England v India, 1st Test, Lord's July 20, 2011

England ready for the top - Strauss

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Andrew Strauss believes England are ready to fulfil the ambition laid out at the start of his captaincy tenure in 2009, and displace India as the No. 1 Test team in the world. A victory by two clear Tests in the forthcoming four-match series would be enough to lift England to the top of the ICC rankings, and on the eve of the series opener at Lord's, Strauss called on his players to produce "something special" in their final push towards the summit.

Strauss has been in this situation before with England, under the captaincy of Michael Vaughan. In the autumn of 2005, with six series wins in a row and the Australians recently scalped on home soil, England believed they were ready to usher in a new era. Instead they suffered a humbling 2-0 defeat at the hands of Shoaib Akhtar and Pakistan, and as injuries and illness tore at the fabric of their squad, they quickly melted back among the also-rans.

If any lesson could be taken from England's demise on that occasion, it is that the pursuit of sporting excellence is a relentless and unforgiving occupation. The traits of consistency, longevity and unwavering class - best epitomised on an individual level by the ageless Sachin Tendulkar - allow for no let-up whatsoever. It is that fact that makes the forthcoming England-India series so tantalising. One side or the other is going to have to give ground at some stage of the contest. And Strauss is adamant it will not be his men.

"We are going to go out and be determined to win every match in this series and if we get in a winning position it's important we're ruthless and make that count," said Strauss. "We have a great opportunity to play some really good cricket and hopefully pull off something special in the next five weeks. India are a very, very good cricket side, they have been for a while now, and if you want to be the best in the world you have to beat sides like India."

Hindsight now makes it clear that England were not ready for the No. 1 status back in 2005. The undoubted excellence of their first XI was not matched by the reserves who tried and failed to cover for men such as Andrew Flintoff, Simon Jones, Marcus Trescothick and Vaughan himself, while the tailing-off of Steve Harmison's form left England bereft of a genuine spearhead until James Anderson came of age in 2008. These days, however, their broader squad mentality allows much more flexibility in times of need - as demonstrated in the recent Ashes, when Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan replaced Stuart Broad and Steven Finn respectively, with instant impact.

For that reason, among others, Strauss is confident that England's time at the top has finally arrived. "I do, absolutely," he said. "I still think there are areas we can improve on so in that sense we aren't the finished article, but to be No. 1 is relative to what other sides are doing. Our cricket over the last two years, I don't think there's been a side that has been better than us.

"We've won seven out of eight series and the other [in South Africa] has been drawn, but this is a new challenge for us and our ultimate goal in the long term is not just to be the side who is No. 1 in rankings, but the side everyone agrees is the best side in the world. That's still a long-term goal, regardless of whether we win or lose this series."

Despite India's ranking, England expect to win because this is their home turf, and with overcast skies predicted for the coming week, the ball at Lord's ought to move through the air and make life pretty tricky for the visiting batsmen. "We have home advantage, which I think counts for a lot, and I think we have to use that wisely," said Strauss.

Nevertheless, when England lost their six-year unbeaten home record back in 2007, it was India who snatched it from them courtesy of a brilliantly executed victory at Trent Bridge, and as Strauss acknowledged, their oft-repeated fallibility outside of Asia is very much a thing of the past.

"You don't become the No. 1 side without being able to play away from home as well and that's probably the greatest improvement they've made," he said. "They've been far more consistent away from home and have a lot of experienced batsmen who have played all over the world. We understand the extent of the challenge, it won't be easy, but I think in our home conditions we back ourselves to beat anyone."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • TheUnforgiven on July 21, 2011, 9:24 GMT

    @Radhakrishna Rao Your statement 'even a weak sri lankan team has defeated australia' is insulting for all the cricket playing teams other than India. The same weak sri lankan team went on to be the world cup finalists. If your assesment of the world cup finalist is 'weak', how do you rate the rest of the teams in world cricket?

  • valvolux on July 21, 2011, 9:09 GMT

    I don't think you indians should take england likely. we aussies had no respect for jimmy anderson...he tore us a new one in england. then we thought we'd batter him australia, but he tore us a new one there. he's a much improved bowler...and i think easily the most dangerous bowler in the world when its swinging. the guy you should target (like every team in the world does, with great success) is Broad. Broad is a hack and will be torn apart in this series by the classy indian batsmen. hopefully then england will realise that flinn has more promise than broad will ever have....along with tremlett and anderson...thats the best bowling lineup england can have.

  • ThatPommyGuy on July 21, 2011, 8:38 GMT

    This is England's series, no doubt. This is the first time the established England team has played a worthy team. England have the potential and deserve to take India's position as the number 1 test nation. The pace attack as a whole is the strongest in the world, and can boast the best spinner (although India are experienced players of spin). The top six is exceptional, with two solid opener's (one in the form of his life), as well as two contrasting no. 3 and 4 in Trott and Pieterson- both can take the game away from the opposition. The support from Bell and Morgan is solid, although I think these runs will be nothing more than a bonus, the top four are strong enough to create a competitive score alone alone. India's sole warm-up match was underwhelming to say the least. Khan was toothless and the batting collapsed under an ordinary bowling attack.

  • dummy4fb on July 21, 2011, 8:35 GMT

    @Shreekanth Reddy Purelli what if England win 4-0?

    Of late this forum has become an Indian fans forum rather than a cricket forum. This should be used to recognise players from across the globe irrespective of their nationality. I am an Indian, but I admire players from other countries as well. Trott & Cook are run machines at the moment. KP has also found some of his lost form. However Indian batting stands tall with the likes of Sachin, Dravid and Laxman ably supported by Gambhir, Dhoni & Yuvraj/Raina. At the same time England have the edge in bowling department. So its going to be an evenly fought series. The winner will ultimately by TEST CRICKET.

  • dummy4fb on July 21, 2011, 8:13 GMT

    The mission Numero Uno will begin in few hours time, England will surely dominate this contest due to the fact that it's their Home Turf & a lot of Indian are not get used to the condition & the pitches they will play on. England is the future #01 for sure; Slaying India will be my proudest moment in recent times!! Good Luck Andrew & his boys!!!!

  • indianzen on July 21, 2011, 7:38 GMT

    Well mate, it was the same England for the first T20 world cup and England could do nothing rather than clap for India, it will repeat again, Trott is facing India for the first time. With Ishant, Praveen, Rahul, Laxy and Raina in prime form, its a 2-0 win for India...

  • Trapdaar on July 21, 2011, 6:51 GMT

    @SnowSnake: Exactly! I don't see any fast bowlers in England side which can compare to Zaheer, Ishant and Praveen. If England prepare a swinging pitch, things will go horribly wrong because Indians are masters of swing. If it is a fast and bouncy pitch, then they won't fare any better either because Indians have plenty of practice facing fast bowlers and Ishant would become very dangerous on such a pitch.

    Its really only a matter of Indian batsmen adjusting to the conditions. If they have adjust well, England will not even get a look in.

  • Meety on July 21, 2011, 6:50 GMT

    @AKG0479 - LOL! India have the better spinners hey? Surely you are not saying the lower order batsmen & part time offie known as the Turbinator is better than Swann? LOL! Not over the last 2 years matey!

  • Meety on July 21, 2011, 6:48 GMT

    @ the_blue_android - whoaa there! England needs to beat India in India in a test series to be acknowledged # 1. Have India beat Oz & Sth Africa on their home soil yet? Not a smart arguement there! @landl47 - the same thing has been said about India for the last 2 years. The geriatric Indians probably DO still have one more series or more left in them. The biggest relief for India's most senior players is that England don't have any speedsters (145kph +), speed isn't everything as was shown in the Ashes, but against an ageing batting line up it will make a difference. @ 5wombats - re: arrogance - the answer is they don't know! @ SnowSnake - England actually won't be relying on speed, it will be controlled bowling lines & lateral movement in the 125 to 140 kph range. Sharma could possibly be the fastest bowler in the series. @donda - whilst I think England will win, I think you're right that Dhoni will go for the drawn series!

  • dummy4fb on July 21, 2011, 6:47 GMT

    @allenglish_dreamers: WHY SHOULD WE BELIEVE ENGLAND AS A NO.1 TEAM..WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TILL NOW..now days, australia is not a bench mark..beat india in india and take that position..even a weak sri lankan team has defeated australia,and oz was not even interested in playing with them..it was apparent

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