England batsmen usually need at least a few Tests to adapt to the cut and thrust world of international cricket, but not Andrew Strauss. From the minute he stepped onto the field at Lord's to make his bow against New Zealand in 2004, he looked as comfortable as he had done for Middlesex. He became only the fourth Englishman to hit a debut Test century at the home of cricket and would have had one in each innings but for Nasser Hussain running him out.
His entrance coincided with the moment everything clicked for the England side Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher had been crafting. In his first overseas Test Strauss was again close to notching a ton in each innings, hitting 126 and 94 not out in a performance that won England the Test and set them on their way to their first series victory in South Africa since apartheid. Over the course of the series he racked up an incredible 656 runs.
After his heroics in South Africa, he returned home to play his part in England's historic 2005 victory. He made two fine centuries, one in the first Test and then, crucially, another in the fifth and final Test at the Oval. As wickets fell around him on that vital first day in South London, he anchored the innings with a dogged 129. In the field he was a force as well, twice over the course of the series dismissing Australian captain and danger man, Ricky Ponting, with sharp catches.
Injuries to Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff forced the Middlesex skipper into early captaincy duties in 2006, with mixed results. The disastrous tour of Australia coincided with a dip in his form but a defiant 177 against New Zealand in 2008 set him back on track. In the runs again in India during that winter he stepped up to the role of permanent captain in 2009. As Vaughan had done before him, he rose to the challenge posed by the visiting Australians in the 2009 Ashes series.
Throughout the series he led from the front. He made 474 runs at an average of 52.66, more than any other player in the series and 200 more than the next highest-scoring England batsman. Australian coach Tim Neilsen named him man of the series and for the second time Strauss tasted Ashes victory on home soil, this time as captain.
Strauss' cheerful manner and well-spoken press conferences hide a will to win every bit as strong as predecessors Michael Vaughan and Nasser Hussain. He has steadied the ship of an England side that had looked rudderless at times since 2005 and imbued them with the confidence that they can be world-beaters again, while all the time dismantling the world's finest bowling attacks with his trademark square cut.