropped then he or she is not going to score a century against anyone. It’s especially ridiculous in the case of Strauss because the ‘problem’ has always been that he was getting starts and not going on. This time, however, he set himself and made sure that he did go on. The weakness of the attack was not relevant.
Of course, there was another batsman at the crease during all this. For most of the day it was Trott, after Cook got a little bit careless in the morning session. Trott batted well, clipped the ball through mid-wicket a lot as usual and generally looked pretty untroubled until getting out to a bit of a rash shot. There had been a very unusual incident with his batting after lunch, however. With Fidel Edwards bowling, he fished at one outside off, there was a small noise and a stifled appeal by the Windies. The fieldsmen never acted as though they thought it was out and the umpire did not look like he really considered the half-appeal. Hot Spot and Snicko both subsequently showed, however, that the noise heard was definitely a faint outside edge! Trott was lucky there and he had also been lucky just prior to that as he survived an lbw shout and a review that had the ball just barely not hitting enough of leg to be overturned. Needless to say, there was no comment from those who claim that the DRS is unfairly increasing the odds of an lbw.
For most of the day the West Indies were poor. England’s overnight score of 259-3 is one which may look a little bit low at first, I think especially with England one expects closer to 275-300 runs in a day, but this is not because the Windies kept the scoring rate down. It was around four an over in the morning and even though it dropped from there it still ended up well above three an over. The problem was the West Indies over rate. Even accounting for 2.5 overs lost in the morning to the change of innings, the West Indies only managed 80.2 overs before bad light stopped play after the scheduled close. They hardly have the excuse of wickets falling either. Their overall rate was an appalling 13.3 overs per hour and even assuming one minute for each wicket and two minutes for each drinks break it only goes up to 13.7 overs per hour. It had been clear for some time before bad light stopped play that even an extra half hour was not going to allow all of the overs to bowled. In the overs that they did manage to bowl, the ball did very little off the seam and very little in the air. But one gets the feeling that if England had been bowling the conditions would have appeared a lot more helpful. It was a bit like yesterday in that it was not the shambles it could have been, but nor was it ever close to enough.
England go into tomorrow with their two most under-fire batsmen at the crease: Strauss and Bell. Strauss has already made his hundred and Bell made one in the County Championship as well. I don’t think he is nearly out of form as many people think (remember that he averaged 118 in 2011) and is up against an attack that suits him. I would not be at all surprised to see him get a hundred as well. Jonny Bairstow will finally get a chance to bat tomorrow once one of Strauss or Bell is out and I am looking forward to that. He has been doing well in the LV=CC and as I recall he looked pretty good in the handful of ODIs in which he played. He is also a pretty fast scorer and if he gets in along with Bell, Prior or Broad England have a chance to pile on the runs quickly. They already lead by 16, so the West Indies cannot afford to let that happen.