August 17, 2011

England take the old-fashioned route to the top

On their way to No. 1 they revived swing bowling, didn't let Twenty20 affect their batting, and showed that execution matters more than content
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England have risen to the top by playing old-fashioned cricket. Everyone talks about the game changing with all sorts of new-fangled shots and deliveries, but these things exist only on the fringes. Cricket remains a battle between bat and ball, a tussle for supremacy that works at two levels: between batsmen and bowlers, and between the collectives they represent.

England are notable not so much for secret ingredients but by their absence. As far as can be told, the line-up does not contain a single baffling bowler or magician armed with a willow. In some opinions it does not contain any great player. Its captain, too, does not play any tricks with the mind, unless remaining constant can be so considered (as every cricket captain could confirm, it's certainly an achievement).

England's strength lies not in content but in execution. Andrew Strauss has under his command a team constructed along traditional lines. As far as batting is concerned, they have a pair of imperturbable openers, a first-drop loath to give his wicket away, a volatile second-drop capable of tearing an attack apart, and failing that, of causing mayhem in his own ranks, a skilful middle, and a long list of lower-order players able to belt away the blues.

England's bowling relies on a mixture of old-fashioned swingers and orthodox spin. Admittedly Chris Tremlett can make batsmen hop about, but the attack does not depend on him. More often it is sustained by Jimmy Anderson, a sumptuous operator who confirms Mike Selvey's observation that genuine swing bowlers are not to be mistaken for bowlers able to swing the ball in favourable conditions; rather they use finger and wrist to make the ball move through the air.

Besides Anderson, England field Tim Bresnan, the sort of speedster often seen in county cricket, except that he is brighter and more aggressive. Stuart Broad, wisely retained, has improved immensely since his coach reminded him that enforcers exist in movies and bowlers are required to take wickets, and that most wickets are taken by balls directed at the stumps or at the outside edge.

Graeme Swann has been another vital member of the side (actually they are all important; the blend is as superb as mother's Christmas pudding). Swann has not taken many wickets in this series, but even on his worst days he takes catches in the cordon, belts a few runs and cheers up his comrades. Strong teams are driven by distinctive players. Watch them walk on the field and know them instantly. Strauss's players have that characteristic. Each player's personality emerges in all its aspects, and so the same applies to their games.

Those seeking clues to England's rise might consider the quality of the decisions taken at the low point, amidst the arranged declarations, lob bowling and worse, that blighted the county game in the 1980s. The introduction of central contracts, two divisions, and four-day matches changed the way the game was played domestically. These decisions were taken despite strong resistance from counties, entities owned by members inclined to focus on their team.

England have been lucky in another respect. Ten years ago I predicted they would reach the top ranking within a decade or so, and the reason was simple. An erstwhile empire meant that many of England's immigrant families came from cricket-playing countries. And it is never wise to underestimate the hunger of the settler family. Due to the seismic changes in South Africa, that country has been another rich source of committed sportsmen. As much can be told from the current rugby and cricket squads.

But that is not to deny England its glory. Strauss's side has set the benchmark, and opponents need to study their strategy. After all it has been the most methodical of rises, block by block, run by run, hour by hour, match by match, series by series. Two qualities deserve particular attention: the existence in the top order of batsmen prepared to occupy the crease for long periods, and an attack able to pitch a fuller length than any opponent, and move the ball later. Both assets go against the contemporary grain.

Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott might not have secured selection in less patient countries, inclined as they are to focus on scoring rate as opposed to productivity. Ostensibly Cook belongs to the previous generations of openers, who wear down the attack, soften the new ball, build the innings and perform all sorts of other important duties. He knows his game and remains within its confines. In that regard he resembles the Duke of Wellington, a leader known not so much for the extent of his abilities as for the use made of them. That he comes from farming stock also helps. Farmers are a phlegmatic lot and it takes more than a couple of ducks or remarks or bumpers to unsettle them. Cook bats in the manner of a farmer collecting eggs in a barn.

It has been the most methodical of rises, block by block, run by run, hour by hour, match by match, series by series. Two qualities deserve particular attention; the existence in the top order of batsmen prepared to occupy the crease for long periods, and an attack able to pitch a fuller length than any opponent, and move the ball later

Trott also soaks up a lot of effort from the opposing bowlers. He too bats in a cocoon, albeit a more evidently anxious one than his genial colleague. His batting is built around care and determination. But he is no stylist nor yet a basher, and might easily have been ignored. Fortunately the selectors were focusing on efficiency. Australia should be so lucky.

The revival of swing bowling has been England's greatest service to the game. Convinced that swing was old hat, a generation of batsmen has been raised, in the words of Mr Ant, to "stand and deliver". Rather than waiting for the ball to change direction and adjusting at the last instant, they hit fearlessly through the line, often taking the ball on the rise. Skills such as letting pass and playing late fell into disuse, and players of that ilk tended to be dismissed as dull. Anderson, Bresnan, and Tremlett especially, have pounced on that largesse.

Nor can the IPL entirely be blamed for this looseness. Techniques had become frayed before it was introduced. Curiously English batting has been least affected, though Twenty20 was their creation. Perhaps it is that their younger players do not look towards the IPL for fame and fortune. Australia and India, especially, are trying to develop batsmen in a community convinced that the old rules no longer apply. They are mistaken. Cricket is like education. In the end it's all about reading, writing and arithmetic.

In part swing has succeeded because the basics have been ignored. But it goes deeper. Except for veterans like Rahul Dravid, batsmen are not used to dealing with late swing. People often claim that sport is cyclical. It is no such thing. England rose because it decided to rise and found the right men for the job. In one respect, though, the game does go round in circles. Legspin revived in part because it had fallen away for so long and batsmen had forgotten how to counter it. Finger-spin, so long scorned unless accompanied by a doosra or carrom ball or whatever, has returned partly because it stopped being the bread and butter of batting life. Now swing too has preyed upon deficiencies in batting techniques.

Overall it has been a pleasure to watch England dismantle opponents in these last few months. They have batted, bowled and often fielded better than any opponent. Throughout, too, they have retained a high level of intensity. Whether or not Strauss's side deserves the plaudits bestowed by a giddy press corps remains to be seen. It's a bit early to put them alongside the mighty West Indians of the 1970s and '80s, or the ruthless Australian teams who followed. Both sides held the top ranking for 15 or so years. England have been top for a week.

It is also premature to argue that Strauss is the finest of England captains. No day can be judged until night has fallen. But the English can be forgiven their relish. It's been a long time - 55 years by my unreliable reckoning. If the locals have ditched their stiff upper lips it's hardly surprising. Happily the response has been patriotic as opposed to nationalistic (the trait observed in 2005).

England have been superb. Strauss's side combines skill, commitment, intelligence and confidence. It's been a job right well done.

Peter Roebuck is a former captain of Somerset and the author, most recently, of In It to Win It

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • LivingDead on August 20, 2011, 19:44 GMT

    Since, 2007, India has played (not including current Eng series):

    Total tests = 48 Away = 26 Against Bang and WIndies = 7

    Lets compare it to England:

    Total tests = 58 Away tests = 26 Against Bang/Windies = 15

    So India played 54% of tests away, and 85% of them against strong teams. England played only 45% of tests away, and only 74% against strong teams.

  • The_Wog on August 20, 2011, 12:09 GMT

    Chikka, he said "swing" not "bottle tops."

  • RandyOZ on August 20, 2011, 1:41 GMT

    @Herbet, trott is blatantly south african, his parents were even born there. It you go down the ancestory line i would be able to play for England. Players like strauss and prior sure, they grew up in england playing cricket there. Trott learnt everything in SA, has SA born parents and even represented SA in the under 18s. The fact someone like him makes the team jsut goes to show how undeniably shallow your batting depth is at the moment. Not to mention the fact when he does get injured the one to come in and replace him is Bopara. The only depth I am seeing in English cricket is in the bowling ranks.

  • Big_Chikka on August 19, 2011, 20:57 GMT

    Hmm! England the great saviour of swing. Please don't make me laugh. Peter your memory is in decline, have you forgotten the Paksitani swing bowlers? That said, I will concede with great pleasure that Anderson is a excellent protagonist of swing and England may have just rediscovered the capability. Now please desist from making such ridiculous remarks as "The revival of swing bowling has been England's greatest service to the game."

  • InnocentGuy on August 19, 2011, 15:32 GMT

    Also Jaidev Unadkat. He looks like if you blow at him, he'll fly off the ground. Where do they find these school kids?

  • InnocentGuy on August 19, 2011, 15:31 GMT

    It's true England are playing well. Credit where it's due. But in all honesty, India have mentally checked out even before the series started. Dhoni just says things during the press meets. He doesn't seem to care 1 bit about this series. Not sure why though. Indian bowling has been sub-par this series. So in a way, English batsmen have had it easy. Dhoni has never really had a good bowling attack that he can count on even in his worst days. He has always been forced to make-do with what he's got and he's done a real good job so far. But juggling and optimizing limited resources can never be a long-term substitute for a fundamentally good bowling unit. I'm still unclear as to why we are not able to produce a single burly pacy bowler who looks like he can beat up 5 people at a time. All bowlers that India has produced have looked like they suffer from leukemia. Tremlett can beat up RPSingh, Sreesanth, Ishant, all in 1 blow. At least he looks like he could.

  • dariuscorny on August 19, 2011, 5:53 GMT

    just one simple thing this Indian team is mentally exhausted they lack the anxiety to win against english team it is not that England is invincible.you need the will to win a test match.BCCI is the main culprit behind it.WC,IPL,WI +injured players a long and imp series against ENG.no one can deny that mental fatigue of players is causing these defeats.Players shud hv been given tym to relax to restore there concentration and eagerness before such an imp series.It was the same ENG side which was kicked by India last time

  • mensan on August 18, 2011, 23:39 GMT

    I would also praise ECB. I remember when New Zealand shredded India to pieces in the fateful home series of 2002-03 by making seaming wickets. NZ won both tests (with India making 161, 121, 99 and 154 in the four innings) and one dayers 5-2. BCCI severely criticized NZC on that occasion. By the time India landed again in NZ after a 6 year absence, NZC had accepted BCCI bullying position in world cricket. They "chose" not to make seaming pitches this time just to please BCCI. The result was NZ tamely losing the 3-test series 1-0 and one day series 3-1 on subcontinent like pitches where Indian batsmen excelled. ECB is worth praising in that they did not take pressure of bullying BCCI (and their so called huge TV market???) and made the wickets which suited England team.

  • Valavan on August 18, 2011, 21:09 GMT

    @Proteas123, you are an INDIAN in disguise we nearly had 3 - 1 but really had 1 - 1. live with it.

  • Valavan on August 18, 2011, 21:06 GMT

    @Proteas123, I feel Morgan, Bopara are equivalent to Ashwell prince,and JP Duminy currently. If you say Johan Botha or paul harris better than Swann, i can say just sour grapes. You have top order with Smith,Kallis,Amla and AB. We have Cook,KP,Strauss and Bell. Allrounders like JA Morkel,we have stuart broad. What you want to say here. Just equal in terms of team wise, lets clash next summer and see who is better.

  • LivingDead on August 20, 2011, 19:44 GMT

    Since, 2007, India has played (not including current Eng series):

    Total tests = 48 Away = 26 Against Bang and WIndies = 7

    Lets compare it to England:

    Total tests = 58 Away tests = 26 Against Bang/Windies = 15

    So India played 54% of tests away, and 85% of them against strong teams. England played only 45% of tests away, and only 74% against strong teams.

  • The_Wog on August 20, 2011, 12:09 GMT

    Chikka, he said "swing" not "bottle tops."

  • RandyOZ on August 20, 2011, 1:41 GMT

    @Herbet, trott is blatantly south african, his parents were even born there. It you go down the ancestory line i would be able to play for England. Players like strauss and prior sure, they grew up in england playing cricket there. Trott learnt everything in SA, has SA born parents and even represented SA in the under 18s. The fact someone like him makes the team jsut goes to show how undeniably shallow your batting depth is at the moment. Not to mention the fact when he does get injured the one to come in and replace him is Bopara. The only depth I am seeing in English cricket is in the bowling ranks.

  • Big_Chikka on August 19, 2011, 20:57 GMT

    Hmm! England the great saviour of swing. Please don't make me laugh. Peter your memory is in decline, have you forgotten the Paksitani swing bowlers? That said, I will concede with great pleasure that Anderson is a excellent protagonist of swing and England may have just rediscovered the capability. Now please desist from making such ridiculous remarks as "The revival of swing bowling has been England's greatest service to the game."

  • InnocentGuy on August 19, 2011, 15:32 GMT

    Also Jaidev Unadkat. He looks like if you blow at him, he'll fly off the ground. Where do they find these school kids?

  • InnocentGuy on August 19, 2011, 15:31 GMT

    It's true England are playing well. Credit where it's due. But in all honesty, India have mentally checked out even before the series started. Dhoni just says things during the press meets. He doesn't seem to care 1 bit about this series. Not sure why though. Indian bowling has been sub-par this series. So in a way, English batsmen have had it easy. Dhoni has never really had a good bowling attack that he can count on even in his worst days. He has always been forced to make-do with what he's got and he's done a real good job so far. But juggling and optimizing limited resources can never be a long-term substitute for a fundamentally good bowling unit. I'm still unclear as to why we are not able to produce a single burly pacy bowler who looks like he can beat up 5 people at a time. All bowlers that India has produced have looked like they suffer from leukemia. Tremlett can beat up RPSingh, Sreesanth, Ishant, all in 1 blow. At least he looks like he could.

  • dariuscorny on August 19, 2011, 5:53 GMT

    just one simple thing this Indian team is mentally exhausted they lack the anxiety to win against english team it is not that England is invincible.you need the will to win a test match.BCCI is the main culprit behind it.WC,IPL,WI +injured players a long and imp series against ENG.no one can deny that mental fatigue of players is causing these defeats.Players shud hv been given tym to relax to restore there concentration and eagerness before such an imp series.It was the same ENG side which was kicked by India last time

  • mensan on August 18, 2011, 23:39 GMT

    I would also praise ECB. I remember when New Zealand shredded India to pieces in the fateful home series of 2002-03 by making seaming wickets. NZ won both tests (with India making 161, 121, 99 and 154 in the four innings) and one dayers 5-2. BCCI severely criticized NZC on that occasion. By the time India landed again in NZ after a 6 year absence, NZC had accepted BCCI bullying position in world cricket. They "chose" not to make seaming pitches this time just to please BCCI. The result was NZ tamely losing the 3-test series 1-0 and one day series 3-1 on subcontinent like pitches where Indian batsmen excelled. ECB is worth praising in that they did not take pressure of bullying BCCI (and their so called huge TV market???) and made the wickets which suited England team.

  • Valavan on August 18, 2011, 21:09 GMT

    @Proteas123, you are an INDIAN in disguise we nearly had 3 - 1 but really had 1 - 1. live with it.

  • Valavan on August 18, 2011, 21:06 GMT

    @Proteas123, I feel Morgan, Bopara are equivalent to Ashwell prince,and JP Duminy currently. If you say Johan Botha or paul harris better than Swann, i can say just sour grapes. You have top order with Smith,Kallis,Amla and AB. We have Cook,KP,Strauss and Bell. Allrounders like JA Morkel,we have stuart broad. What you want to say here. Just equal in terms of team wise, lets clash next summer and see who is better.

  • Valavan on August 18, 2011, 20:58 GMT

    @Proteas, first dominate england and write here. You are an indian fan in disguise. i saw how SA choked to NZ in WC2011.

  • Valavan on August 18, 2011, 20:57 GMT

    @Proteas123, Live and play with the squad you have, dont behave like dhoni and blame on injuries, But i put on table the performance of the decade and compared it. So live with it and try to prove me wrong when you visit England next time.

  • yorkshire-86 on August 18, 2011, 19:43 GMT

    India blame the loss on the injury of 1 paceman. Well TBH if your team is entirely reliant on 1 quick to stay number one, you dont deserve to be there. If all 3 of our current pacemen were injured, we would have Shahzad leading the attack with Tremlett and Finn. If they get injured we have Woakes, Plunkett and Onions.... Harmison is still around, and Sidebottom is only just retired and could probably be persuaded. Only then would we have to start scraping the barrel with no-ball merchants like Mahmood and Amjad Khan. Batting looks a bit suspect though, the infamous 'Bopara Line' when you run out of decent batsmen and are forced to pick the dreadful Bopara or risk an untried youngster is hit after the initial 6 batsmen (some Morgan critics would even say 5) - however our WK+tail bats so well it more than makes up for that. TBH Bopara sould be batting at 9 on quality in that team, Prior, Bresnana and Broad show far more talent with the bat.

  • harshthakor on August 18, 2011, 17:13 GMT

    In performance,the best English side I have seen in my lifetime.Beat the no 1 team in the World like a batallion imposing a crushing defeat on the enemy and previously vanquished Australia i on their home soil like the champion WEst Indies taems did in previous years.Possibly the most positive post-war English team with a brilliant balance in batting and bowling.The 2005 englsih attack was marginally better but not the batting line up.The likes of Strauss,Cook,Bell Pieterson,Morgan etc compile a superb battiing unit while Anderson,Bresnan,Swann etc comprise a balanced attack.This taem may well emerge into the bracket of the best taems of the past iof it mantains this standard.However man to man it still is not in the class of the past great West Indian or recent champion Australain teams.

    In the present scenario they most deservingly deserve the test world title.

  • big_al_81 on August 18, 2011, 15:52 GMT

    @ Proteas123. Also good comments. I'm actually thinking of batsmen other than Morgan and Bopara. I think there are several others who should be ahead of both of them which is why I suggest there are so many. Some of them are in the current England Lions squad and several others are bowlers who also bat very well. It's a big shout to put Parnell ahead of Finn on their records (although I rate Parnell more highly in terms of talent than Finn). Finn just has a knack in Tests and England could still drop him and thump the Aussies. I'd also be concerned about the mental strength issue for SA. I'm not convinced they've cracked this problem under pressure in the way England have but I may be thinking of various infamous ODI episodes and doing a disservice to the Test side.

  • Herbet on August 18, 2011, 15:18 GMT

    I agree South Africa have an excellent side but… they could do with an opener to go with Smith (but at least their board have the brains to have Alviro Peterson play in County Cricket) and although they have 3 pacers probably the equal of England's -Steyn, Morkel & Parnell - will they be allowed to pick them all or will Tsotsobe have to play for 'political reasons'? Undoubtedly South Africa have an excellent side and they have always churned out brilliant players, even through their years of isolation, but if they can't pick their 11 best players then they will never reach their maximum, and this might stop them really peaking. Then again it might not.

  • jay57870 on August 18, 2011, 15:01 GMT

    While England may have taken the "old-fashioned route to the top," India has risen on the strength of the "staying power" of its senior players - Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman (35+) plus Sehwag, Zaheer, Harbhajhan, Yuvraj (30-somethings). (Note: Only Ganguly & Kumble have retired.) Add Dhoni: the "cool" captain, arguably the best in the business. Importantly, they play as a team, held together by inspirational leadership within. In this series, England is the better side. Yes, the Indians are dented, but not wrecked. It would be a big mistake to write them off. Rest assured, a fully healthy team will be ready to go on the hunt again. The Old Boys still have much fight left in them, regardless of their ages and critics whining. Reality: the competitive arena in Test cricket is wide open. There is more parity; no pushovers among the top 5 teams. Take note: Kirsten is now with SA. And let us all take due note of the wise Bard's famous proclamation: "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."

  • dr.thirsty on August 18, 2011, 14:55 GMT

    Redneck raises a fair point re players representing their country of birth but it ignores the reality of the world we live in. Sure, it would have been amusing to see Colin Cowdrey playing for India, or Dermot Reeve for Hong Kong. Andrew Symonds would not have played for Oz and Steve O'Keefe (who must be due a shot soon), would have to play for Malaysia I believe. No Khawaja for Oz, no Tahir for SA. Also, imagine the uproar in Oz (and NZ) if this requirement had been extended to rugby union & league over the years!

  • jay57870 on August 18, 2011, 14:43 GMT

    I've always enjoyed the India-England cricket contests. Many of Peter's observations about England's rise are "in sync" with how I view India's ascendancy. In 2002, I had the surreal experience of watching at Lord's (my dream) a thrilling Indian win over England in the NatWest Final. In a "tryst with destiny"-like moment, I too predicted that Team India (Test/ODI) - with the likes of Ganguly, Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Kumble, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Zaheer & Harbhajan - would gain top ranking within 10 years. They exceeded my expectations, reaching the top (or near it) in all 3 forms of the game. Now England owns the crown. They deserve it. They earned it the hard way, with a team built from the ground up, as chronicled by Peter. The Strauss-Flower team deserves credit. Likewise, Team India has a solid foundation laid by Ganguly-Wright. Its climb has been remarkable but never easy, interrupted by the controversial Greg Chappell tenure, before reclaiming ascendancy under Dhoni-Kirsten. (TBC)

  • Proteas123 on August 18, 2011, 12:51 GMT

    @ big_al_81 - Fair point but India are being thrashed, SA nearly won 3-1. I would agree SA's bowling depth is not as tested as Eng but are you sure Eng have 24 test quality players. Looking at Bopara and Morgan, your depth in batting is questionable and perhaps not as strong as SA. Also, is a player like Finn really better than Parnel when playing quality opposition. Guess time will tell. I would concede Eng are more settled and SA need to tweak there team if they want to beat Eng. I am absolutely certain that if SA doesn't beat Eng they will certainly put up much more of a fight than India.

  • Percy_Fender on August 18, 2011, 12:22 GMT

    England won so convincingly in Australia in the Ashes series and now against India in the current series largely because of the very tall fast bowlers that they currently have, who are also very good swing or seam bowlers. This apart, they have a wonderful bench strength and are very fit at most times. The batting has been steady. Andy Flower has been a great influence on the likes of Cook, Trott Bell and Pietersen. But like the West Indies and Australia when they crushed everyone it is the 6'3'' plus bowlers that England currently have that has tilted the scales so decisively.That and one good spin bowler. England have presently, the best off spinner in the world.Be that as it may, but contrary to Geoff Boycott's predictions, I feel England will have to work really hard to retain its position even ineir next home series. South Africa is probably the side that will unseat them. They have a great team already and have many promising players waiting. And of course Gary Kirsten is there.

  • big_al_81 on August 18, 2011, 9:51 GMT

    @ Proteas123 you really need to worry when you're using the same excuses that Indian posters have been using on this site for the last month: 'SA were not full strength and when they were...' sounds a lot like 'We didn't have Zaheer/Sehwag and Sachin's out of form...' I think SA are easily the closest to England in terms of XI vs XI but the problem India have had is they only have about 8 top players and when a couple of those are injured there's trouble. England have about 24 or 25 players who could take to the field in Tests. I'm not sure SA do - that's one of the key differences between England and the rest right now and potentially for several years to come. Should be a cracking series next English summer between undoubtedly the 2 best sides in world cricket though, England and SA...

  • Herbet on August 18, 2011, 9:11 GMT

    @redneck, so my friend, both of whom's parents are English, who was born in Toronto while his dad played football in Canada but moved back to England when he was a toddler and has spent the rest of his life here, if he were a top cricketer of Test match quality he should only be able to play the odd ODI here and there and associate cricket for Canada, despite having nothing to do with Canada and no memory of being there at all? The fact of the matter is, people travel, they go to work all over the place, they have children when they are away, but they are English, and so are their children. By your definition, David Gower wouldn't have been able to play for England. And what of all the Scottish people who's kids are born in England when they live here, who should they play football for? This sort of thing will become more prevalent as more and more South Africans of English descent are likely to move back to England in the future. Its as broad as it is long.

  • Proteas123 on August 18, 2011, 7:15 GMT

    @ Valavan - On Eng last tour to SA, SA were not full strength until the last test when they completely crushed Eng. I would agree that Eng showed great fighting spirit to earn the two draws but that hardly means their a stronger team. Eng are stronger now but not strong enough to dominate SA. I think a series in Eng would be tight but in SA I would not give Eng much chance. @ RandyOZ - You are right, they would prefer that.

  • Proteas123 on August 18, 2011, 7:02 GMT

    @ Sheikh Washimul - You don't know anything about cricket from the stats you are throwing out. @ Valavan - You can twist stats to support any view, fact is the most recent stats are what matter. In the last series between SA and Eng. Eng 1 SA 2 and SA 1 Eng 1. Thats 3-2. In ODI's Eng has been supperior against SA with out any question but like most english fans like to say it is the tests that really matter. @ Trickstar - 2004 is quite a while ago and both teams have changed substantially. Steyn was on debut, now he is a great. Anderson was a fringe player now he is number 2 in the world. Ind won last tour to eng which is hardly relevant when comparing the two teams after this tour.

  • RandyOZ on August 18, 2011, 3:08 GMT

    @redneck, spot on re the South Africans. They'll defend it as much as possible like herbet, but fact is if they had the choice there would be 11 Englishmen on the field at all times

  • ygkd on August 18, 2011, 3:07 GMT

    Behind_the_bowlers_arm says England have patience and risk minimisation. He then hints Australia doesn't have it. Well, we don't take too kindly to hints, especially when we don't understand them. Patience? Risk minimisation? Are they in that book thingy with lost of long words in them? Big. Bash. They're real words. Nice and short. Like the next Ashes will be. Anyone for golf on days 4 & 5?

  • KAIRAVA on August 18, 2011, 2:16 GMT

    On observing the pathetic form that India are in presently, if India were to lose this test series 4-0 & the following ODI series 5-0 or 4-1, India will drop to 3rd place in test rankings & 5th place in ODI rankings ! That would be indeed on the greatest falls to disgrace within a matter of just a month after India won only their 3rd test series in WI & their second world cup in ODIs. This example ideally demonstrates the great Indian inconsistency.

  • redneck on August 18, 2011, 1:56 GMT

    i wish cricket australia would stay as loyal to test cricket and producing test cricketers as the ecb does! @Herbet by your definition 3 quarters of austrlaia and majority of our past cricketers would be or would have been eligable to play for england! bit to open ended if you ask me! it should be country of birth not country of parents or grandparent birth! espechally when the sport of cricket was spread by the british into british colonies! england cant just claim almost everyone because they collonised half the world at one stage or another!

  • tmd1 on August 18, 2011, 0:47 GMT

    I thought old fashion cricket might have been having an English 11 actually made up of English born players, not a team with 3 or 4 overseas players because the local talent is not good enough for test cricket.

  • Aane_do on August 17, 2011, 23:51 GMT

    what do u mean by this that indian team is not showing them a aggressive cricket.in fact english team has outclass indians in all part of the game.how india became no 1 in test ? if india will play at their own soil they will b remain no 1 test team for a decade or so.n trust me m feling sorry for indians that they might not have taste to no 1 spot in near future.i am big big fan of sachin tendulkar and not having any doubt on his ability but the back boon tendulkar and dravid are on their knees and not much cricket left in them.laxman and sehwag have also seen their prime time and now finished.after them i dnt see any reliable man who will b in charge of this sinking ship.there is no bowling future in idia especially in fast bowling. IPL has damaged indian cricket and they will realize it in next five years.

  • CricFan78 on August 17, 2011, 23:32 GMT

    I dont know why we are hyping up Anderson so much for sub-continent. He just got hammered into oblivion during the recent world cup.

  • Valavan on August 17, 2011, 23:01 GMT

    Why many teams hyping SA all time to be the best. If you check the decade statistics (2001 - 2010) (1) Eng Vs SA in England (2003) - 5 tests - Result:2 - 2. (2) Eng Vs SA in SA (2004/05) - 5 Tests - Result:2 -1 in favor of England. (3) Eng Vs SA in Eng (2008) - 4 Tests - Result: 2 - 1 in favor of SA. (4) Eng Vs SA in SA (2009/10) - 4 Tests - Result: 1 - 1. SO OVERALL = 18 tests, England won 6, SA won 6, Drawn 6. Anti England or SA supporters saying SA is the best. At the same time 4 ODI series played 2 in each country (SA,England) - England were winners in 3 ODI series and SA just 1. IS THIS STATS ENOUGH FOR ANTI ENGLISH SUPPORTERS.

  • Chris_P on August 17, 2011, 22:25 GMT

    @CricIndia208. That is the reason why your test team is going to freefall down the rankings. For those who think India will climb to #1 shortly, consider, this; they are going through a period where they will be defending MAXIMUM points, their aging bastmen will be retiring shortly and how are their sorry excuse of a bowling lineup going to take the 20 wickets needed to win? Dream on guys. The short part of it, is that out of the other 4 leading test countries, you have failed to defeat them away, something that England & Sth Africa has managed to do to some.

  • InnocentGuy on August 17, 2011, 22:07 GMT

    This is always going to go back and forth. When a team wins at home and rises up the rankings there are always people questioning their class and challenging them to prove their mettle overseas. Even the dominant Australians in the past decade found it difficult to play well in the subcontinent. But everyone knows how ruthless and efficient they were overall. I guess that's what matters. When they did a 5-0 Ashes victory people hardly challenged them to repeat their feats in England rather than at home. Home advantage exists for any team. That's why it's called 'home' advantage. Even if England lost in India, I would still say they are currently the deserved #1 Test team. Of course unless India go on and win against Australia too. :)

  • Nampally on August 17, 2011, 21:18 GMT

    This is the same England side which nearly got white washed in India. Today they are #1 because the Indian batting failed because of lack of practice under the English conditions. The only thing that has improved from the Flintoff Era is that the England players seem to have cut down on drinking and focussing more on Cricket. Unfortunately, India have been hit by injuries galore - Gambhir, Sehwag, Tendulkar, Yuvraj, Zaheer& Harbhajan. The team is still playing with 4 of these injured players still in the recovery mode, in the oval test & with the ace bowler, Zaheer missing. Imagine England playing without Anderson plus strauss, Cook, Trott & KP returning after a long lay off due to injuries!.Would they have won these 3 tests? NO. Even now if India get a good opening partnership, they have a chance to salvage and show their great batting which vaulted them to #1 Test team. Sehwag & Gambhir are arguably the best openers & they have one more chance to restore Indian dignity @ Oval.

  • epochery on August 17, 2011, 20:54 GMT

    No team ever wins in all conditions. I remember the all conquering Australia being defeated in India, West Indies in their heyday losing in Pakistan. England have performed well in all condtions over the last 6 or 7 years and have won test series everywhere except India. Lets not forget the last series was interupted by am terrorist attck. But England have won 8 of the last nine test series they have played in, the other a drawen series in south africa. So no doubt deserve to be top of the tree but are not comlete just yet.

  • landl47 on August 17, 2011, 19:33 GMT

    Like all analysis, the danger is of seeing what one wants to see. The first and most important ingredient in any sporting success is that the people have to be talented. England happens to have a squad of talented players who have all reached maturity at the same time. It's not just a few good players with the rest average, all the England players are contributing and the strength extends to the reserves. Second, where the game has advanced is that now it is possible to look at things like seam position and teach bowlers how to achieve the best results. That's why Anderson is a much better bowler now than he was 4 years ago. In a sense, he's a manufactured bowler in that he's learned how to control the ball rather than just doing it naturally, as the teams of 20 and 30 years ago did. Third, team spirit is incredibly important. Flower and Strauss have created a confident and dedicated team, all working for team goals. That's also a concept not always present in past teams.

  • mani_narayan on August 17, 2011, 19:12 GMT

    Congratulations to England for becoming number 1 ! India have been #1 for 2 years, so we must give them credit for what they have achieved.

    Peter, when a team wins everything looks good. Their whole strategy for the past 10 years look good. They have a very good team but the reality is that England won against an Indian team that was not prepared physically (injuries, no practice matches) or mentally or emotionally (especially after the WC high).

    England's real challenge is to maintain this going forward. England are good in their own conditions and similar conditions but have never done well in the sub-continent where the conditions are very different. I dont expect them to do well there. In fact the moment they play a few away series in the sub-contintent they will fall back. I think SA has the best team to succeed in all conditions. They have always done well in the sub-continent and have the ability to do well in England and Austrailia.

  • on August 17, 2011, 18:33 GMT

    England are brimming with confidence and a certain white wash for India

  • adamo on August 17, 2011, 18:23 GMT

    Come on CricIndia208 - no one really thinks that the World Cup is a better judge of a cricket team's capability than a test series, do they? Test cricket remains and will always remain the toughest form of the game. And I'm afraid that on this occasion India have been outclassed - in no small part due to their players defaulting to tactics and techniques picked up playing the more lucrative shorter game, as kancnaic points out. I sincerely hope the Indian board takes steps to address this as India are one of the all time great cricket nations.

  • chandau on August 17, 2011, 17:31 GMT

    @Chris_Howard: "Their fast bowling depth is amazing. I don't think Australia ever had that much depth." Mate both OZ and SA in recent times have the depth; what u mean to say is English fast bowling sextet are in form. e.g. McGrath, Lee, Jhonson, Siddle, Bracken, Bollinger, Hilf, Tait, are all good bowlers but the problem was most were off form and not on song. Simillarly Steyn, Kallis Ntini, Ngam, Morkle bros., all are good and frightening on their day but to have 3 or 4 firing at their best is the missing link. In fact during the Sri Lanka series Broad could not buy a wicket but the conditions helped Anderson and Tremlett so much it was not an issue. In the India series it seems all 4 guys are in form so looks good But remember SL beat England by 10 in SL during the WC and this attack looked like a bunch of girls playing softball! Now look at the OZ attack in SL; so far Lee Jhonson and Bollinger have all shown some form but not all 3 at the same time :) good for sri lanka mate

  • Dr.Vindaloo on August 17, 2011, 17:28 GMT

    @cricIndia208: the 'World Cup' is not the pinnacle of the game. It is the pinnacle of the 50-over game, which is probably the most boring and tactically sterile format of cricket, and a format that will die out at international level within the next five years.

  • CricFan1975 on August 17, 2011, 16:40 GMT

    England is playing very best Test Cricket at the moment and the way Indian Team is playing is helping them. Had Indian team showed their High quality cricket , things would have been different. If things work in your favor, you would put all of them in perspective and when they don't you would find reason for failures.

  • sreeg on August 17, 2011, 16:40 GMT

    So much being said about England winning in their home turf. Like Ian Botham questioned India's #1 ranking and challenging india to prove in England, let's also wait and see how England performs in Sub continent. England bowlers and except for 1 or 2 batsmen, none of them have proved in sub continent conditions. No doubt they're performance this series is commendable, but let's not call them Invincible yet.

  • on August 17, 2011, 16:22 GMT

    Let England visit India and repeat the feat. Then, England would be true No 1. I have a feeling that India will soon regain the No 1 Test status, as they will be hungry to avenge this humiliation.

  • Trickstar on August 17, 2011, 16:19 GMT

    @YorkshirePudding Completely agree, the Anderson we see now, is not the same one that went to the sub continent 3 years ago, anyone that says different is being really dishonest. The Aussies said all this before the Ashes, that Jimmy averages 70 or something last time he was there and he will never swing the ball etc look how that turned out, underestimate him at your peril.

  • Trickstar on August 17, 2011, 16:12 GMT

    @Aungshuman Zaman I don't know whether you consider 2004 a long time ago but I don't and that when England last beat SA in a series in SA.

    @AndyZaltzmannsHair I'm sorry mate but Asif was never a swing bowler he moved the ball off the seam both ways, which is what made him so deadly. As far as Amir, he was around 5 minutes and England were doing it before he came along. I don't think he's saying, that swing was forgotten about before England brought it back but England's enthesis towards it as a team, with Anderson, Bresnan and even Broad swinging the ball, is what has separated them from other teams . Steyn does outswing the ball but no one else in SA uses swing and no one maintains the condition of the ball like England do and imo that has been a huge factor in their success, having a guy who doesn't sweat look after the ball is a huge asset.

  • aarpee2 on August 17, 2011, 16:12 GMT

    Nothing succeeds like success.The delusion is to believe all is planned and well executed.While England were awesome in this series in home conditions and on tailor made pitches,India failed on preparation,fielding and fitness levels though they allowed the second test to slip out from their grasp in the first innings through shoddy bowling [Eng.124 for 8] and a battiing collapse[5wkts at 273 for no runs]. I do believe a fully fit Zaheer Khan as the leader of the attack would have caused serious probems to this same English team to struggle.Secondly Zak would have also stood at mid-off for the younger seamers and guided them to bowl smartly and deliver results as he has so often done in the recent past.. In order to achieve the stamp of a true champion team England have to beat India on Indian soil .Till then let us reserve our judgement and let them enjoy their ranking they deserve...

  • dinom on August 17, 2011, 16:02 GMT

    @criindia208: its two different games!...world cup is ONE DAY international game...this test series is TEST CRICKET... its like comparing field hockey and indoor hockey... note that even England has different captains for the longer and shorter versions... if the test series is so irrelevant then why India is worried about losing their no.1 ranking????

  • Beanolabub on August 17, 2011, 15:36 GMT

    Great to see England giving the Indians some clobber. The 1996 series victory was good but after the frustration of the 2007 series and the absolute debacle of the 1993 series*, I am glad to see England are now on top. Congratulations to them and get well soon to India!

    *I still get nightmares about that 1993 series. Who on earth leaves out their highest runscorer because 'he's too old' when there's others in the team older than him? And doesn't pick their best wicketkeeper who'd done nothing wrong? And plays four seamers in India and no spinner (without including the seamer in form) when the opposition has three spinners in their side? What a mess - and how India must wish they had that team playing the fourth Test. Kapil, Manoj, Anil, Navjot - come back, your country needs you!!

  • CricIndia208 on August 17, 2011, 15:01 GMT

    India have won the World Cup which is the pinnacle of the game. This test series is irrelevant.

  • demon_bowler on August 17, 2011, 14:37 GMT

    Good article, but you make it sound as though there has been a methodical, step-by-step rise to the top over the past 10 years. In fact, from 2006 to March 2009 England were mostly going backwards, thanks to injuries, loss of form, and poor management decisions (such as the outrageous treatment of Strauss and then of Pietersen). The real assault on Everest started from the low of March 2009 (51 all out in Jamaica), when Flower and Strauss got the whole team behind the strategy that culminated in topping the rankings.

  • on August 17, 2011, 14:19 GMT

    lol Sheikh Washimul, your stats concerning England vs SA is completely wrong. England has not dominated SA in a long time. They lost the home series 1-2 last time and drew the away series 1-1.

  • Chris_Howard on August 17, 2011, 14:13 GMT

    Two things stand out about this English team: (1) Their fast bowling depth is amazing. I don't think Australia ever had that much depth in their fast bowling. (2) Their quiet confidence. No arrogance; no off-field mind games. They let their cricket do the talking. This is a team that will never be seen as bullies. It's hard not to like them. And I must say, in that lineup the one I'm most pleased for is Ian Bell. It's great to see him reaching his potential after all his early struggles. Hopefully we'll say the same about Phil Hughes one day.

  • on August 17, 2011, 13:33 GMT

    Congrats to the England Team for becoming no.1.As an Indian Fan must admit my team was undercooked and England the better side who deserved the victory.Good Article from Mr.Roebuck again.Test Cricket is still the main dish.And as he says England still have a long way to go before they equal the Great Windies and the Australian Team who succeeded them.First Challenge will be to conquer the subcontinent.Second Challenge will be to be a consistent ODI team.

  • on August 17, 2011, 13:22 GMT

    @AYASH preparing a bitch for spinning bowlers itself is a form of cheating . ENG beat SL and PAK in their own territories too. ENGLAND can beat any team outside ENGLAND. Has India ever beaten any team outside INDIA. THis english side is way more powerful than india in every department. INDIA didnt give anything away. They were simply outclassed

  • on August 17, 2011, 13:18 GMT

    @ezee ENGLAND have humiliated INDIA, AU, SA, SL. They have beaten all sides. SA have never beaten ENGLAND in the last 5 years or so. PLUS SA isnt as powerful as ENGLAND even on paper. On a side note, ENGLAND will win this INDIA MASSACRE 4-0

  • on August 17, 2011, 13:16 GMT

    INDIA were totally outclassed by ENGLAND. EVEN if India plays with 20 players they will still lose. This ENGLISH side is just a bit too powerful. INDIA are a good side but against lesser teams . ENGLAND would humiliate SA/AU or any other team they play in the future. India will come back??? How?? India doesnt have the firepower to fight ENGLAND . No team does. Stop living in wonderland !!!

  • kancnaic on August 17, 2011, 13:15 GMT

    Yes.The indians are playing the test match as the one day match.They do not like to stay in the middle and like to get the runs in fours and sixes.Yet i think the Indians are better than the English if they get rid of this attitude.

  • sd75 on August 17, 2011, 12:56 GMT

    Some very fair and insightful points made. However, the blanket explanation of 'old fashioned' cricket is possibly a little simplistic. For me, surveying the happy vista of recent English test success (and considerable optimism looking to the future) one notes a far more scientific approach by the 'back room'. Knowing what works and committed onward implementation. The 'back room' has swelled and is, in it's current guise, a thoroughly modern invention. The fitness, strength and positive psychological attributes have been developed and instilled rather than stumbled upon by selectors in county matches, which are themselves, no longer sporting backwaters.

    So whilst we might be viewing techniques and approaches which are share much with more traditional times, the foundation is the opposite of old-fashioned.

  • ibbotsoni on August 17, 2011, 12:44 GMT

    Dennis Lillee never had any succsess in the sub continent. Does that mean he's not a great bowler?

  • rofern79 on August 17, 2011, 12:41 GMT

    I am an Indian - was, am and will always be a staunch supporter of the Indian cricket team. I want to come out and say it that England absolutely deserves to be the No. 1 team. We can all argue about which player makes up the English team (i.e their origin), details that England have not won in Asia etc. However, the same rankings that propelled England to no.1, propelled us (India) to no.1 too. Besides as much as I'm a fan of our team (not their playing at the moment), they have absolutely hammered us on this tour. The inflicted a huge defeat to Australia in the Ashes. Whether, they can hold on to their no.1 - is all conjecture. For now though, they are No.1 and they deserve it - Well done England and their supporters! Watch out for us Indians, we are coming back to snatch that crown back :).

  • on August 17, 2011, 12:36 GMT

    Why are every body saying "Let England come to India and prove themselves" ?? Even though england comes to India for a 4 Test series, the result will be 1-0 or 1-1. Everybody knows subcontinent pitches are of no use in producing a result. But note that England will not lose 3 Tests in a 4 Test series for sure. England Prevails.

  • Puffin on August 17, 2011, 12:30 GMT

    @dutchy, I take your point about England having to have an all-rounder. Obviously if there's another Botham or Flintoff on offer, then take it, but don't be too obsessed hoping to turn someone who can bat and bowl a bit into the next one. That sort of great player does not turn up too often and many candidates have been buried by such expectations. see also the current search for the next Shane Warne down under: it's all about spending too much effort looking for magic players rather than on the basics.

  • Clive_Dunn on August 17, 2011, 12:29 GMT

    I don't really understand what Roebuck is saying about 2005 being "nationalistic", I certainly can't remember any Aussies being lynched outside a Walkabout, or a boycott of nasty lagers being organised . In reality though the reaction is much more subdued than 2005, I guess that's what 20 odd years of bi-annual humiliation stored up for the average English cricket supporter. The number 1 test ranking is significantly less emotive than beating Australia for the Ashes.

  • YorkshirePudding on August 17, 2011, 12:27 GMT

    @Sumitg, it goes back long before then, you have the Romans (100Ad-400ad), and the Saxons (600AD-800AD) who invaded long before the Normandians (French), us English are a mixed bag of Celtic, Roman, French, German, and Scandinavian blood, more recently theres also Asian, African and Eastern European blood thats been added to the mix. It all depends on how far back you want to go.

  • george204 on August 17, 2011, 12:08 GMT

    @dutchy Absolutely. England flapped around for 15 years looking for someone to replace Botham - remember Capel, Reeve, Ealham, Watkinson, Hollioake (& probably dozens of others I've forgotten)? We only gained respite when Flintoff came of age in 2003. Thankfully we didn't fall into the same trap once he'd gone. The other seismic change is consistency of selection - remember the revolving door of the late '80s & 1990s? How many players did England try in that era? Some series we used more than 25 players!

  • professor_zero on August 17, 2011, 12:07 GMT

    Ye Gods! I do wish people commenting on Jimmy Anderson's abilities would bother to learn about his bowling before hitting "post." (1) His stats in the WC are not an accurate prediction of his abilities in South Asian Tests because, first, he's simply a better Test than ODI bowler and, second, he came to India exhausted after playing every match of a long Ashes campaign in which he destroyed Australia in unfriendly conditions. (2) His Test bowling average in India is actually a respectable 29.30, albeit off a small sample size. His away average is still a high 38.22, but it's come down every year since his away-series debut in 2005, increasingly rapidly since the NZ series of 2008. He may not be Glenn McGrath, but he's a fine bowler. I doubt the Indian batsmen would underestimate him in the same way Indian fans appear to do -- and even after he's just demolished the "best batting line-up in the world." Such chutzpah!

  • blondblackberry on August 17, 2011, 11:54 GMT

    i have to say that india lost rather than england won it.lost some important players at crucial times and things didn't work for them in alien conditions.the same happened to england in worldcup losing some of the key players even in 2006 tour they had the same problem performed below the potential. it's cricket when the best get's out it's difficult to motivate and win.

  • on August 17, 2011, 11:52 GMT

    This English team could play well in sub continent given the fact that they know how to reverse swing the ball

  • BifferSpice on August 17, 2011, 11:45 GMT

    Great article. "Cook bats in the manner of a farmer collecting eggs in a barn." That's fantastic :)

  • Fluffykins on August 17, 2011, 11:42 GMT

    I have to say that I got into cricket by watching t20, but now have not been to a game for over 3 years and cant even seem to watch it on tv.

    I now find it really unsatisfying, however as a starting point it has its place.

    I dont want England to concentrate on this form of the game, winning the t20 world cup to me means nothing neither would the 50 over format.

  • 200ondebut on August 17, 2011, 11:35 GMT

    Whatever anyone says, England bowlers performance in the sub-continent is certainly a lot better than the Indian performance this summer in England. Thats why they are the top ranked team.

  • on August 17, 2011, 11:30 GMT

    Well, I see that many comments here are from people who still feel that Eng won the No.1 ranking because India gave it to them. In that case, they should have done what Brez said: you either play or just leave. If Anderson does well only Eng tracks, half of you have already answered the remaining part by saying "let them come to Asia and play". Obviously with spinning tracks aplenty, what would one expect. I think one should credit the English team. Its true that Indian batsmen gave their wickets many a time. But, no one asked them to. Besides, for certain acclaimed batsmen, calling the English bowling side an average one and getting out to the same guys to bamboozling deliveries .. That speaks volumes :) Considering the Eng side since 2005 in Tests, they have come a long way. First 5 batsmen gone, they still can stick around and bat. If you cant make your name click on the scoreboard, there are ways by which you can raise that of your team-mates. Anyways Kudos to England !!

  • SumitG on August 17, 2011, 11:28 GMT

    Herbet: I think its open to debate that you call them of English descent or not. By extending your own logic , they are actually french (Normans), because only Welsh or Scottish are the original inhabitants of this land ..isnt it ?

  • gujratwalla on August 17, 2011, 11:17 GMT

    Good article ....yes England won by virtue of adhering to the norms of TEST cricket!The English fast bowlers are good but not that good to draw comparsion with the likes of Trueman,Statham,Snow,Willis,Botham etc.Rather England won because the Indians were petrified of the short pitched bowling and therefore the more they were bounced they more scared they became until panic took over and they got out!Anderson and co. deserve their success but i will hail them as the best if they can succeed in the sub-continent.Good bowlers are good in favourable condtions but great ones succeed on any type of ptches!But for the moment we take our hats off for England for some very professional and efficient cricket!

  • Dr.Vindaloo on August 17, 2011, 11:07 GMT

    @REH223: please don't confuse the pyjama game with the real game. I really couldn't care what Anderson's World Cup stats are, and I'm sure he couldn't either. Cricket World Cup is equivalent of playing Soccer World Cup in 6-a-side format. Fact is Anderson went down to Australia last year with the Aussies questioning his ability to bowl outside England and he destroyed them.

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on August 17, 2011, 10:57 GMT

    What England have brought back is patience and risk minimisation. Against Australia all they had to do was keep chipping away putting the ball in the right areas til the lack of these qualities (and technique) on the other side meant a poor shot was played. This is a major change from the Australian version when they were no.1 which meant playing a high tempo game and backing your players to come off more often than the opposition. Unfortunately Australia have tried to play the same way when they lack the ability to deliver. England have become ruthlessly efficient and solid ....... like a German football team! Their next task is winning somewhere like India or SL and dealing with S Africa next summer. If i was S African i might be slightly peeved at being overlooked at the moment as a hurdle that England need to overcome before this current coronation as Worlds Best Team Ever (& likely winners of the Grand National, Formula One title & Davis Cup it seems like in some English press).

  • on August 17, 2011, 10:46 GMT

    let this team be tested in subcontinent let see anderson swing we say what happened to their odi side in wc lets see what can their test side do diff wc squad quite similar to test squad

  • Herbet on August 17, 2011, 10:08 GMT

    I think this article hits the nail relatively well on the head. South Africa, India's veteran batsmen, Shivnerine Chanderpaul and Sangakarra/Jayawardene aside everyone seems to have forgotten how to play test cricket. Everyone seems to want to copy Steve Waugh's Aussie side and rattle a long at 4+ an over. But they were the only team able to do it. South Africa, now they have nicked Tahir, have a well balanced side capable of challenging England, but no one else does except maybe Pakistan if they were able to pick all their best players at once and actually play. Australia's batting looks poor, Hughes has none of the attributes required of an opener and neither really does Watson, although his technique is more solid he hits through the line on the rise and doesn't occupy the crease. Not to mention their lack of a spinner. Their pacemen were shown up for a being one dimensional and lacking ideas during the Ashes. And, I can't see India's new mini Yuvraj's having the required mindset.

  • Ezee-T on August 17, 2011, 9:55 GMT

    You can't be considered number 1 until you've beaten all the best sides. England haven't done that, neither did India, when they were at number 1. South Africa did and when we start playing test cricket again we'll reclaim our spot as the worlds best test team. We have the better side, easily, the best bowler in Steyn, the best batsman in Kallis. All we have to do is get the right team together and this is where Gary Kirsten comes in.

  • Herbet on August 17, 2011, 9:44 GMT

    People seem to get confused when they say people are of South African descent. How can Jonathan Trott be of South African descent when his ancestors are English. He is of English descent, born in South Africa. Any of his relatives living in South Africa are of English descent, just like Graeme Smith is South African of English (or at least British) descent. Pietersen is of half South Africa descent, likewize, Kieswetter, but their mothers are British. Ravi Bopara and Monty Panesar, both squad players, are of Indian descent, seen as their ancestors are Indian. See where I am going? Why does nobody give South Africa abuse for playing people of English, Dutch and Indian descent? Anyway, England are a top side and any of Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Prior, Swann, Broad, Tremlett or Anderson would be lauded if they played for anyone else.

  • AzyS on August 17, 2011, 9:33 GMT

    as usual good article by peter and i do agree with you.. england have been superb and years of planning is now showing results for them... im also sure india will come back stronger after this setback.. do read my Cricket blog and comment.... catchazy.blogspot.com ... cheers..

  • popcorn on August 17, 2011, 9:23 GMT

    Can Cricket Australia get rid of its fascination for the Big Bash?

  • Roger_Allott on August 17, 2011, 9:18 GMT

    To correct Mr Roebuck, the trait seen in 2005 wasn't nationalism - it was flabberghastism.

  • on August 17, 2011, 8:54 GMT

    "the old-fashioned route" referring to actual way of playing cricket !

  • Mike_C on August 17, 2011, 8:31 GMT

    England players are very much Test orientated - does Cook play any T20 cricket these days? They don't play in the domestic T20 competition, and due to schedule clashes can't play much in the IPL. And due to the generous funding from central contracts, are well rewarded for playing for England, so they don't HAVE to play IPL to make a decent living (even if they might want too!) unlike players from less wealthy cricket associaitons.

    Also, the English public prioritises Test cricket too, they might like to watch 50 over and T20 cricket, but it is the Test series they CARE about.

  • YorkshirePudding on August 17, 2011, 8:21 GMT

    @REH223, a number of Indian fans make the excuse that Indian players are exhausted after playing too much cricket for the last 4 months, the same can be said of England in the WC, dont forget they'd been touring for 5 months, were home for 3 days, then flew back out to the WC for another 2 months. Also, Anderson has only played 5 games in Asia, and those were 3 years ago, so lets wait until hes played a few more in those conditions before discounting him.

  • on August 17, 2011, 8:05 GMT

    Swann can be a good option when they are not playing against Subcontinent teams. Anderson,Broad,Bresnan are good only in English,Aussie,SA conditions and thier performances in subcontinent tracks are not up to the mark. They have worst figures in the subcontinet so far and unfortunately next 3 series Eng plays are in subcontinet tracks... Its going to be a tough challenge for the ENG team to retain its top spot for a long period.

  • on August 17, 2011, 7:55 GMT

    The Poms deserve to be no. 1 in this series simply because the Indians have surrendered meekly. They lacked no fight whatsoever. Consider this: in the first and second test..they had England on the mat but allowed them to get away because their bowling lacked the deat blow. England and South Africa should be strong contenders to the No. 1 spot for a couple of years. However. lets see England trash India 3-0 in their own backyard... The aussies couldnt do it....in all their tours. Dont write off the Aussies and Indians yet. The aussies because they are developing a good pace attack..the indians simply because in a cricket crazy nation of a billion people the odds are in their favor of finding suitable replacements for their aging stars..IPL or no IPL!

  • REH223 on August 17, 2011, 7:35 GMT

    @PETER ROEBUCK:"James Anderson doesn't swing the ball only in favourable conditions, he uses his wrist and finger to make it move regardless". What happened in the sub continent during the world cup. ???? I think one of his wrists or fingers was injured !!! HOME- avg:26.89 , SR:50.9 AWAY- avg:38.22 , SR:67.7 ASIA - avg:45.41, SR:83.4

    Moving Balls supposed to give him more wickets away and in asia. But the stats reflect the true story.

  • Proteas123 on August 17, 2011, 6:56 GMT

    @ Ramanujam Sridhar - SA get rid of Smith. He is SA's best opener and has been our second best batsman over the last decade. Yes Smith needs to get back into form and the selectors need to get smart and select Rudolf to partner Smith. With Tahir available SA is more than a match for england. Englands only advantage over SA is that they bat down to nine or ten but then SA has Kallis for more depth in bowling which balances things out. It is an interesting time in test cricket as there is still no clear number one team, anybody can beat anyone.

  • bobbo2 on August 17, 2011, 6:33 GMT

    I agree with abdulqadeer.wi. England play proper cricket and make it beautiful game - I would never have said that years ago.

    How I wish NZ could find a steady player like Cook or Trott to give us some consistent batting.

  • DazTaylor on August 17, 2011, 5:51 GMT

    @Ayush Garg Fair point re England not having to face their own bowlers but you could level the same at Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards and the great WIndies side. And of course at Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden etc.

  • YorkshirePudding on August 17, 2011, 5:41 GMT

    I have to agree with my fellow commenters below, especially the ones in regard to swing bowling and batting. England are by no means exempt from getting out cheaply to good swing bowling, it just happens that India hasnt pressed the advantage when they;ve had england down, where as England have. In regards to the comments about the Accumulators like Cook and Trott, SA have Amla and Kallis, both of which can accumulate and grind down bowling attacks. In effect I can only see SA keeping England "Honest" over the next few years until australia rise again from the ashes.

  • on August 17, 2011, 4:59 GMT

    Yes england"s achievements have been steady and significant. However if past records of South Africa and more recently India is any indication, reaching the top is easier than staying there and I remember England"s capitulation of 0-5 in Aistralia after a memorable win in 2005.England is a young team which is a great thing with the world full of aging stars like sachin ,dravid, ponting and Kallis. But I would still wait to see how England performs in the sub continent before giving them true greatness. A good, well organised team that has had its best run when the world is struggling. South Africa can challenge England if they get rid of Smith . Interesting days. Well done England. sridhar

  • wittgenstein on August 17, 2011, 4:44 GMT

    English batsmen too, like batsmen through the ages, find good swing bowling difficult to cope with. Witness England's struggle against the Muhammeds (Aamir and Asif) last year, or just look at some of the county scores on swing friendly days this season. This series is so uneven because one side has fast swing bowlers operating in relay, the other has nothing,

  • ARad on August 17, 2011, 4:38 GMT

    Not just the English team but even this article is "old-fashioned" (though many readers may not use such a generous term to describe Roebuck's obsession with STEREOTYPING.) When would Peter Roebuck stop talking about "stock" and "settlers"? Are we in the second decade of a spanking new 21st century or still in the 19th?

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 17, 2011, 4:27 GMT

    Even though England have been an average team in the past except some brilliance here and there, no one can argue about their love towards test cricket. I have always felt England would eventually become a brilliant test nation. They have done just that albeit with players of South African descent. Even then you gotta play to win stuff and they have. Now the hard part is to maintain that, we shall see if they can. This performance by England is good for test cricket in the UK. Many youngsters would want to put on the three lions cap instead of funny colored T20 jerseys or one day shirts. The BCCI should learn a lot from how the ECB is marketing test cricket. With India's test performance down near the gutters, the BCCI could simply find an excuse to completely get rid of test cricket off India's itinerary in the near future. Now that will only make it bad for the next generation of Indian test cricketers; IF they want to play test cricket that is.

  • rahulcricket007 on August 17, 2011, 4:25 GMT

    swann a good wepon for taking wickets . are you kidding me ? swann has been thrashed by the indians in all the matches . he has taken only 4 wickets in series so far with an economy of more than 5 .

  • on August 17, 2011, 3:44 GMT

    Nice article and pretty much true but for one exception that seems to suggest that English batsmen seem to play swing well. I don't think so. First innings in Trent Bridge was a glimpse of how bad things could go if bowl is doing a bit for England batsmen. I bet if the English batsmen are made to play their own bowling attack, they would also struggle against that relentless seam attack. They are lucky they have to play such a pedestrian bowling attack which I guess is a serious contender for last spot among all test cricket playing nations.

  • abdulqadeer.wi on August 17, 2011, 3:36 GMT

    Well written article. The way the England team has been playing is a joy for purists to watch. Test cricket the way it should be played.

  • _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on August 17, 2011, 3:14 GMT

    I think the key to Eng's success is highlighted by the word "execution" I feel this is what SA, an almost equally strong team on paper (minus d ridiculously deep batting) lacks at times. Ind misses all rounders.No, Ifran Pathan is not the answer, he is mediocre vs almost every1 except Zim and Bang.

  • AndyZaltzmannsHair on August 17, 2011, 3:14 GMT

    England revived swing bowling??? Erm, what? When did it ever go away? Weren't you watching the exploits of Asif and Aamer last year? Conventional and reverse. Or do you have Dale Steyn permanently blocked on your TV, so you can't view him? Once again history gets distorted by the 'here and now' brigade, forever rewriting it in the image of 2 minutes ago... over and over... Coming up next, how Swann saved Offspin bowling from the evil clutches of the doosra...

  • dutchy on August 17, 2011, 3:13 GMT

    You forgot to mention one thing - England have finally dropped their obsession with having an all rounder, which would unbalance the team. Six batsmen, four bowlers, a keeper. If some of them can bat a bit and bowl a bit too, all well and good - but everyone has a specific job that must come first. It's a seismic change in English thinking from the selectors and it's paid off in spades.

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  • dutchy on August 17, 2011, 3:13 GMT

    You forgot to mention one thing - England have finally dropped their obsession with having an all rounder, which would unbalance the team. Six batsmen, four bowlers, a keeper. If some of them can bat a bit and bowl a bit too, all well and good - but everyone has a specific job that must come first. It's a seismic change in English thinking from the selectors and it's paid off in spades.

  • AndyZaltzmannsHair on August 17, 2011, 3:14 GMT

    England revived swing bowling??? Erm, what? When did it ever go away? Weren't you watching the exploits of Asif and Aamer last year? Conventional and reverse. Or do you have Dale Steyn permanently blocked on your TV, so you can't view him? Once again history gets distorted by the 'here and now' brigade, forever rewriting it in the image of 2 minutes ago... over and over... Coming up next, how Swann saved Offspin bowling from the evil clutches of the doosra...

  • _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on August 17, 2011, 3:14 GMT

    I think the key to Eng's success is highlighted by the word "execution" I feel this is what SA, an almost equally strong team on paper (minus d ridiculously deep batting) lacks at times. Ind misses all rounders.No, Ifran Pathan is not the answer, he is mediocre vs almost every1 except Zim and Bang.

  • abdulqadeer.wi on August 17, 2011, 3:36 GMT

    Well written article. The way the England team has been playing is a joy for purists to watch. Test cricket the way it should be played.

  • on August 17, 2011, 3:44 GMT

    Nice article and pretty much true but for one exception that seems to suggest that English batsmen seem to play swing well. I don't think so. First innings in Trent Bridge was a glimpse of how bad things could go if bowl is doing a bit for England batsmen. I bet if the English batsmen are made to play their own bowling attack, they would also struggle against that relentless seam attack. They are lucky they have to play such a pedestrian bowling attack which I guess is a serious contender for last spot among all test cricket playing nations.

  • rahulcricket007 on August 17, 2011, 4:25 GMT

    swann a good wepon for taking wickets . are you kidding me ? swann has been thrashed by the indians in all the matches . he has taken only 4 wickets in series so far with an economy of more than 5 .

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 17, 2011, 4:27 GMT

    Even though England have been an average team in the past except some brilliance here and there, no one can argue about their love towards test cricket. I have always felt England would eventually become a brilliant test nation. They have done just that albeit with players of South African descent. Even then you gotta play to win stuff and they have. Now the hard part is to maintain that, we shall see if they can. This performance by England is good for test cricket in the UK. Many youngsters would want to put on the three lions cap instead of funny colored T20 jerseys or one day shirts. The BCCI should learn a lot from how the ECB is marketing test cricket. With India's test performance down near the gutters, the BCCI could simply find an excuse to completely get rid of test cricket off India's itinerary in the near future. Now that will only make it bad for the next generation of Indian test cricketers; IF they want to play test cricket that is.

  • ARad on August 17, 2011, 4:38 GMT

    Not just the English team but even this article is "old-fashioned" (though many readers may not use such a generous term to describe Roebuck's obsession with STEREOTYPING.) When would Peter Roebuck stop talking about "stock" and "settlers"? Are we in the second decade of a spanking new 21st century or still in the 19th?

  • wittgenstein on August 17, 2011, 4:44 GMT

    English batsmen too, like batsmen through the ages, find good swing bowling difficult to cope with. Witness England's struggle against the Muhammeds (Aamir and Asif) last year, or just look at some of the county scores on swing friendly days this season. This series is so uneven because one side has fast swing bowlers operating in relay, the other has nothing,

  • on August 17, 2011, 4:59 GMT

    Yes england"s achievements have been steady and significant. However if past records of South Africa and more recently India is any indication, reaching the top is easier than staying there and I remember England"s capitulation of 0-5 in Aistralia after a memorable win in 2005.England is a young team which is a great thing with the world full of aging stars like sachin ,dravid, ponting and Kallis. But I would still wait to see how England performs in the sub continent before giving them true greatness. A good, well organised team that has had its best run when the world is struggling. South Africa can challenge England if they get rid of Smith . Interesting days. Well done England. sridhar