LONDON, (Reuters) – England captain Andrew Strauss described a feeling of release after ending an l8-month wait for a century with an polished unbeaten 121 in the first test against West Indies at Lord’s yesterday.
The left-handed opener hugged partner Kevin Pietersen and held his bat aloft to all corners of the ground after making his 20th test hundred to put his side in control of the match.
“Having not scored a hundred for a while there was a bit of pressure to get there,” he told a news conference. “The last 15 runs were hard work mentally.
“It was a great release to get to three figures and a very special moment, definitely one of my most special centuries.”
Strauss displayed great concentration throughout his innings but also played some trademark attacking strokes, hitting 19 fours with fluent drives through the covers, fierce cuts and neat strokes off his legs.
He needed a stroke of luck on 95 when he was dropped in the slips off a Fidel Edwards no ball and his relief was evident when he cut Darren Sammy to the third man boundary to reach his century.
“It’s at moments like that you think perhaps someone up there is looking after you today,” Strauss said. “We’ve all come through tough times in our careers but it makes you stronger.”
Strauss’s innings lifted England to 259 for three at the close on the second day, a lead of 16 runs with seven wickets remaining after West Indies were bowled out for 243 in their first innings.
England fast bowler Stuart Broad struck with the first ball of the day to remove Shannon Gabriel for a golden duck and complete test-best figures of seven for 72.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul was left stranded at the other end, 13 runs short of his 26th test century after another brave attempt to hold together the West Indies brittle batting order.
Strauss and Alastair Cook shared an untroubled opening partnership of 47 before the latter, on 26, tried to pull a short ball from Kemar Roach and dragged it on to his stumps.
Strauss and Jonathan Trott took England to 80 for one at lunch and the pair continued to accumulate cautiously in the afternoon session, both reaching fifty.
West Indies captain Sammy rotated his four-man pace attack but Fidel Edwards, Roach, Gabriel and Sammy failed to extract much life from a placid pitch.
Trott was out for 58 just before Strauss reached his century, the right-hander nicking a sharp catch to wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin off the persevering Sammy to end a second-wicket partnership of 147.
Pietersen showed positive intent from the start of his knock of 32 as England looked to push on.
He got off the mark with a fierce pull through mid-wicket and struck five boundaries with typically flamboyant strokes before feathering a catch to Ramdin off part-time spinner Marlon Samuels.
Ian Bell joined his captain for the last few overs and was unbeaten on five at the close.
“It’s important we establish a big first-innings lead and go on to win the game,” Strauss said. “I’ve still got to do my job as captain.
“It’s quite an easy-paced wicket and I thought our bowlers did an outstanding job to bowl out the West Indies in a day but we don’t want to look too far ahead.”