London: Former Australia fast bowler Brett Lee said Andrew Strauss had left a "huge void" in the England team following his retirement from all cricket. England's then Test captain bowed out on Wednesday, citing declining form as his main reason for calling time in his career.
But 35-year-old opening batsman Strauss retired with a fine record of more than 7,000 runs in exactly 100 Tests at an average of over 40 with 21 hundreds - one shy of England's all-time record. The Middlesex left-hander Strauss also led England to home and away Ashes triumphs, having also starred as a batsman only during their 2005 Test series win against Australia.
Lee, who as a new-ball bowler was well-placed to observe Strauss's merits, told BBC Radio Five on Sunday: "If you look as his record as an opening batsman - 100 Test matches and an average of 40, it's absolutely phenomenal.
"He was a batsman we were fond of, we thought he was a great player. He was always the top of discussion for us - 'what's the best way to bowl at Andrew Strauss?'He was a respected player and when you got Andrew Strauss out you knew you were bowling pretty well.
"He was a very competitive person with a very strong mind. A class act.
"He leaves a huge void in the England cricket team," added Lee of Strauss, who has been succeeded as Test captain by opening partner Alastair Cook, already England's one-day skipper.
Meanwhile England seamer James Anderson insisted the controversy surrounding Kevin Pietersen's ongoing exile from international cricket had played no part in Strauss's decision. Pietersen has not played for England in any format since making 149 in the drawn second Test against his native South Africa in Leeds last month after it emerged he had sent "provocative" texts to Proteas players - some of which were alleged to be critical of Strauss.
But Strauss himself dismissed suggestions the fall-out from the row generated by his predecessor as England captain had played any part in his decision and Anderson, in his Mail on Sunday column supported his former skipper. "People have speculated that the Kevin Pietersen issue might have been a factor in Strauss' decision to quit. I don't think it has been ideal but he was thinking about this before that stuff started, so I don't think that has been an issue at all," Anderson said.
"That sort of thing just wouldn't influence a man like Strauss."
Anderson also praised Strauss for the manner of his retirement, which included sending a letter to all his international colleagues. "What a way to go - leaving all of us a personal, hand-written letter," he added. "Each one was different and the full content_cns of mine will stay between him and me, but the gist of it was that he was proud of us and that he had many great memories to take with him. Class."