When Andrew Strauss walked off the Galle pitch after being caught at midwicket by Tillakaratne Dilshan in the first Test against Sri Lanka, it completed his 23rd Test innings without a century.
It’s a statistic that gets more damning the more one analyses it – in his last 18 innings, Strauss has passed 50 just twice. His battling 110 in Brisbane in 2010 certainly feels a long time ago, and there’s no doubt about it – England’s skipper is under pressure.
Particularly now that England are struggling as a team. With four Test defeats in a row making something of a mockery of their ranking as number one Test side in a row, the knives are out, and the misfiring skipper is first in line.
But it’s not a situation completely alien to the MIddlesex batsman. It’s not even his longest drought with the bat. Back in 2006-2007, Strauss went 30 innings without scoring a ton, and was subsequently dropped for England’s tour of, coincidentally, Sri Lanka that winter.
Recalled for the tour of New Zealand in early 2008, Strauss underwhelmed at first, failing to score over 50 in the first two Tests and even registering a duck in the first innings of the third and final Test. With the axe once again looming, Strauss then produced what remains his highest-ever Test knock of 177 in the second innings.
This last-ditch knock sparked the sort of form that eventually earned him the captaincy, with two half centuries and a knock of 106 in the home series against the Kiwis before two further centuries in India later in the year.
The calm, composed and dignified way Strauss handled his low moments had also no doubt worked in his favour when it came to the selectors choosing him as Kevin Pietersen’s replacement.
It is these traits, not to mention these past experiences, that suggest that those claiming Strauss has lost his touch might yet be made to look rather foolish when the crunch comes in the second Test of a series England will be desperate to level.
The critics will be ready to pounce on the skipper should he once again fail in Colombo. A loss would see England toppled as number one ranked Test side, and questions about Strauss’ captaincy, as well as his batting will be sure to follow.
It is sure to be the biggest test of Strauss’ character since 2007, but those who, like former batsman Graham Gooch, still believe he is the man to come through should be tempted by the 4/1 on offer for him to make those critics eat their words by finishing as England’s top batsman in the first innings of the second Test, while England are 2/1 to win and square the series.