Andrew Strauss backed his decision to take on his nemesis, Zaheer Khan, straight up with a sprightly half-century at the Somerset County Cricket ground on Friday. It means Strauss would go into the opening Test at Lord's with renewed confidence after it was shaken by the Sri Lankan bowlers, who allowed him to score just 27 runs in four innings.
The left-handed opener made the day which saw a good turnout -- nearly 8,000 spectators filled into the 10,000 capacity stadium. He has to thank the Somerset CC groundsmen too, who laid out an innocuous batting strip keeping the interests of their national skipper in mind.
A Middlesex player, the England skipper sought special permission to play the warm-up for Somerset. It had looked like a desperate act as the risks were bigger than the gains. Had he failed, it would have given India a psychological advantage going into the Tests.
The logic of the decision was also being questioned because it was Sri Lankan left-arm pacer, Chanaka Welegedara, who had made life miserable for him in the recent Test series. Against India, he was up against Zaheer, the best bowler against left-handers. He has already dismissed Strauss five times.
In complete control
The batsman was all confidence from the first ball, striking 11 boundaries in bringing up his half-century from 63 balls. He drove with panache and pulled with power in between playing with soft touch to regain form. Apart from Zaheer's confident LBW appeal on 20 and the dropped chance off Amit Mishra on 64, he looked in total control. Strauss is aware that the Tests will be a different ball game. On the eve of the game, he had said: “It will be a perfect preparation for the first Test but it will not guarantee anything for it.”
The statement seemed to be coming from his experience against Sri Lanka where he went into the series with two hundreds but still struggled.
The Indian attack too will have a different look in the Tests. Bowling at half-pace here, Zaheer will go full throttle, Ishant Sharma will be menacing with his pace and bounce and Praveen Kumar will be shaping the ball prodigiously.