Widely regarded as one of England’s finest Test captains, Andrew Strauss played out the entirety of his County Championship career with Middlesex.
But take a closer look at his first-class record and you’ll notice one appearance for another county: Somerset.
Back in the summer of 2011, the left-handed opener was out of nick after a tough two-Test series with Sri Lanka which had seen him score just 27 runs in four innings. England’s next challenge was a four-Test series with India – the No.1-ranked side in the world – and with Middlesex not playing a County Championship fixture in three weeks leading up to the series opener, a novel solution was found to grant Strauss a useful warm-up.
“[England head coach] Andy Flower and I saw Somerset had a tour match against India and we decided to approach them,” Strauss said when the move was announced in June.
The match, a three-day first-class fixture, would go on to be a productive one for both Somerset and Strauss. Batting first, Strauss hit 78 off 98 balls against an attack led by Zaheer Khan as the hosts piled up 425-3 at Taunton before declaring.
India offered 224 in reply as left-arm seamer Charl Willoughby took 6-76, before Strauss returned to go even bigger in his second dig: he finished unbeaten on 109 off 135 balls. “If the forthcoming Test series goes well for Andrew Strauss and England, Somerset should be top of his Christmas card list,” wrote ESPNcricinfo’s Andrew McGlashan. Oddly enough, it was Strauss’ second hundred of the summer for a county against an international side – he’d hit 151 against the Sri Lankans in a tour warm-up in May.
There was some criticism of the move. Christopher Martin-Jenkins, in an article headlined ‘Somerset outing by Andrew Strauss is selfish and insensitive’ in The Times, wrote, “Instinct should have warned him that there was something not quite right about offering himself as a guest for Somerset in their three-day match against the Indians next month.
“For a start, however unwittingly, it was selfish. A young Somerset player is going to miss a match that would, because it comes early in India’s tour, have been high profile even if the England captain had not decided to use the match to prepare for the Lord’s Test.”
The move worked as intended however. Days after his Taunton ton, Strauss would go on to lead England against India at Lord’s and while the left-hander dominated, his form improved – six innings resulted in 229 runs at an average of 38.16 – and his side finished the summer on the right side of a 4-0 scoreline and at the top of the ICC’s Test rankings.