England v West Indies, 1st Test, Lord's, 5th day

Welcome to fortress England

The England team are utterly professional, confident in their skills and exude an air of superiority over touring opposition

Mark Nicholas

May 21, 2012

Comments: 183 | Text size: A | A

James Anderson finally picked up a wicket when he bowled Denesh Ramdin, England v West Indies, 1st Test, Lord's, 4th day, May 20, 2012
England's bowlers, led by James Anderson, are a formidable proposition for any team © Getty Images

In the Test match age of pitch-it-up and swing, England are king. James Anderson is one of the best there has been; Stuart Broad has grown into the idea. Tim Bresnan passed the exam when once upon a time his wide-of-the-crease fast-mediums were only good for the one-day game. In the wings are Graham Onions and Chris Tremlett. Of England's arsenal, only Steve Finn is limited to a shorter length.

With swing bowling comes the edge of the bat and England's slip fielders - usually Andrew Strauss, Graeme Swann and James Anderson - are as convincing as wicketkeeper Matt Prior. Batsmen know this and misjudge at their peril. Improved method and hours of practice have given England an air of superiority over all those who visit these shores. Welcome to fortress England, where the bowlers suffocate, the fielders crow and the batsmen strut. Few England teams can ever have looked so comfortable in their skin.

Ian Bell finished the match with an exquisite on-drive and after a little jig gave the new cap, Jonny Bairstow, one great big hug. The players on the dressing-room balcony stood as one to aplaud themselves. Job done. Phew. Last night they were not so sure. Kemar Roach wound back the West Indian clock to have Strauss caught at slip fending at a fierce short ball. Soon after, nightwatchman James Anderson's glove was brushed by another: 10 for 2 - how Darren Sammy needed another hour on the fourth evening. Passionate cricket comes from confidence. Early on the fifth morning Jonathan Trott was brilliantly held at slip by Sammy off Roach. For a sudden and all-too-brief moment this might have been Viv Richards and Malcolm Marshall in harness, with Greenidge and Haynes, Ambrose and Walsh celebrating the fate of another beaten English batsman. The exuberance, the sheer unbridled joy was the same. The result was not.

England are simply too good for anyone who plays the game predictably. Modern players, coaches and captains talk of "working hard" not of playing intelligently or with more instinct and flair. On the fourth evening Roach and his fellows had 15 minutes to let go and let go they did with nothing to lose. It was fabulous to see but it couldn't last. The fear of failure crushes a team, the legacy of another does it no good. And here am I, talking of Richards and Marshall. How Sammy and co must hate that.

To beat Strauss' team you must think out of the box because he and Andy Flower have prepared them for everything in it. The word professional is often misused, applied to a foul or to meanness, or suggesting dullness. When applied to this England team it means as it should: well-prepared, physically fit, mentally aware (Graham Gooch, now the full-time batting coach loves the phrase: "If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.") England have a team that leave little to chance, a team that understand themselves and the conditions under which they play. They have studied the likely responses of an opponent and, therefore, it is only when an opponent surprises that England shiver. Witness the magic in Saeed Ajmal's wrist and fingers; witness Mahela Jayawardene's patience and skill.

Strauss came good at Lord's by limiting his strokeplay and leaving well alone outside off stump. Ian Bell came good by batting within himself. Alastair Cook won the game by giving nothing, not a single sniff, to the West Indies bowlers. To play so efficiently is not as simple as it may appear. Dressing-rooms are fragile, cricketers are prone to error, the game has tiny margins. One ball Kevin Pietersen smashes to the boundary; with the same stroke from the very next he edges to the wicketkeeper. There is so little between cricket succes and failure that millimetres matter.

"England have found the formula that allows individual freedom of expression within the discipline of team performance - you will never walk alone but at times you will have to"

What England have done especially well is find the formula that allows individual freedom of expression within the discipline of team performance - you will never walk alone but, er, at times you will have to. For this juxtaposition to work, players must fully appreciate their own role and the responsibility to others alongside them. And they must make the right choices at key moments, instinctive choices that turn a game. What is high risk to one, say, Cook, is barely the raise of an eyebrow to another, say, Pietersen. Which is why we thrill at watching Pietersen and the madness of it all but barely notice Cook until we study the scoreboard.

Though the contrast between Pietersen and Cook well illustrates England's compass, it is the bowlers who best complete the wider picture. Four hardcore competitors whose inherent weaknesses are covered by the exaggeration of their strengths. The fast men move the ball, the spinner spins it. All bowl with accuracy, patience and courage. If one is off the case, another is on it. West Indies did well to make 343 in their second innings. Last summer, India's array of stellar batting failed to pass 300 once in four test matches.

Five stern days at Lord's has done no harm, only good. Little lapses in concentration made the game tighter than it might have been and, yes, West Indies have real spirit. But England are getting better. That mace is as safe as a slip catch in the hands of the England captain for a while yet.

Former Hampshire batsman Mark Nicholas is the host of Channel 9's cricket coverage

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Shan156 on (May 25, 2012, 0:01 GMT)

@AdrianVanDenStael, oh our 1990s home performance was way better than the 1980s alright. I mean, 1980s was when I started watching cricket and I wish I didn't:-) I mean, that was the period when we lost like 14 out of 15 tests (and were lucky to get a draw in the other) against the Windies - 9 of these were at home, beaten 0-2 by an Indian team who were known to be terrible travellers - I believe that was India's only away series win in the 1980s, beaten 0-4 by the Aussies (would have been 0-6 if not for the weather), beaten 0-1 by Pakistan and NZ and several other reversals. The only saving graces were the 2-1 series win against India in 1984-1985 and the Ashes win in 1986-1987 apart from the 3-1 home Ashes win in 1981 (Botham's Ashes). My point was that England remained a poor team in the 1990s even though they were better than the 1980s. Surprisingly this happened even though the 90s team was worse than the 80s - might be the decline in standards in general.

Posted by JG2704 on (May 24, 2012, 19:47 GMT)

@TsoroM on (May 24 2012, 10:50 AM GMT) As we have said lots of times before , it doesn't matter how good a side is on paper it's how they perform on the field - and I know Eng were poor in Pak - but if you take that out of the equation England have done significantly better against common opponents in recent years. I like the way you're comparing Strauss and Prior to their SA counterparts , like they were rejected by SA - when they were 6 and 12.

Posted by AdrianVanDenStael on (May 24, 2012, 15:23 GMT)

@Shan156: Not going to argue with you, but it depends on one's relative judgements. In the 1990s England lost 5 series at home, but they also won 5 series at home. That's better than their performance in the years 1986-9 (when they were beaten, and usually thrashed, at home by every then test playing nation with the exception of Sri Lanka), and also better than their away form in the 1990s, where they lost every series except against New Zealand and Zimbabwe (and even Zimbabwe managed to hang on for a draw). That notwithstanding, I still sometimes like RMJ find myself nostalgic for the period in the 1980s and 1990s when England were generally so indifferent. (Incidentally Shan, in discussing England's home ODI form you omitted to note 6-1 defeat by Australia in 2009 and embarrassing loss to Bangladesh in 2010.)

Posted by Shan156 on (May 24, 2012, 14:59 GMT)

@TsoroM, If Kallis is so great, why does he have such a poor record in England? He is consistent alright, but at making poor scores in England (that is why Sachin has got to be the best batsman of modern times - brilliant record everywhere against everyone. Anyway, there could be no question that Kallis is a great batsman and his record in England is just an aberration. You have a point in saying Kallis is a more consistent batsman than KP but ABDV? No way!

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (May 24, 2012, 14:00 GMT)

TsoroM, it will settle things for once and for all... I hope. Before adjustment, any series win will put South Africa comfortably top. If South Africa lose, Englaand will pull away. A draw sees things stay as they are after the West Indies Tests. I believe though that the August adjustment is favourable to England, so we need to see how that pans out. 1-2 to South Africa should be enough though even including the adustmen to ensure #1t. At least after that series there will be no argument who is #1. Since 2003 the series have all be pretty close and pretty tough. I can't see either side winning by more than a single Test. @Rahul, you answered your own question. Of the Tests in those two series the West Indies should have won one and could have won another. The 1-0 result in the Caribbean was not flattering to the West Indies.

Posted by TsoroM on (May 24, 2012, 10:50 GMT)

@ CricketingStargazer, well if you look at these players that could not make SA team. Smith vs Strauss. Smith wins this battle any day, he may not have the prettiest technique, but he scores the runs that wins us matches.Amla vs Trott, both disciplined, but Amla's stoke making is on a class of it's own compared to Trott's. AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis are both better players than KP and much more consistent. And Prior is a brilliant wicketkeeper-batsman, but he would have only made the cut now considering that the end is near for Mark Boucher career. He can come back now. LOL. I hope the above just shows how much talent and class we in SA and that's why these guys would have struggled to make the cut in SA. Personally I think Trott, KP and Prior are good, but Strauss I certainly do not see making a cut into international cricket in SA. Looking forward to the Eng/SA series too. And yes, have fun with the #1 ranking :-)

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (May 24, 2012, 9:39 GMT)


Posted by CricketingStargazer on (May 24, 2012, 6:47 GMT)

Randy, you know how different things seem when seen from the other side! A few weeks back it was you sweating as the West Indies gave Australia an uncomfortable ride, as they had done to India in the previous 12 months. Incidentally, who for you are the South African imports? Even taking the most extreme view I can't get close to half. One wonders what it is that makes players who were not good enough to play for South Africa into world-class players outside... it's a curious question that no one seems to want to face. Anyway, we'll enjoy the #1 ranking for a while yet. I'm looking forward though to the South Africa series and the return in India: the last three series there have been mighty close. Time to shut up the doubters and go one better than Andrew Flintoff did with a side of reserves.

Posted by harshthakor on (May 24, 2012, 4:43 GMT)

England did not win any series on the sub-continent.They lost 3-0 in Pakistan and drew 1-1 in Sri Lanka.A champion team would have convincingly won both the series.Unless a team can dominate opposition on the sub-continent it is not worthy of being called a great team.England were brilliant in certain conditions where they even surpassed achievements of past great teams like West Indies or Australia.However their sub -continent reversals blemish their reputation.

Today there is no champion team in the world,with 3-4 teams closely bunched together.

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (May 24, 2012, 2:49 GMT)

@jb 633 . any english bastmen v/s spin . lolzzzzz.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (May 23, 2012, 20:14 GMT)

Plenty of comments about England being lucky to be #1. It is true. Over the last 30 years no side would have been #1 with England's points, but it says a lot about the standard of the rivals that England could lose 4 consecutive Tests and not lose their #1 ranking. South Africa have had two opportunities to take it away on merit in the last 8 months and missed both of them, which probably says a lot about their mental fragility when faced with an opportunity to reach the top. They did manage to go top twice in the last 10 years and, both times, lost the ranking immediately: the first of them by losing 5 consecutive Tests, the second by going nearly 2 years without winning a series (!!) It will be interesting to see how the South Africans will react to a new opportunity to take over the #1 spot. History is very much against them making it count.

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (May 23, 2012, 20:09 GMT)

Oops your right, I didn't check I just remembered the 1990s results from memory as I was old enough back then, as bad as England were back then I followed them more than the current lot. Somehow an England team that was struggling is more entertaining and comical than an England team always winning how boring is that. England's underdog status in the 1990s made any test series they played especially in the nothern summer very interesting indeed. Would they lose disastrously? Would an atherton or a alec stewart put up a incredible rearguard effort and save the day against far better opposition? Draw a game against much better bowling attacks.Will Graeme Hick and Mark Ramprakash justify their immense talent and hold onto their test places or be thrown back into their familiar world of county cricket. To me any team that wins all the time is just boring. Yes your right about Pakistan, what was I thinking how could a team containing Waqar Younis and Wasim Agkarm not win against England?

Posted by Shan156 on (May 23, 2012, 20:03 GMT)

@AdrianVanDenStael, actually the 90s was a poor decade for England even at home. We lost 2 series against Pakistan, 2 against Australia and 1 against NZ. That is 5 home series losses. Contrast this to India who lost none in that period (well, 1 if you consider the 0-2 loss to SA in 1999-2000) or Australia (who also lost only 1 to the Windies). We also drew a test series against SA and 2 against the Windies.

Posted by Shan156 on (May 23, 2012, 19:58 GMT)

@YorkshirePudding, actually India only drew their home series against SA. They beat SL convincingly home and drew away (in 2010). So, they have one drawn series and won the rest in the last 3 or 4 years. I got to accept that they have the best home record of all teams when you consider series results. England have won more tests but the one series loss against SA places them below India when it comes to home record. Also, SA won 2-1 against us in 2008 not 3-1. The other test was the Lord's draw which England dominated for long periods.

Posted by Shan156 on (May 23, 2012, 18:18 GMT)

I wish people would open their eyes about Jimmy's recent test performance outside England. Indian fans keep referring to WC 2011 and claim that Jimmy is poor outside. First of all, it was in ODIs and you would find no England fan who would claim that Jimmy is a great, even good, ODI bowler. It is tests we are talking about and while Jimmy had a mediocre start when it came to away tests, he has improved dramatically in recent years. Look at his performance in the Ashes in Australia, against Pakistan in the UAE and against SL in SL (where he previously averaged over 80 or something like that). Tell us Aravind, how is it "obvious" that Jimmy is a poor test bowler outside England? Do you have any stats to back it up or you just feel that way?

Posted by AdrianVanDenStael on (May 23, 2012, 18:16 GMT)

@RohanMarkJay_TestCricketRules: while I actually think you've got a point in suggesting the recent success of England at home is being exaggerated because England usually have had fairly decent results at home (except perhaps for 1986-9), your listing actually overstates England's home success in the 1990s, because you've given them better results against Pakistan than they deserved. England lost the 1992 test series against Pakistan 2-1, rather than drawing it, and they lost the 1996 series 2-0 to Pakistan, not 1-0. Or perhaps you drew up that list of results using the special Darryl Hair system for determining the result whenever England and Pakistan play a test match at the Oval :)

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (May 23, 2012, 16:40 GMT)

Just to make the ranking situation clear (too much noise below). A 3-0 to England will earn them 2 points. However, if South Africa then win their series by any margin, they will go top. Any other result will leave England top, even before the rankings are revised in August. The joker in the pack is Pakistan who could leapfrog India with a win against Sri Lanka. A big win would put then only 0.1 points behind Australia.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (May 23, 2012, 13:56 GMT)

@Greatest_Game, I agree to a point BUT England have not lost or Drawn a series at home since SA were here in 2008, that is three years, no other team as the same home record over the same period. SA have drawn at least 4 series home series, india again have drawn at least 2 home series (vs SL and SA), Aus have lost 1 home series heavily and only managed a draw against NZ of all teams. NZ, lost a number od series, WI's 8 test wins in the last 81 says it all, Pakistan may be the only competator to england although they did draw against aus in a 'Home Series' in England.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (May 23, 2012, 13:44 GMT)

@Marcio, how did England struggle, they successfully chased them Chased 191 runs in under 2 sessions (a little over 42 overs), add on that all the commentators were saying this was very good batting track and it didnt even look as though it was going to break up.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (May 23, 2012, 13:34 GMT)

@TheOnlyEmperor, Actually only Trott is of non-english stock, ecept for his Grandparents, Strauss, Prior, and KP all have at least one English Parent, so Technically only 4 of the XI players were born outside of the UK, 2 of them have been in the us since before they were teens, and 2 moved here to pursue a professional career. Sorry the weathers not upto your approval, but it adds interest to the game and we dont sit in sweltering cages alike they do in some subcontinent countries.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (May 23, 2012, 13:25 GMT)

@djdrastic, I thought it was 3-1 in the summer of 2008 not 2-1, as for the series in SA, in at least one test the likes of Morkle and Steyn had 180 overs to get england out...It should be a good later half of the summer this year, especially now that SA have Philander (exceptional Talent, but not doing well in county cricket at the moment). Both teams are about even, in terms of strengths and weaknesses so I can see it being a close series.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (May 23, 2012, 13:18 GMT)

@OliverWebber, sadly the people you make reference to are the type that wouldnt give a player a standing ovation on a milestone, or even the ovation Lords gave Chanderpaul as he walked off after getting out in the 90's, or the types of Ovations SRT recieved ALL Last year in England as he walked to and from the crease...Personally I do like correcting some of the errors like thinking form in ODI & T20 cricket is the same as having Form in Test Cricket. Both Broad and Anderson have had exceptional bowling stats, home and away, over the last 2 years, Broad has been sub 25 for 2 years and anderson sub 28 for the same period, last year included bowling against what is arguably the best batting line up in test cricket.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (May 23, 2012, 12:59 GMT)

@RohanMarkJay_TestCricketRules, in the 90's England where dire, they may win or draw a series but they were never convincing winners, which is why this england team is better than then. In the 90's England had an overall W/L ratio of 0.6, in the 2000's that was 1.48, in this decade its now 2.62. thats a marked improvement if you ask me and shows why they are better than the 90's teams.

Posted by Meety on (May 23, 2012, 12:45 GMT)

jmcilhinney on (May 23 2012, 04:50 AM GMT) - "...if any, England fans claiming that this England team are great..." (you might not) but.... need to read hillbhumper, ooohmatty, sir freddie, front foot lunge, & a few others.

Posted by Beertjie on (May 23, 2012, 12:04 GMT)

"The big deal about England" is the fact of not having ANYTHING worth crowing over for so long, @ Abdullah Ayaan Zulfiquar! I remember an over-hyped piece by Dobell ranking the England team of 6 months ago among the top 5 of all time! So Mark is getting in his hype BEFORE the Saffer series so he can write these triumphalist words - that's a poseur for you. Actually, you picked the exact description, Amit Gaharwar. I guess Darren Rickard would say I'm one of the many "bitter Australian supporters who refuse to accept England's current superiority", but I'm not. I'm glad to see close Ashes series in prospect in the foreseeable future. Where England are good is in the balance of their attack. Swann is a real plus, when added to the swing bowlers. But many teams have decent swing bowlers and SA have the best + some great batters, so I'll be really surprised if they don't win. But they need to beware of Swann.

Posted by TsoroM on (May 23, 2012, 11:54 GMT)

@jmcilhinney, it really does not matter where the test series between Pakistan and England was, the fact remains England were whitewashed and that alone is good enough reason to suggest that England is not as good as most "English" people think. It is such arrogance, boastful and quite frankly naive outlook that will see England slip below South Africa and Australia in the rankings within the next 3 years starting at the end of the upcoming SA/England series in July. Because Australia may still be trying to find the combinations in their top and middle batting orders, but SA have established their. And far as seamers go, Steyn, Philander and Morkel are the best combo right now. The only difference is Swann, who I currently regard as the best spin bowler in test cricket (because I have not seen Ajmal really make it happen outside Asia)

Posted by TsoroM on (May 23, 2012, 11:28 GMT)

Easy on the superlatives people, not when talking about England! Can we all just calm down a litte here. Let's look at the most recent England test series records, they whitewashed India at home. There's nothing special about that. Australia did the same to India in their home soil, so we can say India are whipping boys away from home. Next UAE, England were whitewashed by Pakistan. They then went on to draw a series in Sri Lanka and now they have won a test match against the Windies who have not won a test in 30 matches! And all of sudden, we starting hearing words like "Fotress!" For me India and England are the worst travelling teams in the 2011/12 season by their standards! South Africa are currently regarded as the best travelling team, so can we wait for the SA tour to England to be completed first then we can have this discussion again.

Posted by yunaimin on (May 23, 2012, 11:16 GMT)

Private Eye could run a 'Westindiesballs' column filled with spurious mentions of former WI greats in articles about the current team. Every article about WI on here seems to mention one or more, without any pretence of relevance.

Posted by joseyesu on (May 23, 2012, 10:23 GMT)

End drained Ind with their long batting order, whereas Ind are tired with the aged players. Currently SA and End are the 2 best teams and SA still better when touring outside

Posted by zenboomerang on (May 23, 2012, 10:01 GMT)

@SirViv1973 :- "Broad, Anderson & Finn if he plays all bowl regularly in the high 80s & often pepper 90, There's no one out there in test cricket who bowls consistently quicker and accurately other than maybe Steyn"... & you also say "Anyone who knows anything about test cricket"... Try again mate... Anderson rarely gets to 85mph & often is as low as 77mph probably around 80-83mph most of the time depending on conditions... I can quickly think of a dozen fast bowlers that are quicker & as accurate, but as they say - speed isn't everything - but the skill & execution that is the most important... Unless you are Thommo :P...

Posted by jb633 on (May 23, 2012, 9:47 GMT)

Suresh Raina vs the short ball lolzzzzzzzzz. Any Indian vs swing lolzzzzzz

Posted by OliverWebber on (May 23, 2012, 9:38 GMT)

@ RohanMarkJay_TestCricketRules on (May 22 2012, 23:35 PM GMT) Of course it's easy to forget good performances of the past and you're right to flag up some of the wins of the 1990s; but the progress since then is remarkable if you actually look at the stats of their home record:

1990s: won 17 lost 20 drawn 20 2000s: won 38 lost 15 drawn 17 2010s so far: won 11 lost 1 drawn 2

So in the 90s they still lost more games than they won at home!

Their away record is nothing like as good - but has still improved dramatically since the 1990s: 1990s: won 9 lost 23 drawn 18 2000s: won 17 lost 22 drawn 20 2010s so far: won 6 drawn 6 lost 2

So this decade they have (at last!) achieved parity between wins and losses, which while not great is a massive improvement on the awful 90s!

The way forward for this team has got to be improving their away record, especially in spinning conditions - still a big hole in their armour. But I still think the author's point about their home record is a fair one

Posted by indiarox4ever on (May 23, 2012, 9:14 GMT)

Mark Nicholas is no Shelly or Keats. His gloating over the Fortress England does put him in that category though. 'Pure Imagination' with not an iota of truth. Funnily enough it comes after the 3-0 thumping in UAE and a near repeat in SL. The victory over WI was not exactly a cakewalk. A couple of hours before victory was achieved the team was not sure about reaching the target. SOME FORTRESS

Posted by OliverWebber on (May 23, 2012, 8:34 GMT)

@Aravind: I agree with you that it is premature to call this England team "great"; I think they are very good, and exceptional in England (which is after all what this article is about). But Anderson has performed very well in tests abroad in recent years, actually: eg 24 wkts at 26 in the Ashes 2010-11; 9 wkts @ 21 in SL this year; even 9 wkts @ 27 in UAE when England lost heavily. So it's not at all "obvious" that he can't bowl outside England - on the contrary! His one day record is a different matter - he's certainly not as successful there. It only goes to show how skill and success in one format is not necessarily a guide to success in another!

Posted by Valavan on (May 23, 2012, 8:12 GMT)

@Aravind mantravadi, what was that, you didnt watch the recent concluded Eng Vs SL series, Anderson is among wickets, in Ashes 2010, he is among wickets. And ye in WC India hammered England and got back the hammering in the same match, it was a tie, one of match for anderson, then what sehwag, gambhir does, they make big 200s in India and doesnt cross 30s out of subcontinent. When did india became great team so to have a decline, ODI WC Championship isnt a yardstick to measure greatness, You know when did India whitewashed England in 1993, then england was also in a decline. haha just pathetic attitude from all you guys, come once again to england and make sure not to get whitewashed. cricinfo please publish.

Posted by neo-galactico on (May 23, 2012, 7:23 GMT)

A team can have a great player without being a great team, but it cannot be a great team cannot be great without GREAT PLAYERS. And thus, do England have any great players? KP has tailed off from the once promising future great, Anderson and Broad average over 30 with the ball, and the benchmark for a great bowler is under 25. Swanny is probably the best (or Ajmal but hasn't played in pace pitches and dominated) of a bad lot of spinners. There has been an improvement in the pace department amongst most teams (surprisingly even India), but the dearth of world-class and even emerging spinners is bare. Cook is monotonous but he can be Dravid-esque in his occupation of the crease. And the rest just aren't good enough to be close to great.

Posted by Sivaaditya on (May 23, 2012, 6:50 GMT)

Hubris, Hypocrite, Hilarious!!!

Posted by   on (May 23, 2012, 5:10 GMT)

Yes England are a good team but not a great one. It is obvious Anderson can't bowl anywhere except for England (he got hammered in the world cup in India by India and Netherlands of all teams!) and cook, trott and pietersen are the only very good batsman that they have. They have had the fortune to play against two big teams that were on the decline: Australia and India. They will soon find their place in world cricket: at number 5 in the icc rankings.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (May 23, 2012, 4:50 GMT)

@Cantbowlcantbat on (May 23 2012, 01:52 AM GMT), that seems to be a common criticism but I don't many, if any, England fans claiming that this England team are great. In fact many, myself included, have specifically stated that England are good but not great. Should we not be proud of being as good or better than everyone else at the moment? Is a good batsman not be be commended because he isn't as good as Bradman?

Posted by Udendra on (May 23, 2012, 4:45 GMT)

yeah, Green top bullies...!

Posted by jmcilhinney on (May 23, 2012, 4:22 GMT)

@SirViv1973 on (May 22 2012, 23:15 PM GMT), that is rather amusing. England beat India 4-0 regardless of anything else. If England are as rubbish as some India fans would have us believe then doesn't that make India's crushing loss even worse? If I got beaten badly then I'd prefer to tell people it was by the best opposition there is rather than saying that the opposition that the opposition I failed miserably against was rubbish.

Posted by Cantbowlcantbat on (May 23, 2012, 1:52 GMT)

More triumphalist hubris from the Brits. 2 minutes of sunshine after months of gloom and they are the greatest team that ever walked the planet. England is just a good, workman-like team that has been fortunate to peak during the decline of OZ and India.

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (May 22, 2012, 23:35 GMT)

Yes I agree Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower have done a marvellous job in resurrecting England's fortunes after a bad few years from 2006 to 2009 and continueing the things that Duncan flether and Nasser Husain started in summer of 2000 after being last in test table in 1999 for England team. Yes they have gone to the top of the test table and have a good captain in Strauss coach flower. I agree they are very good team at home in their own conditions. However why is this team special. The much derided England teams of the 1990s except being beaten by Australia and a bad summer 1999 were also very good in their own conditions. Here is a stat of the Eng team of the 1990s in the nothern summer. 1990 Eng-NZ 1-0, Eng-Ind 1-0. 1991 Eng-WI 2-2 , 1992 Eng-Pak 2-2. 1994 Eng-NZ 1-0, Eng-St Africa 1-1,1995 Eng-WI 2-2, 1996 Eng-Ind 1-0, Eng-Pak (lost to Pakistan 1-0), Eng-SthAfrica 2-1. Eng-SL (lost one off test Oval).So tell me whats so special about this Eng team? Eng are a good team. Not great.

Posted by SirViv1973 on (May 22, 2012, 23:15 GMT)

I find it a bit strange why there are so many indian fans on here who now support South Africa!

Posted by SirViv1973 on (May 22, 2012, 23:04 GMT)

@Sinhaya, I think you need to look at the facts re last years series and Eng won it! Eng were pretty well placed in the other 2 games but there is no way of us knowing the outcome due to the weather. To be honest what your saying is the same as me saying Eng would have won the recent series in SRL if there had been a 3rd test, just let it go man.

Posted by yorkshirematt on (May 22, 2012, 22:42 GMT)

@Oliver Webber I agree with you 100% Until I started looking at this site I had no idea cricket supporters could be so angry with each other. I always thought that cricket lovers were just that, because the game of cricket demands a higher level of intelligence and respect for each other (even aussies) than other sports. Unfortunately I see no intelligence whatsoever from the regular contributors on here.

Posted by SirViv1973 on (May 22, 2012, 22:37 GMT)

@Marcio, Its funny that your an Ind fan but you use just about every other team in the world game to have a go at Eng, Anyone who knows anything about test cricket can see that the only seam attack in the game to rival Eng's is SAF. Aus is nowhere near at the moment as I told you last week Hilfenhaus & Siddle were blasted out of the team by Eng Batsmen 18 mths ago Cummins, Starc & pattinson are all promising but have just started & all still need to be educated before they are anywhere near the top of the test rankings and the biggest joke of all is how can you compare Pak with any of the other 3 in terms of seam bowling yes Gul is a good bowler in Asian conditions but they have no other proven test class fast bowlers available to them & even Gul is not the quickest! Broad, Anderson & Finn if he plays all bowl regularly in the high 80s & often pepper 90, Theres no one out there in test cricket who bowls consistently quicker and accurately other than maybe Steyn

Posted by yorkshirematt on (May 22, 2012, 22:34 GMT)

Remember the days when we were rubbish and the Ashes were THE most important prize? when nothing else mattered exept that we had won the Ashes and beaten the old enemy. Everything seemed so much simpler back then. Win against other teams fair enough we'd take it or leave it but Australia, that's who we needed to beat. Now we have these rankings that apparently mean sooooo much, at least to those in India anyway. Funnily enough I never used to mind India, and I still do have the utmost respect for their once great players, but their fans..........Well i'm not going to say what I think of them and their "opinions as I want this to be published. To me the Ashes are still worth far more than the no.1 ranking ever will, until a proper outright test championship is formed. Even if england lose to SA and India later this year, none of that would matter to me if we retained the Ashes twice next year.

Posted by Shan156 on (May 22, 2012, 22:23 GMT)

@Kirstenfan, no, Smith didn't win two series against England. He has won 1 away series (2008) and drawn another (2003). You may also be surprised to know that he has also lost one home series (2004-2005) and drawn another (2009-2010). So, the record is pretty equal between England and SA. SA will be a mighty test for England and if SA win, then they will deserve the #1 ranking but if they lose, then hopefully, that will silence the critics for a while (at least, till the India tour in the winter).

@Abdullah Ayaan Zulfiquar, Perhaps, the big deal is England has not been this dominant even at home for a long time now and it has got nothing to do with other teams' home records. Would that make you happy?

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 22:13 GMT)

I really hope Finn gets a shot in the next test in place of Bresnan. Finn has so much potential and has real Steyn level pace.

Posted by SirViv1973 on (May 22, 2012, 22:11 GMT)

@popcorn like your fellow member of the I hate Eng gang Mr Arif, you have failed to grasp that the column is about Eng at home! As for this WI team didn't they tie a test match in Ind a few mths ago ? As for the WI IPL contingent Perhaps Gayle would have made a difference but Bravo & Pollard couldn't have both played due to the teams balance, had one of them played he would have batted at 6 instead of Samuels, who despite the critiscm I & many others gave him on these board last week hit 86 & got KP out, not sure Bravo or Pollard would have done any better in this particular match, As for Narine he is a talent but he is yet to play a test & on a surface where even Swann struggled I just cannot see how he would have made a bigger impact than Gabriel who he would have played in place of, who incidently had a fine debut. KP does put country b4 club his priorty has always been Eng and his short jaunt to Ind was with Eng blessing and had no impact on his international commitments

Posted by subbass on (May 22, 2012, 21:58 GMT)

Oh and the likes of Broad and Anderson have taken their wickets at under 25 in the last few years, so to judge them on their overall records might be a mistake.

Recent form over 12 months is the key and is why England are a top quality TEST side. Usual laughable comments about ODI form been an indicator of Test form also, still, gives me a chuckle if nothing else.

Back to the IPL and may you see many DLF maximums !

Leave the REAL cricket talk to people who know what they are talking about. :p

Posted by subbass on (May 22, 2012, 21:53 GMT)

kasyapm on (May 22 2012, 12:33 PM GMT)

This is the most balanced view on here. I guess most the negative comments about England are coming from kids under 18, bless em ! :)

That said Nicholas is often guilty of hyperbole and it is not right to start using words like 'fortress; just yet, nor is it right to say the number 1 ranking is safe. SA could easily beat us, just as we could them. The fact it is a 3 Test series means that the side with the most luck is likely to come out on top. Unless of course there is a 2-0 or 3-0 win for either side. If that happens then whoever achieves this will have fully deserved the ranking that follows.

Still a shame that we can't have at least 4 Test matches, in reality it should be a 5 Test series, never mind 4. Oh well 3 it is and may the best team win as oppose to the luckiest. And this is not a 'pre packed' excuse, just an honest opinion !

Plz publish !

Posted by Green_How on (May 22, 2012, 21:48 GMT)

@greatestgame - sorry mate, of course English writers are going to write positive stories about them, because they are the best team in the world. This is what the rankings are for !! Your bitterness does you no favours, i promise you England and their jounos will be gracious if and i emphasis if, SA come and beat England in their own backyard. Sadly you are unable to show such graciousness. Finally England does have some truly great players, KP, Jimmy and Broad - and if you can't see that, you really havent been watching England over the past 5 years or you simply don't understand the game. Sorry to pick on you individually but i am sick of the bitterness directed at the greatest England team i have ever seen.

Posted by A_Vacant_Slip on (May 22, 2012, 21:46 GMT)

@Valavan on (May 22 2012, 18:08 PM GMT) - TOTALLY solid comment!! So tiresome to read India comedian on our thread. Why do they come -? to tell us of India great tale from 5 or more years ago!! YAWN... I get so tired of it! Keep posting man! You make me laugh every time!

Posted by Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (May 22, 2012, 20:43 GMT)

I read Mark's article as saying that at home particularly England concentrate on being dependable, solid, repeatable , determined , cussed, metronomic zzzzzzzzzzz and BORE their opponents into submission. They have worked out that most opponents in this era lack the patience and technique to deal with this dry style and lack the talent to rise above as teams like the Windies and Australia did for extended periods when they would visit and destroy the dead-eyed county journeymen through force of talent. These days some solid English pro's and hard headed S Africans have been melded by Andy Flower into a steamroller of crushing inevitable victory.

Posted by JG2704 on (May 22, 2012, 20:39 GMT)

@Amit Gaharwar on (May 22 2012, 05:00 AM GMT) Just want to pick you up on something - not that you'll respond - SA's home record isn't that great. Ok they might not have lost at home for a few years but most of their home series (which is basically most of their series) have been draws. Also didn't Australia win in SL last year and even Eng have only lost one away test series in recent years. India deserved to be number 1 because they built up a load of ranking points just like Eng deserve to be number 1 now and SA will deserve to be at 1 when they trounce Eng as it's obviously a foregone conclusion. By the way this is an England thread - if you don't like it stick to IPL/India. BTW why do you think Poms loathed India being number 1? Not every nation has a chip on it's shoulder

Posted by OliverWebber on (May 22, 2012, 20:35 GMT)

Unfortunately a lot of people have misunderstood the title of this article - understandable if English is their second language. It's referring to a fortress - ie, a *place* that is very strongly defended, *not* the people (ie the team). So the article is making the very same point so angrily put by many - that England are particularly good at home, but less so away from home. That said, why all the hostility? We're all cricket lovers - can't we just recognise good cricket and acknowledge it? I'm an England fan but it was a pleasure to watch Chanderpaul bat - equally to watch Roach bowl on Sunday evening (albeit a nervous one!). I don't understand why people feel the need to be so angry with each other about this!

Posted by JG2704 on (May 22, 2012, 20:34 GMT)

@Jonathan Jono Lane on (May 22 2012, 12:59 PM GMT) Simple answer. Vs Australia in the final test in 2005. That's if you don't want to give him credit for pushing the game forward for the SL win. That 2005 test was as big as it gets for England and won then back the Ashes for the 1st time in ages

Posted by Sehcrap on (May 22, 2012, 20:14 GMT)

Here we go again........ The mghty Poms win one test against the MIGHT West Indies and they're the best thing since um... Vernon Philander! Fact, this tour will result in the 3rd successive English Cap sacking.. Bye Bye Strauss!! If Steyn doesnt get you, Philander will!

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 20:03 GMT)

Nicholas may be sounding off on this one a little too early. I do not think that England are better than SA in any facet of the game besides for Swann. However, Swann was outbowled by Panesar in the UAE so his confidence may not be what it should. As for the seam bowling stakes, SA have a better all round attack and while Anderson is a very good bowler he is decidedly second to Steyn. Philander has Bresnan's number in my opinion and i would pick Morkel in my team before Broad in all formats in all conditions. Lastly, I am unconvinced that Strauss and Bell are confident enough to make consistent runs against the SA attack. KP always implodes in the test arena against SA even when he is playing well as they know how to goad him. Bairstow will be playing his 4th test match at best which means he is untested. Fortress England.... perhaps not

Posted by FreddyForPrimeMinister on (May 22, 2012, 19:31 GMT)

Some laughable comments as usual. The article refers to England playing in England - so it's utterly irrelevant what has happened elsewhere. As for the matter of who "should be" no.1, it's going to be a fantastic battle between two excellent teams. I can't actually split either bowling attacks (Steyn just shades Jimmy; Broad is better than Morkle; Philander looks superb but it's early days yet; Swann is better than Tahir) and the batting (including both wicketkeepers) looks very even too - whoever comes in at 6 for England may just be the difference either way, though England's tail is very strong. Personally, I can't wait and if people would put their ethnic biases to one side, we can all enjoy what should be a momentous (if too short!) series.

Posted by Kirstenfan on (May 22, 2012, 19:15 GMT)

Just remember that Graeme Smith has only captained SA in England twice, and in addition to winning two series, has also ended two England captain's careers - Hussain in 2003 and Vaughan in 2008 - how about the hattrick with Strauss in 2012?!? Bring. It. On.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (May 22, 2012, 18:46 GMT)

Yes - ENG are "well-prepared, physically fit, & mentally aware." This due to exceptional support from coaches, trainers, management, & a mature, stable, & very capable board. Strauss' astute captaincy capitalized on this & ENG flourished, with a brief run of success. BUT, they have not DOMINATED, are not world beaters & are no. 1 by only a tiny percentage. English journos totally misread the wins over IND & AUS, & churn out writing with dubious claims & patriotic hyperbole. Days ago McGlashen claimed Anderson the equal to Steyn! Sorry, stats are undeniable. Steyn MAY ultimately rank with the greats but Anderson won't, & is not, as this writer claims, "one of the best there has been." ENG have no truly outstanding players, no Tendulkar, no Kallis, no Murali, & this endless hype both alienates readers & could prove to be this team's undoing if the players believe what is being written. Please, face facts. ENG are a good team that took some time to build. A fortress takes a lot longer!

Posted by Valavan on (May 22, 2012, 18:08 GMT)

@serious-am-i, oh ye the same SA team which allowed Australia to level the series and the same SA team that gave a comeback to samaraweera and herath in home soil, dont jump before it has really happened, SA is just another team to get it gunned down in our fortress, so when we do it, we just have our word fortress justified similar to Bridgetown for the windies of 80s. We play as a team, once we contribute that will end any team with superstars. Bring on SA, India, pakistan, australia, come to england to get gunned down by our soldiers in OUR PROUD FOrTRESS. cricinfo please publish.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 17:53 GMT)

@Valavan - do not be so sure mate about what your team is going to do in India this winter! You would be in for a surprise!! At home, we are as good as any, Ajmal or no Ajmal.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (May 22, 2012, 17:16 GMT)

@neo-galactico, you see this is where you miss the point, its not about whether they make the 'all-time' greats list, we already have a number of players there already its about how they play for england in the present.....@Jonathan Jono Lane, Lets see, the ton in SL earlier this year, the DOUBLE ton against india at Lords last year, The Double ton at Adelaide in 2010, the 100 against australia in 2005, and those are just the ones that I can remember off the top of my hed, im sure there are others.

Posted by yorkshirematt on (May 22, 2012, 16:54 GMT)

@indiarocks for some lass called eva (apparently) If you're going to criticise england's players please provide some reasons to back your argument. Why should Prior retire? At the moment there is no better keeper batsman in test cricket. Dhoni's batting is alright but his keeping is shocking, same with Haddin. Maybe Boucher but he is "on his last legs" as you would put it or sangakkara (if he still keeps wicket) As for SA well they couldn't even beat your lot at home so I don't see what the big deal with them is.

Posted by HumungousFungus on (May 22, 2012, 16:48 GMT)

Mark's point is well made. England do not leave anything to chance in Test cricket. All of the possible variables will have been assessed, and, as he says, players are put in a position where they can express themselves and their talent whatever the situation. They are also better than any current Test team at building pressure, either through excellent fielding, running between the wickets, or bowling maidens. It takes something very out of the ordinary (Ajmal, Jayawardene, Amir) to push them off their stride, and very few teams have the ability to do that consistently. Whilst I fully expect SA to challenge England this Summer, the SA batsmen will be under just as much pressure as England's, and although I expect Philander, particularly, and Steyn to have success in English conditions, I suspect that neither Morkel nor Tahir are up to the job off keeping the pressure on England once the openers have finished.

Posted by Sinhaya on (May 22, 2012, 16:46 GMT)

@patz101, you can talk big with your imagination but no way was Sri Lanka going to lose at Lords and Southampton last year. We were on course to win at Lords if not for rain. Dilshan's 193 was the greatest knock of the 2011 England summer and if not for his injury and rain disruption, we would have posted a bigger total. Also, Southampton's game was perfectly in Sri Lanka's favor with Samaraweera's 87 not out when rain came. No one could stop Sri Lanka from even winning that. No way did rain save Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka are a great test team and that was why we beat South Africa in December last year South Africa.

Posted by Shan156 on (May 22, 2012, 16:18 GMT)

@serious-am-i, when was the last time India won a test series in Australia? Or South Africa? Never. Period.

Posted by Shan156 on (May 22, 2012, 16:17 GMT)

@Jonathan Jono Lane, you might want to look at the scorecard of the 3rd test in NZ in 2008. KP came in at a hopeless position, scored a ton, and won the test for England. Or, more recently, the 2nd test in SL.

Posted by Shan156 on (May 22, 2012, 16:14 GMT)

@AdrianVanDenStael, while England's recent ODI record at home is not great, it isn't poor either. We have won bilateral series against all nations except NZ. 4-0 against SA, 3-0 against India, 3-2 against Pakistan, SL, and Australia, and 2-0 against the Windies. We only lost 1-3 to NZ and that was in 2008. Not too shabby, I guess.

Posted by Shan156 on (May 22, 2012, 16:01 GMT)

@Rahul_78, Sri Lanka did not beat England - the series was drawn 1-1. That expression suits India better than any other team. @Nitinn Singhal, you still don't get it, do you? Mark refers to England as "Fortress". And, it is true - England have not just beaten opponents at home, they have vanquished them. Personally, I would hold using that term till the end of this summer. If we beat SA, then, yes, England would be a fortress since we would have beaten all teams at home. No other team would have such a formidable home record. India's home record, atm, is better as they have only drawn with SA and defeated everyone else.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 16:00 GMT)

The only way to even consider calling England a fortress is once SA has played them. Match up played for player with the only exception on Matt Prior but Boucher having played 100 Tests more can one actually compare? and SA have quite a large upper hand. Captains : G.Smith ave 49.64..24 x 100s. A.Strauss ave 41.26..20 x 100s. Top and middle orders : Amla ave 46.94..14 x 100s. Trott ave 51.95..7 x 100s. J Kallis ave 56.78..42 x 100s. K.Pietersen ave 48.89..20 x 100s. AB de Villiers ave 49.16..13 x 100s. I.Bell ave 47.18..16 x 100s. Bowlers : D.Steyn ave 23.18..272 wickets. J.Anderson ave 30.30..261 wickets. M.Morkel ave 30.02..139 wickets. S.Broad ave 30.12..158 wickets. V.Philander ave 14.15..51 wickets. T.Bresnan ave 26.88..44 wickets. I.Tahir ave 37.05..18 wickets. G.Swann ave 28.11..185 wickets. I think the two points to look at is SA's huge advantage on Test matches played and people underestimating Imran Tahir who has only played 7 Test matches so far..

Posted by serious-am-i on (May 22, 2012, 15:34 GMT)

@a_vacant_slip: calm down mister. May be can we recall the Eng v Ind ODI series in India just after the abysmal Indian performance in Eng ? Who were white washed ? Eng went down 5 - 0. Period. That's how good is Eng in subcontinent. Eng were never really tested in England with quality pacemen only over then you prove you are superior even in tests. Just wait for SAF to arrive, we will see how good this English side is in backyard.. Australia had done it day in and day out when they were no.1, they never lost any series 5-0 in any format during their prime time. You guys struggled against Pak in UAE, what's ur reason for that is only batting ? Wow!!! Yes, agreed Indian team over all performance in Eng was pathetic but rewind to the previous Indian tour of England ? Indian won the 3 match test series 1-0. When was the last time England won a test series in India ?? In 1984 ??

Posted by AKS286 on (May 22, 2012, 15:22 GMT)

cook, suppiah, strauss, trott,bell, taylor, prior, swann, onion, broad, anderson.

Posted by applethief on (May 22, 2012, 15:18 GMT)

@Graeme Smith: "spirit & management"? Don't you mean "$pirit and mana£ement"?

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 15:02 GMT)

winter is coming , so is bitter defeat on dust bowls . Please re read article in december for much amusement.

Posted by Yevghenny on (May 22, 2012, 15:02 GMT)

I can't believe how precious people are whenever England team get credit. Especially when you consider England fans and people in the media are always quick to praise the opposition and give credit where it is due. Even during the years Australia battered England, you couldn't help but appreciate you were seeing some fine cricketers play the game the way it should be. Detractors keep moving the goalpoasts to determine what makes a top class side, and instead of comparing to other current sides, resort to comparing to legendary sides. For example, to some, England still have to prove themselves away from home, despite their ahses thumping where they weren't even tipped to take 20 wickets in a match!

Posted by jackiethepen on (May 22, 2012, 14:39 GMT)

Lots of yah boo sucks around. What is the point? England have a good team and so have the rest of the world it seems. In the next couple of years they will all play each other and win or lose games. If they are all competitive and fought in the right spirit then we will all enjoy the cricket won't we? I'm an England supporter but I really like this Windies side. I think they have spirit. It was testing for the players and that is how it should be. Really looking forward to Trent Bridge. I think we have a fight on our hands. Great.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (May 22, 2012, 14:24 GMT)

@AdamDthecricketer on (May 22 2012, 10:18 AM GMT), that's the same SA that recently lost home Tests to both SL and Australia, right? The same SA who were bowled out for 168 by SL and 96 by Australia, right? Unfortunately for SA, while they have been more consistent away, they have been less consistent at home. Welcome to fortress SA? Apparently not. The last series between the two, in SA, was drawn, with both teams managing to beat the other by an innings. Hardly convincing evidence of an impending defeat. I think that the series is likely to be one of the most even for a while.

Posted by mathewjohn2176 on (May 22, 2012, 14:16 GMT)

Posted by A_Vacant_Slip on (May 22 2012, 10:57 AM GMT) LOL,whole world know how England are outside England ( except last ashes in aus) recently got whitewashed in UAE,No series win in India for a decade ,Rubbish in one day cricket,oh no single odi world cup until nw.England are terribly bad outside entire world knows this and more than anyone you know this.Publish please.

Posted by Valavan on (May 22, 2012, 14:11 GMT)

@Arnab banerjee, i can just laugh of your phanthom. SA never dominated England since readmission although they seem to have potent pace attack according to may sour Indian fans who still cannot digest the whitewash of previous summer. If SA have so potent bowlers, why didnt they dominate australia/SL with their bowling. Young Indian lineup will get bashing all around the world if they dont find another dravid. @Amit Bhatnagar, we will see if india really woke up when they travel out of subcontinent next time, Can all you guys say who ever won in Australia won 3 tests other than mighty Windies of 80s. Aussie fans and others who are against England after loosing 7 out of last 10 tests, still calling to be a better bowling attack than England. In UAE as well it was our batters who flopped but our bowlers were able to pick up 50 wickets, we will come to India in winter, show your colours or circus, we are ready to take up India in india. India have no ajmal. cricinfo please publish.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (May 22, 2012, 14:05 GMT)

Who won the last time SA toured 'the Fortress' England? Oh, that's right...

Posted by indiarox4ever on (May 22, 2012, 14:04 GMT)

This English side is pretty ordinary with the exception of Alistair Cook,Trott, KP and Chris Broad. Jimmy Anderson and Swann are definitely OVERRATED. Ian bell was doing well in the past but now he looks depressed with his wretched form. Bresnan-Lucky, Matt Prior- should retire, Strauss-on last leg No doubt about SA though. No superstars, but very well balanced side that will very soon end England's rather desperate stay at No.1.

Posted by CricketMaan on (May 22, 2012, 13:41 GMT)

With intrest and commercials on Test cricket going down, the only teams that will be left playing Tests in 6-8 yrs from now are England and Australia, may be will be joined by SA..Test is slowly dying in the rest of the world..its only a matter of time before its done and dusted in all other countries. I can assure its certainly dead in India..No one has time for watching Tests and with the team in shambles its made it easier for the public to igonre Test cricket.

Posted by CricketMaan on (May 22, 2012, 13:37 GMT)

I will agree to whatever is written when England wrap it 4-0 in India later this year..until then yes this a very good attack!!! though I doubt India can beat England 4-0 this winter..even if they win it might be something like 2-1.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (May 22, 2012, 13:36 GMT)

The great difference between English and Australian attacks is that Eng have pitch up & swing bowlers, Aus have pitch up and don't swing bowlers. ( Or the one who does swing it-H'haus-does it from the hand.) The other bowlers are straight up and down f/m journeymen( Siddle, Harris,Starc),using well out of date radar-Johnson, or back to the sheds after a couple of spells- Cummins, Pattinson. There is another who's claim to fame is his toupe_Bollinger.And the spin dept. is Lyon,Beer and Doherty. Comedy i believe. As for India, they are in cricket crunch down. Gridlock will be next Nov. They lack the flair of Pak with the ball or even SL. Look at Ashwin in Aus. Already a burden on the side.

Posted by RandyOZ on (May 22, 2012, 13:02 GMT)

It is these sorts of ridiculous articles that get players OBEs before being whitewashed 5-0 by far better teams. England are so terrible at cricket they have to import half their team. Almost smashed by the 8th ranked team and the fans still crowing? Laughable. Welcome back @landl47 @5wombats @jmc - we missed you during the entire SL/Pak series!

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 12:59 GMT)

Can someone tell me when Pietersen scored runs for England that got them out of a tight situation? I'm not talking about hundreds scored after others before him had already taken the sting out of the attack, I'm talking about the runs that he should occasionally get from a position of 2 or 3 down for 30. Runs that make a batsman dependable in a crisis situation. Runs that KP never scores!

Posted by SurlyCynic on (May 22, 2012, 12:52 GMT)

It should be called Fortress Johannesburg given where the coach and most of the players were born.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 12:51 GMT)

@jmcilhinney: I think you need to read this article again to see that Mark Nicholas has completely missed the plot here. He never qualifies that this article is purely for the purposes of England playing at home, he just uses stats/incidents from home to qualify his opinion. He then goes ahead to make statements such as "England are simply too good for anyone who plays the game predictably. Modern players, coaches and captains talk of "working hard" not of playing intelligently or with more instinct and flair." It is very rich to make a statement like that of a team that had its noses rubbed in the dirt in UAE, that was patchy against Sri Lanka and that was really pushed hard by West Indies in home conditions in very cold conditions (do I need to explain what that does to people from tropical areas?). I am looking forward to seeing Graeme Smith overseeing the end of yet another English captain.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 12:50 GMT)

Chris Gayle's test record in England: 21 innings, one not out, average 36, top score 105 with 5 other fifties. Can we give it a rest about Gayle's return making a huge difference to the WI team in England? Let's be honest, the bowlers now are as good as if not better than those he faced previously. Narine might be great, but he's never played a test. On the topic of saffers playing for England, Kepler Wessles anyone?

Posted by RandyOZ on (May 22, 2012, 12:44 GMT)

Another cringeworthy article from Nicolas. This is the same place that Australia dominated for 20 odd years. Even India and South Africa won there. Fortress? Gimme a break!

Posted by Digithead100 on (May 22, 2012, 12:41 GMT)

@serious-am-i where have u been?india have played superbly at home but who could forget the thrashing they received at the hands of sri lanka in sri lanka in 2008 where they lost 2-1 including a defeat by an innings and 239 runs

Posted by blackie on (May 22, 2012, 12:36 GMT)

Nice article Mark. Very well written. Question; If England are so good in England, how come #7 ranked Windies pushed them so deep into the 5th day and even caused a few hours of painic??

Posted by AdrianVanDenStael on (May 22, 2012, 12:33 GMT)

While Mark Nicholas is correct in suggesting how hard other teams find it to beat England at home in tests at the moment, I can understand why some people find the tone of this article excessively triumphalist. Firstly, we are only talking about test cricket: England's ODI record, even at home, is nothing special, and their twenty20 achievements are actually greater away from home. Secondly, England have lost two test series at home since 2007. That's hardly a great record compared some recent teams (India 2 defeats at home since about 1989, Aus 2 defeats at home since 1993, WI 1 defeat at home 1973-2001). Moreover in the four years since England last lost at home, they have basically played poor, unacclimatised teams in series here, or teams with major internal problems; the only exceptions are the Indians last year, who were surprisingly poor, and the Australians of 2009, who actually dominated most of that series but made the mistake of losing key phases of the games.

Posted by kasyapm on (May 22, 2012, 12:33 GMT)

I am an Indian fan, but it was heartening for me to see windies COMPETE against England. I am a fan of their legacy and would love to see them succeed. That said, England are formidable in their country and it would take a lot, LOT out of Windies to beat them or draw a match. The last summer was shocking (to say the least) for Indian fans as we could not even compete with the Poms (we expected a much better performance from our team, after drawing 1-1 in SA, winning the WC etc.). In both the first and second tests (in first after being 62-6 or something and second where India was leading by 50 odd runs with 6 wickets in hand), England came back admirably and won.

Posted by neo-galactico on (May 22, 2012, 12:18 GMT)

There is no denying that the Poms have made their homepatch a fortress, but there are several teams at the moment who lack world-class talent especially in the fast bowling department unlike in the 1990s hence they are improved as a team. No taking anything away from the English how many of their current bowlers would make it into THE ALL TIME LIST. Anderson is very good at present with some enviable skill but would he make it into the list? What would he have to do to make it into it? Swanny is good spinner but even he isn't close to the standards set by Murali, and Warne in the previous generation. Broad is good but not great but age is on his side so he might be great when he reaches his peak. the rest of the bowlers are raw and have some growing up to do before they can be classed as world-class. In essence, the only bowler that is veering on greatness (if not already there) is DALE STEYN. This era has been the worst for bowling, hence there are so many players who average over 50.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (May 22, 2012, 12:08 GMT)

Why is any player with dual nationaility automatically a South African? Why does this nationality take precedence over any other? The same problem will occur with Nick Compton if he finally makes it to the England side. His grandfather was an England stalwart who also loved South Africa and played some of his greatest innings there and it was natural that he should, like many others, share his time between the two countries when he stopped playing. There seems to be a lot of jealousy in many of the comments here. there is also a certain assumption that South Africa has won the summer series before it has even started. Let's play it first and, if they win, fair does to them.

Posted by AlbertEinstein on (May 22, 2012, 12:00 GMT)

England is very strong at home which is proved by the fact that they have welcomed every team to come over and challenge them, beating each team that accepted the challenge. Compare that with India, who have invited selected teams to challenge them at home (excluding the bowling powerhouse of Pakistan which can counter India's strong batting through Abdul Rehman alone -inclusion of Ajmal is whole new story). Besides Englishmen are humble enough not to call other bowling lineups as ordinary.......they also accept defeats rather than saying SO WHAT IF WE WERE WHITEWASHED 4-0 WE ALSO BEAT THEM 2-0 IN INDIA.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (May 22, 2012, 11:56 GMT)

@IndnCrktfan, you're not the only one looking forward to the SA series, and another winner takes all scenario, it couldnt be more exciting and shows that the top few teams are all competative at home, but in foreign conditions struggle, I actaully thing England will struggle in India as they have done for the last 28 years.

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (May 22, 2012, 11:48 GMT)


Posted by Selassie-I on (May 22, 2012, 11:23 GMT)

RahulCircket, I don't think that Mark is trying to put down India at all by saying thay they did not score more than 300 in England, it's just to give an example of the English seam attack's potency and planning. Also didn't India lose a match to SA last time they toured...a couple of years back, not too sure about not losing a match at home since 04? I think it is a fairly good record for england, not losing a series for 4 home seasons, 5 potentially at the end of the year and only 2 tests. Especially in England where conditions can hugely factor in the outcome of an even game. well done so far boys but the real test is to come, the saffers in a month and the tour of India int he winter, followed by back to back ashes!

Posted by patz101 on (May 22, 2012, 11:22 GMT)

@Sinhaya We beat u in a genuine 3 match series in 2001. You havent won a genuine 2-3 match series against us in england. U just won a one match series, not a 2-3 match series. At lords u r saying to me srilanka could have chased a record breaking 350 runs on the last day, when the pitches go absymal. Rain saved u at lords. At southampton we had almost 200 runs lead in the first innings. Your second innings lead was around 140/ 5. Rain saved u again. Srilanka havenot even won a test match at australia. I dont understand why pakistan and india gets called FTB when srilanka havent even won a test in australia.

Posted by din7 on (May 22, 2012, 11:22 GMT)

Some of my indian collegues(i m too an indian) getting too jealous of england. Come on mates agree it eng and sa are better (far much better) than India. Recsors show it. Ind 8-0 ouside india and eng are still 4-1 and guess wht be prepared to lose a test match, if not, series in india. overall currently SA are the best they can beat any1 in their own den. they did drew series both time in india , drew with pak, won in ENG, AUS, NZ, WI and what else u want. they deserve to be no1 with eng being the 2nd and india 5th (thats the truth guys) cause we got many selfish players as sachin.

Posted by Simoc on (May 22, 2012, 11:05 GMT)

A good win to England as expected. WI seem to compete well and lose. What if Chanderpaul doesn't keep scoring heaps every test, curtains. Jerome Taylor, Gayle, Narine , Sarwan, Bravo and Pollard are current players better than the guys playing for WI except for Samuels & Chanderpaul. Incompetent Windies administration! They choose to loose, they're losers. For England, a good warm up to South Africas visit.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (May 22, 2012, 11:05 GMT)

@serious-am-i, I think hes trying to wum, India are a tough team in thier own backyard (as are all the top 4 teams) espeecially with home crowds behind them, England need to go and put up a decent fight in India, personally I'd settle for a drawn series against them although I'd love england to win the series just to prove a point, but thats a best case scenario.

Posted by A_Vacant_Slip on (May 22, 2012, 10:57 GMT)

SOOO much rubbish written here by bitter India and Australia boys. @Marcio - this same "pedestrian" England attack ran over Australia in Australia many many time including 98 all out. Maybe you remember it? Same pedestian attack also ran over india - 8 times they did not pass 300 in much better batting condition than at Lords. Same pedestrian attack did well in UAE where only shocking batting let England down (remind of Aus V NZ at Hobart..). So what if Aus bowler "faster"!? Maybe they bowl 250kph - it proves zip if they cannot take the wicket. @TheOnlyEmperor - so much rubbish from you OMG India fan terrible terrible sour grape just because West Indies play better than India in England. India hoplessly uncompetitive team outside of India, any format. Whole world know this - even you. Publish please.

Posted by serious-am-i on (May 22, 2012, 10:40 GMT)

@patchmaster: wow! ooh ooh kiddo calm down. When did that happen ? When did India get thrashed in India aka sub-continent ? Its been ages since have been thrashed backyard other than the second test against South Africa, they were beaten by an innings but they won the final test and final test series result was 1-1. And for that matter, India haven't lost a home series for over 8 years now. @Sinhaya: Yes SL does tend to put up decent fights but on the over all its not a team that would be really worried about especially after Muralitharan's retirement. SL have few bunch of players who can play in testing conditions, so does most other teams its the team which performs well as an unit wins lots of matches.

Posted by AdamDthecricketer on (May 22, 2012, 10:18 GMT)

Im sick of everyone saying England is so good. The truth is they arnt. They didnt whitewash Australia in the Ashes even though in my mind it was the worst Australian Team ever. They couldnt even beat a medocre Pakistan. Its the same as the 2005 ashes series. everyone believes england is great again only for them to be brought crashing down to earth beaten by a better team like South Africa. They are the true champions of the World

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 10:12 GMT)

Ok well as there are so many people arguing about Eng and SA with who is the top dog, here is the list of the all the series results over the past 5 years from the the start of the 06/07 season up until now with SA having played 19 series compared to England's 20. You decide :

SA have won 12, drawn 6 and lost only 1 series. They lost 2-1 to Australia at home in the return series BUT beat them at home 2-1, being the first side to defeat Australia on home soil since the start of the 94/95 season.

England have won 11, drawn 2 and lost 7 series.

Both sides have had to rebuild after losing key players in their batting and bowling line-ups over the past few years making this a well balanced comparison.

Posted by Rahul_78 on (May 22, 2012, 10:01 GMT)

As and Indian fan and after enduring it for so many years...good to say same to Poms..Lions at home, Lambs away! (Pak and Lanka have proved it by beating them!)

Posted by MakersName on (May 22, 2012, 9:57 GMT)

So what your saying is that England know how to bowl in their home conditions. Groundbreaking!

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 9:55 GMT)

Hi Mark-would like to quote from "300", come the winters & we will put the word "fortress" to the test in India-Let's see if this team is able to hold its fort against the armour & guile of the Indian cricket team. And someone said that this article managed to "rile" the Indian fans-ha ha ha-LOLZ!! Aw c'mon dude-we don't get riled by self-praising and self-congratulatory articles (the same fortress was bashed to the walls not so many days ago by a young Pak team).

Posted by Bramblefly on (May 22, 2012, 9:47 GMT)

Thanks Mark for a good article. England's home conditions are as legitimate as anyone's and you are absolutely right; the current team are masters in them. As for the Aussies and Indians here, don't you have IPLs and stuff to read about? This notion that you belong at the top of world cricket as of right is bad for your mental health. If your great players, captains and coaches shared it, you would be condemned to a lifetime of disappointment and anger. I really would fear for you. England's win yesterday was a good one and, with an excellent SAf side on the way, it's good that they are being tested. They passed that one (Bell no good in a crisis eh?) and have every chance of passing the ones to come. Australia will have to wait a while for reality to match the fuming of Jonesy, Popcorn, Gupta et al.

Posted by Sinhaya on (May 22, 2012, 9:30 GMT)

@patz101, no way would Sri Lanka have lost last summer. We were very well placed in the 2nd test at Lords and 3rd test at Southampton. Why saying Sri Lanka have never beaten England in a test series? We have beaten England in the test series we hosted in 2003-04 and 2007-08! We have also beaten you all in Nottingham in 2006. Sri Lanka are a good side and that was why we beat you all inside 4 days in Galle this year.

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (May 22, 2012, 9:28 GMT)


Posted by TheOnlyEmperor on (May 22, 2012, 9:22 GMT)

It does seem to get to the English that they cannot seem to populate their playing 11 from those born in England and have to rely on imports. IMO, without the imports to bolster them off and on, the English would barely make it to the top-5 in World Cricket. I would however not grudge the English their new found high having been able to reach the Number 1 position in test cricket after almost 100+years. Gayle is in his element now and we all know that all it takes is one good West Indian to push the English back into depression. Do the numbers 375 and 400 ring a bell? One good performance is all it takes to convert a tame win into a boring draw - umpires, DRS, backroom pleas, vaseline and dirt in the pockets not withstanding!

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (May 22, 2012, 9:21 GMT)


Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 9:15 GMT)

England are the No. 1 cricket team in the World and will be for a long time. The structure that is in place to bring young talent through to the national side is very impressive. Of course their will be many bitter Indian and Australian supporters who refuse to accept England's current superiority, but their time has past.

Posted by Sanjiyan on (May 22, 2012, 9:05 GMT)

@stevebooth England are frail in the sense that when there up against it they crumble. When there on top they drive it home ill give them that, but the batting as a whole feeds off the succes of the top 3. Get them out cheaply and you have a really good chance of rolling them over for less than 150. @Mikey76 please look up statsguru. SA have smashed England more often than England have smashed them. While on the whole the 2 teams have been very close, SA still hold the upper hand in terms of total wins and the size of these wins since their readmission. As i said before, i cant wait for the seige to start.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 9:03 GMT)

I honestly believe that england is one of the better test side in world cricket however to put them in the league of extraordinary men would be an injustice to greatness. put things in perspective if gayle, sunil narine and sarwan were playing for this west indies team, MR NICHOLAS would have been writing a different story or his song might have been "rally round the west indies". Now let me tell you about fortress the great west indies team of the late 70s, early 80s and probably even the 90s was what you can rightly call a fortress. so english fans enjoy you 6 or 7 months of glory until some one white you and english cricket gets in dis array again with the chopping and changing and the retiring of captains for having been badly beaten.

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (May 22, 2012, 8:56 GMT)


Posted by CricketingStargazer on (May 22, 2012, 8:54 GMT)

Hmmm. A lot of wishful thinking here, mainly it sees from supporters of sides that have struggled far more than England did to subdue the West Indians over the last 15 months. It sounds dramatic to say that England were in danger of defeat, but they were never really under that much threat as one of the wickets was the nightwatchman and the player who would come in at #11 has, I believe, 6 First Class centuries and also that once the new ball was through and the West Indians had not seriously threatened to break through, they more or less gave up. England cantering to victory at 5 an over does not quite reflect the idea that this was knife-edge stuff. Just to comment on a couple of the inaccuracies in the posts, the West Indies are ranked 7th (not 9th), the bowling attack is 100% English and even a patriotic guy like Mike Proctor has pointed out how ludicrous it is for people to label some of the England side as South African (I ask you: have any of you heard Andrew Strauss speak?)

Posted by patz101 on (May 22, 2012, 8:46 GMT)

@Sinhaya The truth is every subcontinent team struggles in england and australia. Pakistan struggled the least out of the subcontinent teams in england. India struggled the least in australia. Both these teams got proven test records against them. Srilanka doesnot play in headingly or perth. We would have whitewashed srilanka if it didnot rain for 5 sessions in both the games. Srilanka havenot even won 1 match in australia. The only series u won against us was a one match series in 1998 on the flattest track oval. Srilanka struggles aswell.

Posted by SteveBooth96 on (May 22, 2012, 8:45 GMT)

@Herbet - I'm an England fan, and to be fair Trott and Pietersen are definitely South African. Prior and Strauss definitely not though.

Posted by jaycee71 on (May 22, 2012, 8:42 GMT)

TheOnlyEmperor...I've never read so much rubbish in my life!! It does rain in other countries you know! 7 out of 11 players at Lord's born in England...hardly "filled" with non-English stock and the other 4 have English parents or have spent the majority of their life in England so they can be classed as English stock anyway (my parents are Irish so I can say I'm of Irish stock). And finally, Chris Gayle has been in the last 3 West Indies team to tour England, they did not win a single test match and lost by an aggregate of 9-0.

Posted by SteveBooth96 on (May 22, 2012, 8:41 GMT)

I don't understand all the comments saying England's batting is frail. OK they failed in Pakistan, but this article is about how we play at home.

We have 6 batsmen in the top 30 in the batting rankings (and 4 in the top 18) - no other country has more than 4. Where's the frailty?

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 8:38 GMT)

@popcorn "Fortress England" means exactly that - it's near impossible to beat England in English conditions. Away form doesn't influence that claim, especially when you consider how different the subcontinental conditions are. And If WI can't get their best XI on the pitch, but England can (despite the same IPL temptations for both sides), surely that should be credit to England's team spirit and management? You can only beat what's put in front of you - blame WI for that, but what exactly were the England team supposed to do to help WI be stronger?

Posted by HankasHarry on (May 22, 2012, 8:37 GMT)

Me thinks Smith & Co are looking forward to the juicy wickets of the fortress more than their SA counterparts who will be hosting them.

Posted by yorkshirematt on (May 22, 2012, 8:34 GMT)

Mark must be finding all these bitter comments hilarious. His article has certainly had the desired effect and riled the indians no end! Ha ha keep it up!

Posted by djdrastic on (May 22, 2012, 8:31 GMT)

@Mikey76 - Except you forgot we smashed you in 2008 on home soil ? 2-1 old chump.

If it wasn't for Colly heroics in 2009/2010 we would have smashed you in S.Africa too.

I almost prefer the Aussies over the poms these days. Almost.

Posted by Herbet on (May 22, 2012, 8:28 GMT)


"The English team for one is filled with players of non-English stock"

Name one player of the current England XI who is not ethnically English or British, or North-European or whatever you want to call us. Born outside the shores maybe, but English all the same.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 7:51 GMT)

The England team are utterly professional, confident in their skills and exude an air of superiority over touring opposition- And old English trait. They are still living in the pre WW2 era

Posted by Marcio on (May 22, 2012, 7:47 GMT)

There really is a very strange arrogance in the English press and some of the commentators. England just struggled to beat the 8th ranked team at home, an they are a "fortress"? I'd say that is more than a little over the top. The bowling struggled most of the game, and lacked penetration. It is notable how much slowr than other bolwing attacks the Eng attack is. The WI bowlers consistently were 5-10 km/hr faster in this game, and SA, Pakistan and AUS all have a far more firey set of fast bowlers. If it wasn't for two key runouts of top WI batsmen the WI could easily have won this one. As soon as the seam and swing go, they look pedestrian.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 7:43 GMT)

First- England does not have the best fast bowling line up in the world. I will rate them comfortably after South Africa and Australia. Steyn-Morkel-Phillander and the Aussie young guns are much better than Anderson-Broad-Tremlett/Bressnan. Where England scores is with Swann. Swann's acid test will be in India. I am confident he will do well vis-a-vis other foreign spinners in the past. Secondly England does not have it in them to carry on with this form, even at home. They beat an injury laden Indian team filled with a batting order way past their prime. Look at what Australians did to them too. When faced with the slightest of oppositions, England has crumbled. These are not rumblings mind you. There are hard facts and stats to support it. Within a couple of years I see England being badly displaced from the top by at least four teams- South Africa(for sure), Australia, a youthful Indian team and offcourse Pakistan if they can hold off non-cricketing diabolics from ruining them.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (May 22, 2012, 7:32 GMT)

@venkatesh018 on (May 22 2012, 05:06 AM GMT), um, weren't SA bowled out for 168 at home by SL to lose a Test recently? Didn't they lose a Test to Australia at home recently? Weren't they bowled out for 96 by Australia at home recently? Doesn't Tahir have a Test average nearly 9 runs higher than Swann? Lots of people keep saying that SA are so much more deserving of the #1 ranking than England but if they're really that much more talented then they have been seriously underperforming.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (May 22, 2012, 7:23 GMT)

@Johan Venter on (May 22 2012, 06:10 AM GMT), apparently you're not very smart then. The Pakistan series was played in UAE, not England. The SL series was played in SL, not England. WI are ranked #7, not #9. England won this game at a canter in the end, with one wicket being that of the #11 and another falling just a couple of runs short of the target.

Posted by jasonpete on (May 22, 2012, 7:16 GMT)

Posted by Patchmaster on (May 21 2012, 22:11 PM GMT), England won against India in England last summer, but in subcontinent conditions against India,they are utter failure.Its been ages since last they won a test series and got whitewashed last two ODI series also.Recently they got whitewashed by Pakistan and managed to draw srilanka series.wake up and check the stats before posting something.

Posted by NumberXI on (May 22, 2012, 7:14 GMT)

If it were any other team they would be called home wicket bullies - if it is England it is "fortress England". Nice!

Posted by mikey76 on (May 22, 2012, 6:56 GMT)

Loving the ludicrous comments from the usual suspects. Ever since their re-admittance to test cricket SA haven't smashed us, its been pretty even and I don't see that changing. We beat a good WI team that stretched the Aussies and we just get slagged off. Pretty funny really. And I don't think Gayle would make a huge difference, a fine player but ripe for an Anderson inswinger.

Posted by Wefinishthis on (May 22, 2012, 6:55 GMT)

Fantastic comments here, I agree with pretty much everyone. Let's just wait until the South Africa, India and ashes series before we start talking about any English dominance. Soon we will know the results of Steyn/Philander vs Cook/Trott and Anderson/Broad vs Kallis/Amla and I for one cannot wait!

Posted by Sanjiyan on (May 22, 2012, 6:34 GMT)

While Englands Bowling is defiinately their strong suit their batting is still frail. Look at what an inspired Roach did to them. While Roach was alone in his quest, the saffers have more than enough talent to put the batsman to the sword at both ends. I look forward to South Africa's seige of this 'fortress'.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 6:25 GMT)

Beautifully written Mr Nicholas. One painful truth for all subcontinent fans who feel aggrieved by England's present ranking - both England on their winter tour and West Indies at Lord's fared better than India in England last summer. While Pakistan's triumph was as unexpected as welcome, the next 15 months will be the acid test of this England team.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 6:10 GMT)

It took me a while to understand this article on the back of recent history (Pakistan, Sri Lanka, England 54/4 on the last day, in serious danger of losing against the number 9 side in the world), then I realised that Mark Nicholas is trying to emulate (or even replace?) that great statitician Andy Zaltsman. Nice one, Mark, you almost had me going there!

Posted by TheOnlyEmperor on (May 22, 2012, 5:55 GMT)

I don't think much of the English team and English playing conditions. The English team for one is filled with players of non-English stock. Playing conditions in Eng are beset by rain stoppages, hardly favorable for playing serious cricket. The ICC umpires too behave funnily in England, overruling DRS evidence when convenient to the home team. The English team management too are known to approach the opposition team's dressing rooms at breaks to help overturn runout decisions. When the opposition does play well the English players are known to check the opposition's bat for vaseline. That's England for me and you! That said, the English victory over a WI team without Gayle doesn't mean much nor an English victory over India without a full strength Indian team.

Posted by Sinhaya on (May 22, 2012, 5:51 GMT)

@S.Jagernath, forgot how Dilshan scored 193 at Lords last year? Forgot also how Prasanna Jayawardena scored a ton at Cardiff last year? Sri Lankans can face any bowling attack anywhere!

Posted by Sinhaya on (May 22, 2012, 5:49 GMT)

@S.Jagernath, what are you talking? Sri Lanka beat England at Trent Bridge in 2006! Mahela is excellent in England and that is why he has 2 test centuries at Lords and also 3 ODI tons in England. Sri Lanka has good players of fast bowling. Forgot how Sangakkara scored 182 in Australia in 2007? Forgot how Thilan Samaraweera scored 2 centuries in South Africa few months ago?? Sri Lankans can win tests abroad and that is a fact!

Posted by popcorn on (May 22, 2012, 5:42 GMT)

I am surprised that such an astute cricketing brain as Mark Nicholas has gone bonkers over England and called them a fortress. He has so quickly forgotten the shameful 3 nil Test defeat that Pakistan inflicted on them in the UAE. West Indies, a lowly rated team STRETCHED England to the 5 th day afernoon! Had they selected Chris Gayle,Dwayne Bravo,Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine - England would have lost the first Test. So England have IPL to thank - which has made cricketers beggars. Had WICB been pragmatic, they would have made it viable for these top playerts to represent West Indies. Kevin Pietersen is no fool. He has made money in the IPL, AND at the right time, England have brought him back to play Test Cricket. Don't tell me the Saffer Kevin Pitetrsen chooses "country" over club.

Posted by venkatesh018 on (May 22, 2012, 5:06 GMT)

Stop boasting Mr. Nicholas...Although I concede that your team has the best bowling line up in the world at present(although Steyn, Morkel, Philander, Tsotsobe and Imran Tahir will have something to say about that this summer)England have a highly suspect batting line-up, capable of imploding in the face of sustained pressure bowling by Test standard bowlers (pity Windies had only 2 of them this match). They need atleast 2 or 3 more imports from South Africa to beef up their batting(I see no other alternative if Johnny Bairstow is the best England can summon from the local talent).

Posted by   on (May 22, 2012, 5:00 GMT)

I really don't understand why England's home record is being touted as the next best thing ... Currently four teams have their homeland as fortresses - England, SA, Aus and India ... What's the big deal about it? And in his last line authors refers "the mace" (#1 ranking) based upon the fact that England are no slouches in their home. How is it different from then India holding #1 based on their home record. And why is it a topic to boast for authors like Mark Nicholas and poms if they loathed the idea of Indians boasting their #1 ranking on a similar or even stronger "fortress". Only one word comes to mind "Hypocrites".

Posted by tmd1 on (May 22, 2012, 4:59 GMT)

Just imagine how good England will be if they can get some more South Africans into the team.If you check recent history it appears that the less English born players in the team the better England has become.Should be a great series against South Africa with 14/15 South Africans running around and 7 Englishmen.

Posted by jonesy2 on (May 22, 2012, 4:42 GMT)

i hope they enjoy it today because this joke of a team isnt winning another series at home for a number of years with graeme's men coming soon and michael's next year.

Posted by jonesy2 on (May 22, 2012, 4:39 GMT)

bahahahaha there "best" bowlers average over 30!!! they are a ordinary team who almost got beaten by the windies who basically give up in the end. south africa will smash england into submission and they will never be ranked near number 1 again. its embarrassing that they ever were

Posted by jmcilhinney on (May 22, 2012, 3:32 GMT)

@Arif Shaon on (May 21 2012, 21:29 PM GMT), um, it's "fortress England". You may recall that that series against Pakistan was played in UAE... or you may not.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (May 22, 2012, 3:30 GMT)

@Plz_Dont_Get_Whitewashed on (May 21 2012, 20:31 PM GMT), that's the same SA that lost two Tests at home in their last summer, right?

Posted by jmcilhinney on (May 22, 2012, 1:52 GMT)

@S.Jagernath on (May 21 2012, 20:06 PM GMT), that is quite true but the story says that India failed to PASS 300, not to MAKE 300, so the story is accurate.

Posted by demon_bowler on (May 22, 2012, 1:18 GMT)

Arif Shaon wrote: "Hmm..what happened to this fortress during the test series against Pakistan?"

Not surprisingly, "Fortress England" is in...er, England (and occasionally in Wales).

Posted by StatisticsRocks on (May 22, 2012, 1:00 GMT)

@Arif: That's exactly what Mark Nicholas means. At home it is their fortress. Anyway's Eng are a good test match side. I am sure this side is capable of beating a sub continent team in the sub continent conditions. I am sure they will give us run for our money later this year. For obvious reasons as well, India do not have quality test match bowlers and now we do not have a spinner like Ajmal who can run through the opposition. Cook, Bell, KP will score tons of runs in India. I hope BCCI will play soem youngsters like Rahane, who can gain tons of experience by playing England at Home. IMO SA will be a true test with Steyn and Morkel steaming in and causing all kinds of problems. I look forward to that series as well.

Posted by aracer on (May 22, 2012, 0:02 GMT)

@Abdullah Ayaan Zulfiquar - the big deal about England is that the two teams you mention as being good at home didn't manage to win the series the last time England visited them (have you already forgotten 1-3 in Australia?) More recently Australia could only draw a series with NZ at home. I'm actually somewhat confused about you mentioning SL in this context - it's almost 3 years since they won a home series, in which time they've drawn or lost 4. Meanwhile England have won every home series since SA beat them 4 years ago - that's the last 6 home series. The only team with a comparable home record is India - 8 years since they've been beaten at home, but they've not won all their home series going as far back as England. @Arif Shaon - England beat Pakistan 3-1 last time they played them AT HOME.

Posted by Midonoff on (May 21, 2012, 23:14 GMT)

I truly beleive if Gayle return during this England tour to the W.I side they will win some games againts the poms. Don't think England supporters would like him to return, as he can cause havoc/mahem and people in those small grounds would have to take cover for some sixes, againts Anderson, Broad etc.

Posted by whoster on (May 21, 2012, 22:36 GMT)

@Arif Shaon If you study a world map, you'll see that United Arab Emirates isn't actually in England.

Posted by OliverWebber on (May 21, 2012, 22:25 GMT)

What was interesting about the failure in the UAE was that the *bowling* attack still performed very well - it was the English batsmen who let the side down. It's absolutely true that this is a big gap in their armour: learning to play spin in spin-friendly conditions is essential, and nobody denies this (or that England haven't achieved this yet). But I think the plaudits for England's bowlers really are well deserved. I grew up watching cricket in the 70s, 80s and 90s, and my goodness have I seen some average England attacks in those decades (as well as the occasional spot of brilliance - Willis & Botham in their prime etc). But until now I've not seen the discipline and consistency shown by Anderson, Broad etc. Even the best bowlers of the past seemed to have so many off days - how many times did you see over after over short and wide outside the off stump? Or a loose over just after some pressure was built up? The fearsome foursome of 2005 was close but these guys are better IMO.

Posted by Shan156 on (May 21, 2012, 22:21 GMT)

@Arif Shaon, the fortress was safe because England played Pakistan in UAE not in England. Mark Nicholas was referring to "England" when he referred to fortress.

Posted by Nerk on (May 21, 2012, 22:14 GMT)

I don't think it's smugness, arrogance or anything. England are playing very well. They struggled on the spinning wickets of the U.A.E. and Sri Lanka, but most teams not from the subcon do. Even then, it wasn't exactly a thrashing for the English, totally unlike India's capitulation away from home. The problem is, it seems as though RSA play less test matches, so it is hard to gauge them. They have their frailties, their amazing inconsistency for example. But all in all, RSA and England are too very closely matched teams, both in ability and the way they play the game. So it should be a good series. I do not begrudge England enjoying their time in the sun, they have worked hard and have earned it. I would also like to add that I think Pakistan is one of the top three sides in the world at the moment, but like RSA they never seem to play as many test matches as Aus, Eng and India.

Posted by Patchmaster on (May 21, 2012, 22:11 GMT)

It's funny how the people on here who are saying ENG are no good in the Sub Continent, are conveniently forgetting the fact that ENG thrashed INDIA. The biggest problem in the side is Bell - great at home, awful against spin. Do they keep picking him ? He's proved he can;t learn to play spin, as he's played lots of games - over 100 and still can;t play spin. So where is his future in the side ? Interesting dilema....

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (May 21, 2012, 21:37 GMT)

A great piece highlighting England's strengths at present. It was only to be expected i suppose that Pakistan would be the side to lower England's colours after all their success because they are so different as a matter of course. Many of their best players would likely not have had a sniff of playing for say SA. Nor would KP as he would have spent his career plying not very good offbreaks and batting 8. Which I guess is good for the rest of England's summer. Even playing v NZ it was possible to see why SA were no.2 not no.1.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2012, 21:29 GMT)

Hmm..what happened to this fortress during the test series against Pakistan?

Posted by   on (May 21, 2012, 21:22 GMT)

Mark, your work is such a joy to read. Insightful as always and I have to agree, this England team are a cut above the rest at home. The bowling department always seems to click, with their army of fielders on alert and preying on mistakes. More often than not, we see the batting unit put the sword to the opposition attack as well. To cement a legacy as one of the great teams however, they need to make an impact in the subcontinent. In all fairness, their record has got better but it needs to improve further; otherwise, it will always count against them.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2012, 20:48 GMT)

For those of us who thought this was going to be a dead rubber series with yet another West Indies team arriving on the shores with the wrong attitude, this has truly been a pleasure to watch. Well done to the Windies for the fire that seems to have reignited in their hearts, this team really does have what it takes to bring some pride back to their supporters.

Well done England. I was always quite dubious of the 'warm up matches' before the real tests began in the summer, this time around I think it will do England a lot of good to be facing a sterner test before the heavy-weight championship of the world......

Posted by Lmaotsetung on (May 21, 2012, 20:39 GMT)

I guess the vultures that were circling this past 24hr and ready to pounce have flown away lol. For a brief moment in the morning session, there was hope of an upset. Yes we know...blah blah blah, the #1 test team did not win convincingly on his home turf, wait til Eng come to India next winter...blah..blah...blah.

Posted by Plz_Dont_Get_Whitewashed on (May 21, 2012, 20:31 GMT)

England are this, they are that...yeah bla bla bla..... Wait till the Saffa's visit you in a couple of months!!! :D

Posted by thetopofoff on (May 21, 2012, 20:25 GMT)

Yes, England are a good team. I'm glad to see the smugness has set in. Australia are improving all the time and hungry for those Ashes. It will be grand when we win them back next year.

Posted by StatisticsRocks on (May 21, 2012, 20:17 GMT)

Mr. Nicholas, Your title says it all. Kings at Home and not so good away, especially in the sub-continent. A good, expected victory by England. WI showed what they are made of. Add Gayle, Narine, and another fast bowler and suddenly they will be an entirely differrent team. Fidel Edwards was lost and did not support Roach from the other end, who bowled beautifully. Sammy needs to learn how to occupy the crease. Another 75 odd runs and they could have made a match out of it. Kudos to both teams for making it indeed a 5-day match and not finishing in under 3 days. I look forward to the second one.

Posted by riverlime on (May 21, 2012, 20:09 GMT)

Mark, you suggest, by way of omission, that the England team is largely a well drilled machine, capable of following orders to the T, but no individual crackerjacks. However, I think there are also several rare sparks in there as well. Cook will break all records for batsmanship except for Lara's; Pietersen is the only batsman in the world with the talent to break the 400, Prior may not be Jack Russell with the gloves but he is the best since then, AND in Broad, Anderson and Swann, England has probably the best fixed bowling combination since the Lee, McGrath, Warne triumvirate.

Posted by S.Jagernath on (May 21, 2012, 20:06 GMT)

The Indians did get to 300 once,in their 1st innings of the 4th test at The Oval.Rahul Dravid carried his bat on that occasion.

Posted by S.Jagernath on (May 21, 2012, 19:59 GMT)

None of these people that shock England can do it in England though.Saeed Ajmal is a quality spinner & Id like to think he would be worthy in England,but Trent Bridge is very different to Abu Dhabi.Mahela Jayawardene has not shown any ability in quick conditions,the other Sri Lankans are the same.Its possible thats the reason why Sri Lanka has not played a test at either Trent Bridge or Perth.Unfortunately for India & Pakistan they are expected to play on real pitches when they tour,pitches covered in grass with no turn at all.The West Indies on that sort of surface would barely get to 100!

Posted by Shan156 on (May 21, 2012, 19:42 GMT)

England will get better as the summer progresses. That may not spell all doom and gloom for the Windies as I am sure they will get better too. However, their fragile batting may not hold up at Trent Bridge or Edgbaston which are more unforgiving surfaces for the batsmen than is Lord's. While they did well to get 343 in their second dig, it is also true that the pitch gets better for batting as the game progresses. A better batting unit may have racked up more runs for less wickets like SA did in the first test here in their last visit to these shores. Let's see how the Windies batsmen perform in the next two tests. Weather permitting, I think England should win this 3-0. Sterner test awaits in the later part of the summer. The mace may not be as safe when England play SA. Hopefully, they would still win the series to retain the #1 ranking.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2012, 19:33 GMT)

Last year when India went to UK last year on the back of a world cup win thinking that rolling England over would be a walk in the park. They were in for a surprise. Similarly, they went to Australia thinking that England was a bad dream. And that is where they were really woken up from their sleep. Drawing comparisons with India of last year will be an inevitable yet fruitless exercise during the current English summer. English team is indeed very good in their own conditions. They have to prove their mettle in alien conditions though, where they failed in UAE. A difficult test awaits them in India this winter.

Posted by serious-am-i on (May 21, 2012, 19:09 GMT)

I strongly feel there is too much put into this England team. I am pretty sure this big bubble is going to burst soon to get into the real world. Yes, India were pathetic last summer with an aging batting which was stubbornly given chances and again despite poor performances which no other time in the world would have hesitated in making a few changes around, that's India for you. Indian bowling is the least we could talk about. May be the few names which India has been seeing off-late would have given a better fight with the ball in the pace department but Indian spin still lacks a lot. Anyways with out going off track, England are still to be tested by skillful pace battery on their own home soil may be South African v England at Eng would be the best to test it out, hopefully all the main players are available and fit to witness a mouth watery tale. I'm not taking anything away from Eng dominance but trust me this team doesn't have it in them to be no.1 for a longer duration. Period

Posted by   on (May 21, 2012, 19:00 GMT)

Over hyped team. I know this article is speaking about Eng in English conditions. Yes they are great at home. So are other teams like India Sri Lanka and Australia.. Whats the big deal about England?

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Mark NicholasClose
Mark Nicholas A prolific and stylish middle-order batsman for Hampshire, Mark Nicholas was unlucky never to have played for England, but after captaining his county to four major trophies he made his reputation as a presenter, commentator and columnist. Named the UK Sports Presenter of the Year in 2001 and 2005 by the Royal Television Society, he has commentated all over the world, from the World Cup in the West Indies to the Indian Premier League. He now hosts the cricket coverage for Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in England.
Tour Results
England v West Indies at Nottingham - Jun 24, 2012
England won by 7 wickets (with 2 balls remaining)
England v West Indies at Leeds - Jun 22, 2012
Match abandoned without a ball bowled
England v West Indies at The Oval - Jun 19, 2012
England won by 8 wickets (with 30 balls remaining)
England v West Indies at Southampton - Jun 16, 2012
England won by 114 runs (D/L method)
Middlesex v West Indians at Lord's - Jun 13, 2012
West Indians won by 228 runs
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