Mark Nicholas
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Former Hampshire batsman; host of Channel Nine's cricket coverage

England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, 4th day

Strauss' new Australians ready for South Africa

After proving their mastery over West Indies, England's only doubts surround No. 6 - and here the selectors might just get lucky once again

Mark Nicholas

May 28, 2012

Comments: 71 | Text size: A | A

Andrew Strauss celebrates a successful review against Kemar Roach, England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, 4th day, May 28, 2012
Andrew Strauss celebrates another successful review. "He calls it right so often it's creepy" © PA Photos

Finally, England pushed the door open good and proper. At Lord's the gulf between the sides was evident but not cataclysmic. Here at Trent Bridge it has been as near as damn it. A pity, frankly, because there are signs - I know, we keep saying it but there are signs - that West Indies are on a better track. Clearly there is stomach for the fight and a long process of learning has brought fruit, most especially with Marlon Samuels and Kemar Roach. The trouble is that though heart and spirit matter, talent matters more and these two stand alone. Mind you, England have got a few teams covered on that one.

First then to Andrew Strauss, who must wonder about the madness of it all. One minute looking down the barrel, the next tapping on the shoulders of Walter Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoff Boycott at the top of the list of England's hundred-makers. Lucky for him to have the opportunity to go past such names this summer. Even luckier to have been born of equable temperament - not too low a month back, not too high now.

He really is a crackerjack leader, not least when it comes to controlling the lads during those tricky DRS moments. By heaven Stuart Broad throws his weight at these, which isn't to say that Graeme Swann and Matt Prior are backward in coming forward with their enthusiasm. Strauss has to decipher, digest and decide quickly. He calls it right so often it's creepy. Maybe he gets inside an umpire's head as easy as that of an England cricketer. Seriously, this is a science that when so carefully explored and applied is worth a wicket or two.

Come to think of it, can you recall seeing Strauss flustered by anything? I can't, certainly not by his own. He likes it that the players express themselves. Indeed, one senses a quiet amusement at the self-fulfilling prophecies around him. He is top dollar with his men, with the media and, thankfully, with the bat once more. If there is a grumble, it is about an oddly unimaginative tactical eye. Swann did not bowl until after lunch today, which would be a surprise on the first morning of a Test, never mind the fourth with England straining for a breakthrough. At the risk of repeating this column of a week ago after the win at Lord's, the very best thing Strauss has done, with Andy Flower tight at his side, is to create an environment in which opinion, trust, discipline and flair have equal measure.

Now to the future. England have a very different test to come against South Africa, a team that almost exactly mirrors their own. Varied and productive batting, classy and accurate fast bowling, high quality ground fielding and close catching. Swann offers more to his captain than Imran Tahir if the pitches are as usual. Should it become a very dry summer, Imran may have more of an impact but, then, so might reverse swing. Jacques Kallis is the trump card of course: a better fourth seamer than any at England's disposal, a keen student of reverse swing and a master batsman. West Indian batting technique is woeful, South Africa's, best illustrated by Kallis, anything but.

The point here is England's one Achilles heel, the No. 6 spot. The selectors might have got lucky with Ravi Bopara's injury, so eager were they to look at Jonny Bairstow's exuberant talent. Now they might be lucky again with Bopara's impending return to arms. Bairstow's short-ball problem against Kemar Roach - it is a wicked short ball by the way, genuinely fast, skiddy and throat high - will have dented the Yorkshire tyro's pride and may well have compromised the selectors' faith. Not long-term but right now. The consequence of which may be to Bopara's profit. If so his lively, swinging medium-pacers could be as handy for Strauss as a more experienced batting technique will be for a middle order that is sure to be thoroughly worked over by South Africa's hunting pack.

This is conjecture, of course, and there is still another match against West Indies to be put away, one in which Bairstow will almost certainly have the chance of reply. What we know as fact is that England, like all really good teams, know their moment and up the ante accordingly. The third evening was a classic of its type: a weak team in deficit and a limited time to play. In went England for the kill - swift, lethal. Thrilling to watch actually, in the way that the Australians were for so long. There is no higher praise than that.

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK

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Posted by JG2704 on (May 31, 2012, 20:35 GMT)

@5wombats - Wasn't here for the pre India series banter but I've obviously seen what's gone on ever since. I half agree that to be compared to the Aus and WI great sides we have to start doing better in SC. Personally I was mortified with out batting in UAE and I felt we should have had little trouble with SL and the draw was only good because it preserved our number 1 ranking. But you're right in that we don't actually have to beat SA to earn our number 1 spot but if we lose the series it's gone and deservedly so. I agree that a number 1 side should not be losing a series 3-0 but by the same token it should also be winning more series than it's drawing.

Posted by 5wombats on (May 30, 2012, 22:54 GMT)

@JG270 hey mate! Just so you know - this time last year all the india fans were on here bigging it up about what they were going to do to England, and how England had to beat india in order to be considered "number one". We whitewashed them. Then they all became Pakistan fans and said we have to "win in the Sub-continent" to be considered number one. Well, we got whacked in the UAE but did get a win in Sri Lanka to draw the series there. Now that they are all South Africa fans they say stuff like "you have to beat SA in order to be number one". Then we get the usual one; "You have to beat india in india to be number one". What makes india think they are so important? It doesn't matter what England do because after everything they will still say "ah - but you aren't as good as the Great Aussies - so that still makes England rubbish". It doesn't matter what England do or who they beat. When you poke a one-eyed man in the eye he goes blind. That's what has happened here.

Posted by JG2704 on (May 30, 2012, 20:53 GMT)

@Chithsabesh Sivasankar Bharadwaj on (May 30 2012, 16:23 PM GMT) - Sorry but where does 5W say that winning in India is not important ? He just says that it is not SO important , meaning that it is no more important than winning in Australia , SA or any other country. So what is being said is that winning in India isn't the be all and end all but winning as many series as possible to try and preserve our ranking is more important. If (and it's a big if) we beat SA at home and then lose to India away (apart from all the tasteless comms we'd get - which we get anyway) I'd be quite content. Obviously we want to win every test match we play.

Posted by JG2704 on (May 30, 2012, 20:53 GMT)

@RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (May 29 2012, 03:59 AM GMT) PS I actually just looked at the Aus team which lost that series to SA and it seems that most of the big guns had retired before that series. Funny how folk (not you , but others) notice that the greats like Gilchrist , Langer , Mcgrath and Warne had retired when Eng beat them but did not notice that they were missing from that SA series

Posted by JG2704 on (May 30, 2012, 20:43 GMT)

@GeorgeWBush on (May 29 2012, 19:48 PM GMT) Truth is Eng just have to do better than their nearest rivals to keep their number 1 ranking. But if they want to be remembered as greats they do need to improve in SC

Posted by JG2704 on (May 30, 2012, 20:33 GMT)

@RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (May 29 2012, 03:59 AM GMT) SA are a very tough side but re beating sides away from home who of note have SA actually beaten in the last few years well it would have been Australia in Jan 09.As with their home series they draw most of them. Please look up the stats if you don't believe me. And even if SA were doing as well away from home as folk seem to have a perception of them doing they still can't afford to draw series at home. I do agree that beating a top side away from home by a slender margin is better than thrashing a minnow at home but truth is that despite all their great players - for whatever reason - SA are neither thrashing teams at home nor beating decent sides away from home. Having said that , they are an extremely tough side to beat and it could all finally fall into place for them on this tour.

Posted by   on (May 30, 2012, 16:23 GMT)

@5wombats winning in England is important for other teams i agree but telling Winning in India is not Important is frankly ridiculous. So say If England gets beaten in India its not important is it.

Posted by RandyOZ on (May 30, 2012, 9:01 GMT)

Another problem with this article is that Mark Nicolas mentions the English side. How can this be a great English side when only about half of the team are actually English?

Posted by RandyOZ on (May 30, 2012, 8:53 GMT)

@5wombats, @jmc, @ landl - welcome back friends!!! We missed you over the period of the entire Pakistan series and half the SL series. How were your no doubt 'coincidental' holidays?!

Posted by RandyOZ on (May 30, 2012, 8:49 GMT)

I was going to say South Africa are the new Australians, but then I realised England and South Africa are interchangable anyway.

Posted by   on (May 30, 2012, 6:03 GMT)

Marco, you're narrowing your focus too much. Don't look just at South Africa in their last few series, or just in close test matches (even then it's a mystery why you'd consider only their fightback in the first test against Australia in 2011, and ignore Australia's win in the tightly fought second test is beyond me). Instead, look at each time South Africa has faced anohbeen considered among the best two sides in the world, such as against India in 2010/11, where after routing a dismal India in the first test, their batting failed to fire in the second test, granting India a series draw. Or after finally toppling Australia and claiming the top test ranking in 2008/09, South Africa then proceeded to lose the home series against Australia and hand the top ranking right back again. South Africa have a long record of being unable to deliver consistent series wins despite having had a constant stream of talent in the side.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (May 30, 2012, 4:12 GMT)

@5wombats, I just think the Indian fans are scared of Pakistan Whitewashing New Zealand and relegating the fomer number 1 team to 5th in the rankings, and are so scarred from last years two 4-0 losses in England and Aus that they are just in Denial about thier own team and turn on England to vent. Personally I dont care about being number #1, the entire table is a statistical aberation anyway, how 1 team with 5 series wins and 5 series draws since Jan 2009 be considered as an equal to a team with 9 Series wins, 2 Draws and 2 losses in the same period is mystifying.

Posted by 5wombats on (May 29, 2012, 21:41 GMT)

@GeorgeWBush on (May 29 2012, 19:48 PM GMT) "Eng must win against SA and in India before they can be considered as the current best test team". Rubbish. England are ALREADY considered to be the current best team - whether you like it or not. South Africa had their chance but failed to beat England in South Africa in 2009/10 and india had their chance in 2011 to be considered "current best test team". They got whitewashed. I like England to beat South Africa in England this summer - but what makes you think winning in india is so important? The opposite of what you think is actually true - it is winning in England that is important - and india couldn't get anywhere near, so what makes you think South Africa will?

Posted by GeorgeWBush on (May 29, 2012, 19:48 GMT)

I am bemused by all the media hype about England at the moment. Before the series anything other than an England series win would have been considered a disaster. Now England are 2-0 up in the series the same people that believed the WI to be so bad that this scoreline was inevitable are now gushing with praise for England and comparing them with the best test teams in history. England are a good side. WI are ok but away from home they will struggle against most of the top test teams (SA, Aus, India, Pak, would all comfortably beat WI when they have home advantage). Eng vs SA will be a good test of how good this England team really are but given the obvious advantage of playing at home, even if Eng win the series they will rightfully stay No1 side in the rankings but they still should not be compared favorably to WI of 70s/80s or Aus of 90s/00s. Eng must win against SA and in India before they can be considered as the current best test team.

Posted by whatawicket on (May 29, 2012, 17:56 GMT)

6pack others may have forgotten but the WI side that you mentioned in my opinion are the best of all time full stop. as a england supporter this present england team are a good side but over the last 50 years they would go in about 7th/8th. touch and go between the 05 side and this present side, if pushed this side just the better. if they beat this SA side the icc points league will put them in a great position for the next 18 month. it should be remembered that its a league there will be ups and down. other teams supporters should instead of all the rhetoric about england been # 1, their teams have to better to knock them off the top. saying england are rubbish does no make it true.

Posted by 1st_april on (May 29, 2012, 17:15 GMT)

can quite fathom mark nicholas.....ENG are the new AUS (2000s edition) after 2-0 against WI at i guess they were the new Bangladesh when they got cleaned up 3-0 by PAK

Posted by MartinC on (May 29, 2012, 16:07 GMT)

@Pierre Brink

Actually the last Eng v SA series was a draw 1-1 in SA. The series before that SA won 2-1 in England and England won the series before that 2-1 in SA. So not the home track bullies either way.

Its been good close cricket and I expect two best sides in World cricket to continue that. I'm looking forwards to a great series and good cricket.

Posted by 6pack on (May 29, 2012, 14:36 GMT)

Have we forgotten about the great West Indies teams of the 70's 80's... How come they have not warranted mention here. I should think that Marshall, Ambrose and Co would have brought down the 2000's Aussies.

Having said that.... England needs to win away from home consistently to be compared to even the Aussies. Weak in the UAE last winter... clueless against spin... I hope they do clean up India later this year. That might just make a case for them in my books.

Posted by   on (May 29, 2012, 14:04 GMT)


I'll give you Herath. Hafeez does darts.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (May 29, 2012, 13:24 GMT)

To anyone thinking England only win in England, let me refresh your memories about 2010/11, or should i?? Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney. None of them were small margins by any yardstick, unless you consider innings victories plus paltry affairs. @SlightlyintoCricket- My period there does not include those tests nor those of the preceding summer when we beat Pakistan 3-0.The period ends art the end of 2005 v Aus.

Posted by Green_and_Gold on (May 29, 2012, 12:27 GMT)

Even now they still sit in the shadows of Australian history. Why such comparrisons are needed, i dont know. There is a new era to be taken but no one team is stepping up to grab it. The next few years will be interesting as the new crop of players filters through - i just hope they can make their own mark and that we all dont peg them to our own heros.

Posted by jupiterlaw on (May 29, 2012, 11:49 GMT)

Yes the new Australians for now but on track to becoming the new Great West Indians. I believe ST is the next bump in the road.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (May 29, 2012, 11:08 GMT)

@MrBrightside92 on (May 29 2012, 08:35 AM GMT), I believe that it was also Strauss who suggested that Trott not review in UAE when he was actually not out. I tend to think of use of DRS as a batsman and as a fielding captain as two different things though. In the field Strauss and Prior seem to make a very good team when it comes to choosing when to review and when not. Everyone will get it wrong on occasions and close LBW calls will always be tricky. It would be interesting to see figures of each team's DRS success rate separated into batting and bowling.

Posted by   on (May 29, 2012, 11:05 GMT)

@ Jeremy and Travis. What you are speaking about is very much one-day orientated. SA have a much better record in crunch situations in Test matches, better than England's I would say. Just look at recent scenarios. SA getting bowled out for 96 and coming back to destroy Aus by bowling them out for even less. Then look at Eng chasing a small score for victory against Pak and completely crumbling under that pressure. So those statements are very much unfounded when it comes to Test matches, I agree with them totally when it comes to one-day cricket..

Posted by Praxis on (May 29, 2012, 10:58 GMT)

Talk about hyperbole! Oh, now I wish a lot more to see Steyn, Morkel & Philander blow away England in England.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (May 29, 2012, 10:11 GMT)

@MrBrightside92, congratulations you win a cookie and glass of warm milk......I agree about strauss use of DRS, however when fielding hes pretty much on the ball when using the DRS, and he keeps Broad in check who would love to review every LBW shout. My PEt peeve about DRS is that its being used to buy wickets, or save them when they are at best Marginal decisions, rather than to eliminate howlers, like Jimmy's LBW appeal that was on Middle and leg 3/4's up. I also dont buy into the 'we've got them so we'll use them' philosphy eiher.

Posted by   on (May 29, 2012, 10:07 GMT)

Ridiculous opinion and a headline... How can Mark forget the twin tours of SL and PAK so easily after a 2 test victory over WI ????

Posted by Nair_saab on (May 29, 2012, 9:43 GMT)

Bresnan must play against the S-africans as he is England's lucky-mascot & his on-feild performances are not that bad plus he brings the extra batting option which England may need against saffers.English players temperament against WI & India can be compared with the great Australians. [Whenever English players feels their feet r not grounded please visit Pakistan for a series.............. :) ]

Posted by   on (May 29, 2012, 9:39 GMT)

they are only good in the familiar conditions.....

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (May 29, 2012, 8:40 GMT)

People really need to understand that the Media is not a spokesman for the team, they write opinion pieces. At no point has anyone in the england camp said this is the greatest ever test team, they've never even said this is the greatest England team (the team of the 50's-60's is still the benchmark for england teams IMHO), what they have said is that they would like to become the Greatest England team. Again I will repeat that apart from One sentance where Mark states "In went England for the kill - swift, lethal. Thrilling to watch actually, in the way that the Australians were for so long", and as usual the headline bares no resemblance to the Article content.

Posted by MrBrightside92 on (May 29, 2012, 8:35 GMT)

I did actually read the article and yes it just mentions the Australian comparison of putting away an opponent when you sense an opportunity. Actually, Strauss's use of DRS is pretty poor...I believe he was instrumental in getting KP to review (KP had removed his gloves and was looking to walk off..)...also glad to see RandyOz back..though disappointed he didn't mention that he wasn't interested in South Africa A v South Africa B test series etc etc...the thing is with the SA they'll go and beat England (a good achievement in England)...then lose to Australia...

Posted by   on (May 29, 2012, 8:00 GMT)

South Africa have always had their backers and undeniable talent, but there is a long history there of disappointing when it comes to the big challenges. Whereas England sit in this strange twilight zone of ultra-hype and constant bagging, and seemingly nothing in between. While all the noise has gone on around them they've continued to play better Test cricket than anyone else, apart from troubles on the sub-continent against (but even the much vaunted Australian and West Indian teams had those problems). Should be a good series, and by the end of it I think we'll know a lot more about the standings of two very skilled cricket teams.

Posted by csowmi7 on (May 29, 2012, 7:48 GMT)

England aren't even half the team Australia were in their peak. Australia won 16 tests in a row twice and thrashed every team in their own den. Its strange to see how the English media downplay their horrific performance in UAE so quickly. The real test for England will be when they play in India and against SA this year. If they can win both those series they will be close to the greatness of the Aussies.

Posted by   on (May 29, 2012, 7:29 GMT)

This side is a fantastic unit, no doubt. Arguably the best at the moment. While SA have better individual players, as a team they disappoint more often than not, especially in crunch situations. While India have some of the finest batters, they're more suited to shorter forms of the game, and even there, their below par bowling puts them down. So England is the most balanced and consistent test side. But comparing this very good side to the remarkable Aussie side is one of the funniest things I've heard in a long time. The great Aussie team of the early 2000s are comparable to any side in the history of cricket. When they were at the helm, no other team could dream of beating them. England, on the other hand, are barely getting on top, that too in favourable home conditions.

Posted by gibbons on (May 29, 2012, 7:26 GMT)

All well and good, but really.... a couple of months ago we were bagging the antipodeans for not putting the Windies away sufficiently easy. To heap praise on England for beating them at home seems a little premature. That said, England are well placed to tackle and beat the Saffers - but maybe save the adoring adulation until after that series?

Posted by   on (May 29, 2012, 6:45 GMT)

@Kiteflier I agree that England are no match for the Aussie and WI sides of the past but claiming that they were "no match for the Dhoni led Indians up until June 2011" is basically claiming india are much better than England apart from when they are playing England and losing.

Posted by   on (May 29, 2012, 6:19 GMT)

What? Really Mark? You have to now use hyperbole to make this team look great? At least wait for the results where Poms beat India in India 2-1, SL in SL 3-0, Pak is Pak 2-0, SA in SA 2-1 before you declare the current bunch of Strauss' warriors as great as Mighty Australians of 90s n 2000s. Or do you think the above mentioned might never happen, so let us declare the current unit greatest now, much along the lines of "Make hay while the sun shines", eh? Also you might want to consider the ODI greatness as well in your next analysis because the Mighty Australians dominated the ODI space as well. Oh but how could you, the Cooks' warriors in this format are sitting ducks!

Posted by landl47 on (May 29, 2012, 6:11 GMT)

The fact that this is the best England side in my regrettably long memory says more about the England sides of the past than the quality of this side relative to those of other countries. Just a clue is that if I were to name an XI of the best players I have seen, there wouldn't be a single Englishman in it, and I'm an England supporter! This is a good England side; not, as the Winter tests showed, an all-conquering one, but able to match up with the best of the other sides around at the moment. SA will be a tough test. I think the key will be how well England cope with SA's seamers and whether Kallis, at 36, is still able to dominate as he has done for the whole of the 2000s. The encouraging thing for England is how many good young players are coming through- more, I think, than any other country at present, which means England should stay a force for a while. Don't begrudge us our moment in the sun, we haven't had many of them!

Posted by CricFan78 on (May 29, 2012, 5:48 GMT)

Cant remember them winning anything of note outside England barring an Ashes in Oz. Its ridiculous to compare this side with Aussies.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (May 29, 2012, 5:08 GMT)

I really wish people would read the article instead of jumping on the headline. In the article there is only ONE mention of australia and that is a comparison to the way England attacked the WI's in the last session on Day 3, thats the only comparisson thats made to Aus... Outside of that the article is a comparisson to SA and there are some good points about the strength of the two sides. SA to be fair over the last 3 years has only had 5 wins and 5 series draws, compared to englands 9 series wins, 2 Series losses, and 2 draws (one against SA). The majority of series wins for SA have been Away (4 to 1 h vs a). They will be a tough unit to beat and I can see a series draw pending or England just scraping to a 1 game series win.

Posted by   on (May 29, 2012, 4:57 GMT)

There's a gulf between such a dominant Aussie side and this English one, there are no weak links in this English side of incredible cricketers with strength in depth but neither are there any all time greats like Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist (until 2005), Ponting(until 2007), etc. and also [generally] the standard of most cricketing nations has improved (all round standards at least) to provide a much more level playing field...

The only comparison is that (the winter excluded) when things have gone wrong, almost everything else has gone spectacularly right and saved embarrassment (I remember Australia conceding a 200 run first innings lead against Bangladesh but managed to emerge victorious) as it did VS Aus in the 1st Ashes test at Brisbane or against India at Trent bridge last year.

Posted by Percy_Fender on (May 29, 2012, 4:55 GMT)

Mark Nicolas is obviously very chuffed up with England's performance. But this team is no match to the Steve Waugh led Australians or the Clive Lloyd led West Indians and for that matter even the Dhoni led Indians till June 2011.They lost badly to Pakistan and were able only to draw a series against Sri Lanka away from home. That is not champion stuff. At the moment -- till the Saffers come-- they are indeed No 1 and England is a fortress.But I would like them to counter the force of Steyn,Morkel,Philander,De lange and Tahir when the sun is out. England's batting has revolved around Cook and Pietersen mostly and to some extent Bell and the captain himself. Their spin is no doubt excellent. But they will do well to remember that Gary Kirsten is very. West Indies with all their shortcomings have competed well against England,the results notwithstanding,as we have seen. So England should be realistic of their chances with the likes of Kallis,Amla,De Villiers and Smith looming ahead.

Posted by SlightlyIntoCricket on (May 29, 2012, 4:50 GMT)

@ maximum6 Im not quite sure what you're on about at first I thought perhaps you were talking about just home games then realised you mentioned Cape Town. Do you not remember the 06-07 Ashes series. England's outfit played perhaps worse than this current Windies team have. So I don't see how your stats are correct if they lost all 5 of those tests.

Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (May 29, 2012, 3:59 GMT)

pulverising oppositions by ultra large margins in ur backyard is not the sign of champions . managing wins overseas even if not more than decent margins is the sign of an adaptable and champion outfit which obly south africa are

Posted by unregisteredalien on (May 29, 2012, 2:32 GMT)

I haven't posted on Cricinfo for ages, but I have to chime in and agree with those who are calling this article as hyperbolic nonsense. This England team is miles and miles behind the all-conquering former Aussie teams on any measurement.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (May 29, 2012, 2:19 GMT)

@chiko1983- Eng had a run extending from 5th test v SA at the Oval 2003 of 19 wins out of 24 tests, drawing x 3 and losing twice. One draw involved Lara making 400, the two losses were to SA in Cape Town, and Aus at Lords. Not an unbeaten run, but impressive nonetheless. In the summer of 2004 Eng won all 7 tests.

Posted by applethief on (May 29, 2012, 1:56 GMT)

@Jeremy Stone About this phantom battery of mystery spinners you speak of, please account for Abdur Rehman and Rangana Herath, derided by the English press as "ordinary" again and again, ripping through the English batting line up. Unlike Monty, they didn't need 60 overs to take a clutch of tail-end wickets. Ajmal bowls a mild doosra. Hardly a "battery". Let's not forget Umar Gul making a fool out of the titans of English cricket, or Hafeez tying up the openers with orthodox off spin

Posted by tpjpower on (May 29, 2012, 1:50 GMT)

A lot of criticism here of Nicholas' comparison between Strauss' England and the until-recently-great Australian side. The Aussies circa 1995-2007 were better, I think, because of Warne's presence. However, for the sake of balance, I think it's only fair to point out the generally low quality of many of the Aussies' opponents through that period. Only India, England and South Africa were ever able to put a 'strong' team on the field: when India and England did so, they matched the Aussies and even beat them. And while Australia had the better of South Africa, they found it tough when they came up against a well-led NZ in 2001. I don't think they would have it so easy against the current South African and England sides - anyone who remembers Shoaib Akhtar's demolition of the Australian batting in 2002 might ponder what damage a rampant Dale Steyn could do (especially given SA's batting strength relative to that Pakistan team's).

Posted by jmcilhinney on (May 29, 2012, 1:35 GMT)

I do think it's a bit silly to be comparing this England team to the great Australia teams of the recent past. The current England team is good. They are as good or better overall than all the other teams around right now and that's why they are #1. I can see them possibly staying #1 for a while. I can also see them possibly losing the #1 ranking, maybe as soon as the next series. If they do lose it though, I can see them regaining it in the not too distant future. They are good enough to compete with anyone at the moment but they are not good enough to dominate the way Australia and WI before them did. Even if the current team has improvement in them, I don't see them becoming that dominant at any stage. Maybe this could be the start of a glory period if they can produce a string of talented players in the future but the current lot don't deserve to be called great. I'm happy enough to be supporting a really good team though.

Posted by MattyP1979 on (May 29, 2012, 1:27 GMT)

Certainly the best Eng side for a long while. We are top of the tree and look likely to stay there. SA are our only competition right now and after we beat them IND should be a cake walk, that is if Khan/Sehwag have left us any!!!!

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (May 29, 2012, 1:16 GMT)


Posted by   on (May 29, 2012, 0:54 GMT)

@chicko1983, you forget that England have in fact won 8 in a row when they whitewashed NZ and WI at home in 2004 then won the first test in SA, before drawing the 2nd. Half of what Australia achieved means ENG were at least half as good the Australia team that won 16 in a row.

Posted by Chris_P on (May 29, 2012, 0:08 GMT)

@yorkshirematt. Not sure if the term haters is correct, try jealousy instead. Too many here deny sides (and players their due worth). As witnessed in past recent contests, England do step up to the plate at home, and to give the Windies their acknowledgement, they have put up an eminently stronger performances than India's insipid efforts last year. But to be blunt, KP aside, no other English player approaches greatness comparable with many of the past. This English side, while still very good, will never get to those dizzy heights of the Windies & Aussies of the past 30 years. They did lose the odd series in close contests, but were never whitewashed & maintained their incredible standards over a long period of time. Test cricket is the ultimate contest & the upcoming South African series is highly anticipated. What this English side does have over others is their strong mental strength & will, something the Saffers will have to match if they want it as much as England.

Posted by chicko1983 on (May 28, 2012, 23:23 GMT)

Let me put it this way, Australia has had 16 consecutive test wins twice. England most is about 5. The great WI team of the 80s only managed 11.

Posted by PierreBrink on (May 28, 2012, 23:00 GMT)

@Jeremy Stone: Obviously I'm talking about the last time the Proteas toured the UK, being pertinent to the above article. For the record, England lost that series. We shall see how much more comfortable they are against Steyn, Philander, Morkel and Kallis. I still see chinks... I think the difference between the Protea bowling and England batting is greater than the reverse, which might be evenly matched at worst. A think there is a reality check on the way.

Posted by   on (May 28, 2012, 22:27 GMT)

then Come & Visit Pakistan : )

Posted by boooonnie on (May 28, 2012, 22:05 GMT)

I dont think there is a single member of this English side that would be picked in any of the Aust sides from 1992 - 2008. Jimmy Anderson or KP might have pushed Andy Bichel for 12th man -but probably would have failed.

Posted by Lara4life501 on (May 28, 2012, 21:45 GMT)

Ha Ha ha Mr Nicholas,this England team is good without being great yet,yes the ashes victory was a good result away from home, against a very out of form Australian side, however Englands record away from home is pretty lucklustre at best,particularly in Asia and the subcontinent were it is nothing short of be even compared to the great Australian side of yesteryear they need to win at home and away consistently for 10 years,(not including Australias dominance in one-day cricket that ran co-current with there test record) It remains to be seen if this England side can achieve that,I for one dont see enough in this side to believe that could happen,anyhow cant wait to see how the Eng top order fare against Steyn,Morkel,Philander and the rest

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (May 28, 2012, 21:26 GMT)

In order to start to rival Australia of recent memory England have to be totally addicted to winning-EVERYTHING. It is early days yet and there are details to be worked. Strauss is slightly too defensive in the field- no second slip cost England Samuel's wicket today,no Swann early doors meant sammy's self control was not properly tested. I would like to see England more agressive like that, as well as having more of the killer touch.The strike rate of the top three is less important as 3 of the next 4 players motor it. Who plays at six is the conundrum as Bairstow is not quite there- any way he looks as though he is too manufactured and too tuned in to bowling machines to be a long term bet yet. Maybe try him again vs NZ. Bopara, Patel, Taylor are three possiblities. Morgan would be if he had a sense of tests and had not missed all the early season.Overall England can give more and should be well placed to beat SA.

Posted by Bramblefly on (May 28, 2012, 21:19 GMT)

I agree with Yorkshire Matt that it's probably a bit premature for Mark to compare this England team to the great Australian sides of the nineties and early noughties. However, it's true that they are repeating the formula successfully. The SAf series should be a cracker. Kudos to Mark for bringing RandyOz out of his shell as well. Haven't heard from him so far this test. I've missed him :-)

Posted by   on (May 28, 2012, 21:13 GMT)

what is he taking about... they just got thrashed by Pakistan in Test cricket

Posted by Indiaforever on (May 28, 2012, 20:32 GMT)

In fact its the complete opposite, this England line up couldn't get a lead of more than 100 on a pitch which was very good for batting, however good the West Indies bowling is, if they can't take advantage of a brilliant pitch against a West Indies attack they dont have a chance against SA and Strauss is way tooo defensive as a captain.

Posted by RandyOZ on (May 28, 2012, 19:56 GMT)

I don't understand how a team who got whitewashed by Pakistan and almost lost against Sri Lanka could be called the new Australians. Honestly Nicolas writes the most cringeworthy stuff since Miller left.

Posted by   on (May 28, 2012, 19:55 GMT)

@Pierre Brink I think the last time England played South Africa, the series was drawn. (That was in South Africa). I think losing their way in the desert against a battery of "mystery spinners" who certainly aren't bowlers does not give much clue to their probable form against South Africa at home. They will be playing on bouncier tracks against quick bowling, which all except Bearstow are happier with, in general.

Posted by TaylorSwift on (May 28, 2012, 19:48 GMT)

This England team is methodical, disciplined and delivering results. Straussy deserves a great amount of credit for getting this unit to perform as a team. The Saffers are a more talented bunch, but they don't always perform as a unit. Nonetheless, it will be a much anticipated contest for Test cricket fans. However, the English media loves to blow things out of proportion. England has been phenomenal at home since 2009 and that makes them a good team. But great teams win away from home as well. They lost to a half-decent Pakistan side and managed a draw against the woeful Lankans. I'm sorry, but those performances do not call for comparisons with the great Aussie teams. I'm a big fan of English brand of cricket currently, but the English media needs a reality check. If only Butt, Amir and Asif had chosen to play for their country, we wouldn't even be having this discussion today. If that Pakistan side was united and focused, they would have toppled the English side comprehensively.

Posted by serious-am-i on (May 28, 2012, 19:31 GMT)

lol!! Mark Nicholas always at his hilarious best. We wish you a speedy recovery when South Africa crash your party Mark.

Posted by   on (May 28, 2012, 19:25 GMT)

Mark Nicholas is being typically jingoistic. A series against a feeble WI side does not make them ready for South Africa. As was shown during the english winter, the england team can lose confidence very quickly, when things don't go their way. I remember them being very confident before the last test series against a South African team that was not as experienced as this one. They lost that series and will in all probability lose this one, weather permitting.

Posted by yorkshirematt on (May 28, 2012, 19:10 GMT)

Ha ha another great article from Mark, guaranteedd to wind up all the england haters around the world. We can't compare ourselves to that aussie side yet though.

Posted by Trickstar on (May 28, 2012, 18:53 GMT)

So if you get out to a short ball, it's a problem? anyone who's watched him bat for Yorkshire knows there's been no sign of a short ball problem, in fact quite the opposite it's a very productive part of his game. If you look at the ball he got, it seemed to get bigger on him than he initially thought, Roach is very skiddy anyway and he bowled it wide of the crease which probably caught him off guard. Just like when KP, Strauss get out to whatever shot doesn't mean they have a problem with that shot or ball, players sometimes get out simple as that. Bopara shouldn't be anywhere near the side, Bairstow averaged 55 the last couple of years, Ravi's around 42, not good enough for a England player.

Posted by PunchDrunkPunter on (May 28, 2012, 18:43 GMT)

Bairstow has yet to be dismissed by the short ball in International cricket. When he does I will start to worry about it.

Posted by   on (May 28, 2012, 17:55 GMT)

This has always been the problem with England, India and Test Cricket... the large media contingent that harps on every win as if it was the greatest thing since slice bread. Nicholas is the master of hyperbole... to compare this English side to the Aussies of the late 90s and 2000s is ridiculous... Swann is no Warne, Strauss and Cook take you back to the 80s with their batting and can't hold a candle to the pace setting Slater, Hayden and Langer managed... they changed the pace of World Test Cricket... also, one must not so quickly forget that this English side lost 4 Tests in a row to middling Subcontinental teams that only had an edge with climate... the Windies for all their improvements are still a number 7-8 Test side and any result but a 3-0 trashing would be a damning indictment of English Cricket.

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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 Nine in Australia and Channel 5 in England.

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