ENGLAND spinner Graeme Swann hailed Andrew Strauss as “the best captain in world cricket” after the skipper’s return to form helped the tourists to a commanding position in the second Test in Sri Lanka yesterday.
Under-fire Strauss hit 61 – only his second half-century of a miserable winter – and shared a patient 122-run stand with Alastair Cook (77 not out) as England finished day two in Colombo on 154-1, 121 behind the hosts.
It was a robust response, as England seek a series draw that would safeguard their status as the No1 Test side, to what Swann regards as unfair persecution of a captain who has earned greater respect.
“There has been what I see as a bit of a witch hunt towards him, which I think is unjustified, but you wouldn’t tell from the way he carries himself and the way he’s captained,” said Swann.
“He hasn’t shown any signs. We only realised he was under scrutiny because some of us can read and we’ve seen the papers.
“He’s very phlegmatic, very laid-back. He’s the best captain in world cricket and a world-class opening batsman.”
Swann (4-75) took three morning wickets as England, looking to end a run of four Test defeats, skittled out Sri Lanka for 275, having resumed on 238-6.
Batting has been England’s weakness this year but there was a marked change in approach when Strauss and Cook took to the crease, eschewing risky sweeps for composed singles – and it paid off.
Strauss, without a Test ton since November 2010, survived two edges to first slip before he was caught by wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene off a delivery from off-spinner Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Cook, whose own struggles have been overshadowed by his fellow opener’s, delighted in amassing a steady total, abetted by Jonathan Trott (15 no).