Byline: PAUL NEWMAN Cricket Correspondent
THE strain was clearly etched on his face and he came as close as he has ever done to being prickly in front of the media. Andrew Strauss looked drained, exhausted and angry at Lord's on Monday night but he never lost his dignity.
Strauss took over the captaincy at the start of last year with England in turmoil but he has never had to deal with anything as difficult as guiding his side through the exceptionally troubled waters of the last three weeks.
His response has been that of a true leader. Strauss has been statesmanlike in public through one crisis after another during Pakistan's tour and, according to sources close to the England team, has been mightily impressive in private too.
The hours Strauss spent locked in talks at London's Landmark Hotel on Sunday after Ijaz Butt's outrageous slurs on his team represented his equivalent of the Zimbabwe crisis that Nasser Hussain had to deal with or the terrorism attacks that temporarily halted Kevin Pietersen's tour of India.
Sportsmail understands that Strauss rose to the challenge, being at the forefront of discussions with the ECB and taking a firm line in negotiations during which England only just stopped short of boycotting the fourth one-day international.
Strauss must lift himself and his team one more time today as they face Pakistan at the Rose Bowl in a game they desperately want to win not only to clinch their sixth series success out of six this summer but also because the fifth NatWest international has become the ultimate grudge match.
The ECB on Monday called for Pakistan to distance themselves from PCB chairman Butt's claims that England had 'thrown' the third one-day match but so far both coach Waqar Younis and manager Yawar Saeed have …