Test Match wins do not come easily - Strauss

Published : Feb 28, 2009 00:00 IST

"Obviously when you get so close to winning a Test match and don't make it over the final hurdle it's very difficult to take," said Strauss. "It almost feels like a defeat."

Andrew Strauss could not hide his disappointment after watching his England side fall agonisingly short of victory in the third Test in Antigua.

England came within one wicket of levelling the series in St. John's as West Indies' final pair of Daren Powell and Fidel Edwards held out in the gloom at the Antigua Recreation Ground before accepting the offer of bad light from the umpires with four of the scheduled overs still remaining,

"OBVIOUSLY WHEN YOU GET so close to winning a Test match and don't make it over the final hurdle it's very difficult to take," said Strauss. "It almost feels like a defeat.

"But once the emotion subsides, we can look back and see that we played some excellent cricket. I hope we have shifted the momentum away from West Indies in terms of the series - and if we keep getting better there is no reason why we can't go on and win the series."

The England captain did not question the offer of bad light, knowing that his bowlers had had ample time to win the game. They toiled for 10 overs without success as the last-wicket pair dug in.

"Test match wins do not come easily," Strauss said. "On a wicket like this, even against numbers 10 and 11, it is hard to force the issue. We were hoping the pitch would deteriorate on day five. It didn't - in fact, if anything it got even flatter and died.

"WE DID PRETTY MUCH everything we could do, and I cannot fault the bowlers. It was one of those days when things did not go to hand." Even six balls from the talismanic Andrew Flintoff late in the piece, in his third spell of the day, failed to turn into a fairy tale.

"Clearly he is not at full fettle by any means," said Strauss about Flintoff. "But we have seen that so many times before with Fred. He throws himself into the match situation, and it was incredible to see him bowling at that pace with that injury.

"In these situations you have to trust the player really, and he thought he could put a bit more into it."

SOME MIGHT QUESTION Strauss's decision not to enforce the followon, after England secured a 281-run lead - but with a creaking bowling attack, his hand was forced. His eventual declaration in the second innings still afforded a day and a half to dismiss the hosts.

"We had a few problems really," conceded Strauss. "Steve Harmison was on his death bed in the dressing room; there were problems with Fred, and Graeme Swann had a sore elbow and wasn't sure if he could bowl at all. I certainly have no regrets about it."

WEST INDIES APPEARED uninterested for the opening couple of days of this Test, arranged at ultra-short notice after the fiasco of the abandoned match at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.

But they showed backbone not associated with them over the past decade, to strengthen their position in the series. "This game was a test of character," said Powell, who finished unbeaten on 22 after more than an hour at the crease. "We won the game last week with a day to spare. We came into this one in chaos, however, and we had to show after trailing on first innings, that if we go out there and fight we can do a job.

"AFTER THE WAY RAMNARESH (Sarwan) and Shiv (Chanderpaul) batted, it was up to everyone behind them not to let them down." Powell attempted to land one further psychological blow when he added: "Looking at the position going into the final day, if I had been in the fielding team I would have expected to have won the game."

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009

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