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Strauss brings back England's cheers

THE Antigua Recreation Ground has been the scene of some magnificent batting performances and while Andrew Strauss' 169 on Sunday was not of the magnitude of some, the value of the innings to England was immeasurable.

After the tourists were dismissed for a woeful 51 in their innings and 23 run defeat to West Indies in Kingston last week, the team and their captain badly needed a convincing performance in the rescheduled third test of the series.

At a venue that has witnessed Brian Lara's sensational 400 and 375, as well as Chris Gayle's blistering 317 four years ago, Strauss' knock of 24 fours and a six in 90 overs was nowhere near as dynamic but just the tonic he and his team required.

"We've had a hard couple of weeks," Strauss told reporters at St. John's as England ended the first day on 301 for three after being asked to bat.

"After being bowled out 51 in the last test you want to come out and play positively and prove to everyone that as a batting unit we have a lot of good players. In that respect, it's very satisfying.

As a captain, it's always important to get runs and lead from the front but I've felt in pretty good form all tour so I knew that if I backed my game plan that runs would come."

He may have had that self-belief but his delight was visible as he punched the air and raised his bat to all corners of a ground that, like England, was enjoying a second chance.

"There are two ways to come back from what happened last week. One is to go into your shell and try and get runs and the other is to take the bull by the horns and say 'I'm going to get runs' and that's certainly the kind of mindset I had," he added.

Strauss' innings was punctuated with moments that displayed his determination, first a clenched fist for his 50 after surviving when home skipper Gayle dropped him at slip off Sulieman Benn.

Then he brought up his team's 100 without loss in defiant fashion by smashing Benn for a six over long-off and into Factory Road.

"Generally as a team we were positive but in a controlled way which is the right way to be," he said. "I really feel the players are incredible motivated after what happened last week to come back and show what we can do."

Strauss shared successive century stands with Alastair Cook (52) and Owais Shah (57).

Gayle (1-35) and fast bowler Fidel Edwards (1-41) led the hosts on a pitch which defied pre-match predictions that it would be good for bowling.

Kevin Pietersen was unbeaten on eight at stumps with nightwatchman James Anderson on three not out.


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