Andrew Strauss again fails to silence his critics as pressure mounts on England skipper

Strauss again fails to silence his critics as pressure mounts on England skipper

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UPDATED:

19:22 GMT, 21 April 2012

Andrew Strauss says he hates his
players having to come out and defend him over his position in the
England side and his right to lead it.

After his second failure in two LV
Championship innings against Durham at Lord's yesterday, he might be in
for a little more displeasure yet.

No one is seriously saying that
Strauss, winner of Ashes series at home and away and driving force
behind the transformation that culminated in England reaching the No1
world ranking, will not be back here on May 17 shaking hands with his
West Indies counterpart Darren Sammy.

Bad run of form: Andrew Strauss is bowled by Graham Onions

Bad run of form: Andrew Strauss is bowled by Graham Onions

It is just that, after the winter he has suffered with the bat, everyone is concerned that he finds the form that would render any assertion to the contrary as absurd as he and England, and the vast majority of supporters and observers, believe it should be.

His duck on the opening day of his season was bad enough. But facing just two balls from Graham Onions before hearing the rattle behind him were nothing by which to judge his current state.

His effort made even more uncomfortable viewing, however, as his six runs took 25 balls, of which only a handful located any part of the bat and only a couple the middle of it.

Tearing it up: Graham Onions in action

Tearing it up: Graham Onions in action

His first contact with the ball steered it towards Callum Thorp in the gully and had the Durham man held it Strauss would be starting a fortnight's gap in Midddlesex' fixture list with a pair to his name.

Onions, who finished with six for 45 as Middlesex's first innings collapsed, demonstrated how lucky England are to have him in the wings. But Strauss, by his own admission, needs runs before the Test summer starts.

Weight of the world: Andrew Strauss has plenty on his mind

Weight of the world: Andrew Strauss has plenty on his mind

With no cricket between now and May 3 for him to play and a maximum of four more innings every knock that goes by without them from now on will only serve to turn largely imagined pressure into the real thing.

Elsewhere, while Kevin Pietersen's 64-ball IPL century may have been what 'dreams are made of', Ravi Bopara will be hoping that his four and three-quarter hour 117 against Yorkshire is the beginning of the end of his England nightmare.

Supporters of the Essex batting all-rounder will not need reminding nearly five years have passed since his Test debut, against Sri Lanka in Kandy, nor that he has played a total of just 12 Tests.

This time last year, despite opting for the opportunity to press his claims with early season Championship runs ahead of a lucrative IPL contract, the place in England's Test XI vacated by Paul Collingwood went instead to Eoin Morgan, the Middlesex left-hander who had done the exact opposite.

But after missing the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle with a side strain, his unbeaten 117 out of Essex's 199, with 18 fours, should have settled the issue, especially with Morgan, out of favour with England after his poor series against Pakistan in the UAE, marooned in India with a Kolkata Knight Riders franchise who have thus far chosen not to pick him.

Not only did Bopara produce the runs that England are looking for, the fact that he carried his bat from 24 for 2 in response to Yorkshire's 246 demonstrated the kind of application they have waited so long to see.