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The Investec Ashes 2013

What next for England?

They're playing fine cricket, but they're a way off the 2011 pace, and as the expectations pile up, their goals have been shrinking

Rob Smyth

August 14, 2013

Comments: 53 | Text size: A | A

England celebrate as the urn is sealed, England v Australia, 4th Investec Test, 4th day, Chester-le-Street, August 12, 2013
England are now the hunted rather than the hunter, victims of their own success © PA Photos
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What a difference a couple of hours make. On Monday evening England responded to the threat of imminent defeat in Durham by savaging Australia with eight wickets in 117 of the giddiest minutes seen on an English cricket field in a long time. The scoreboard said England but the soul said Pakistan. England played like cornered tigers.

It was more than just an Ashes-winning spell. The whole thing was so spectacular, visceral and compelling that it engendered a huge amount of goodwill for a team that has been the subject of a strange negativity in this series - some of it deserved, plenty not. Everything that has gone before in this series, from the Trent Bridge heartstopper to even the dreary stumble over the line at Old Trafford, will be seen through different eyes by virtue of what happened on Monday night.

England pride themselves on playing dispassionate, logical cricket, an unquestionably successful approach, yet every now and then they run with a mood and play such exhilarating cricket that you wonder whether they might be missing a trick. The performance in Durham evoked a couple from their peak in 2011 - Sri Lanka in Cardiff, another manic Monday in which they took nine wickets in the final session, and the brutal demolition of India at Trent Bridge, second only to The Oval 1994 on the list of devastating modern England performances.

England's world has changed since then. They have had to accept that they will not achieve the sustained greatness that seemed to be in their grasp two years ago, although very goodness is a decent second prize. There is a degree of sadness when we reflect on the naivety that surrounded England's ascent to world No. 1. They played so emphatically that it is understandable why good judges and bad assumed they would dominate world cricket for an extended period of time, even if the precedent of 2005 should probably have made everyone a little more cautious.

"The challenge now, of course, is to maintain our standards," began the last line of Graeme Swann's autobiography in 2011, "and I know of no reason why we shouldn't continue playing well enough to stay in pole position."

England were not just winning games in 2010 and 2011, they were destroying good teams from Pakistan, Australia, Sri Lanka and India. Their victory margins in those four series were 354 runs, nine wickets, an innings and 225 runs, an innings and 71 runs, an innings and 157 runs, an innings and 83 runs, an innings and 14 runs, 196 runs, 319 runs, an innings and 242 runs, an innings and 8 runs. That list of wins could easily have come from West Indies in the 1980s. It is almost impossible to overstate how good England were in that period.


As in 2005, they were brought to earth by Pakistan. The dramatic collapse in Multan eight years ago set England's first modern Ashes-winning side on a different path, as did the emphatic, almost humiliating 3-0 defeat against Pakistan at the start of 2012. It was a hideous reality check from which England have never truly recovered, even though they overcame their subcontinent demons later in the year with a famous victory in India.

Something died in the team in Pakistan: an innocence, and a conviction. Something was born also: a discomfort with being world No. 1.

"This is going to sound a little daft, and I hope it is taken in the right way, but it was almost a relief to lose the mace," says Matt Prior in his autobiography, The Gloves Are Off. "We had dealt so badly with being number one that it was as if a huge burden was now being lifted from our shoulders. We could go back to hunting again."

They are still an outstanding team - arguably England's best since the 1950s - and it feels harsh to nitpick in the aftermath of such a stirring victory, yet equally there is a mature discussion to be had about where this England team are heading and what comes next for them.

 
 
England have had to accept that they will not achieve the sustained greatness that seemed to be in their grasp two years ago, although very goodness is a decent second prize
 
For all the trauma of Pakistan, they could have recovered by drawing the series with South Africa last summer and maintaining their place at the top of the ICC Test rankings. That series has two very different interpretations. The first says that South Africa were painfully superior and deserved 2-0 winners; the second says that England had an isolated shocker at The Oval and were pretty much South Africa's equals for the last two Tests; that they might well have won at Lord's but for Graeme Swann's needless run-out at a time when South Africa were in disarray.

What is not in doubt is that South Africa are now in a different post code to England. Small moments such as that Swann run-out set teams on different paths. A year on, South Africa deservedly strut around with the conviction of a team who are the world's best, and who have sustained greatness in their grasp. England have recovered admirably after a horrible period in 2012, winning in India and going 12 Tests unbeaten, but they are still nowhere near the level of performance they managed in 2010-11.

England's decline has largely been in their batting - not just the volume of runs but, crucially, the speed at which they score them. Strike rate is a decent window into the soul of a team. In 2011, England averaged 59.16 runs per wicket and scored at 3.81 runs per over. In 2012 those figures dropped to 32.52 and 3.00; in 2013 they are 32.87 and 2.84 - a startling drop of one run per over. Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman have a lot to answer for. The bowling has generally been on a more even keel, apart from a notable drop in runs conceded per over in 2012.

England have been punished for their own excellence in many ways - they became the hunted rather than the hunter, they are the subject of stratospheric expectations, and they have an ever-decreasing list of goals, something with which this team seem abnormally fixated.

"There's no way our goal will be just trying to maintain that status," said Andy Flower when they became world No. 1. "We've got to have something more exciting than that. England has never won a 50-over World Cup, so 2015 is something we've already started planning towards." It is also a recurring theme of Prior's autobiography. "Making records has always been a massive turn-on for this team," he says. "Our goal has always been to create history."

They have certainly done that, regaining the Ashes, winning in Australia for the first time since 1986-87, becoming world No. 1, winning in India for the first time since 1984-85. That victory in India completed a full set of away series wins in the 21st century (except Zimbabwe, where England have not played). There are no major historical goals left to achieve.


The victorious South African team poses with the trophy, South Africa v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Centurion, 3rd day, February 24, 2013
South Africa are in a different post code to where 2013 England are © Getty Images
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Perhaps their unbeaten run will take on a life of its own. Regaining the mace seems unlikely in the medium term - even if England win the back-to-back Ashes 9-0, they will still not do so - and they are almost in limbo between South Africa and the rest of the world. (The Test rankings say they are third behind India, but having beaten them 6-1 home and away it is understandable why many regard England as superior.)

It sounds anathema, but for the next 18 months England's principal focus could be one-day cricket. The World Cup is an obvious goal, and once the return Ashes series is done their focus is very much on the shorter forms of the game. From January 8, 2014 to the end of the World Cup in March 2013, England are scheduled to play ten Tests, a minimum of 34 ODIs and a minimum of 12 T20s. In other words 18% of their matches will be Tests. Contrast that with the period from November 2012 to January 2014: 18 Tests, 21 ODIs, nine T20s: 38% of their matches being Tests.

Sustained excellence should theoretically be sufficient motivation for a team of high-class sportsmen, yet the English psyche is such, that seems to be more of a problem than it is for, say, a German football team or an Australian cricket team. England's next six Test series are Australia (A), Sri Lanka (H), India (H), West Indies (A), New Zealand (H) and Australia (H). It is not quite a case of been-there-done-that, and winning a fourth and maybe fifth consecutive Ashes series has an ever-so-slight appeal, yet even that does not quite carry the excitement of Australia away in 2010-11 or India at home the following summer.

England have to wait until the winter of 2015-16 for the mouthwatering double of Pakistan and South Africa away, with significant points to prove in both. Yet by that time Graeme Swann will be 36, Kevin Pietersen 35, Jonathan Trott 34 and Jimmy Anderson, Matt Prior and Ian Bell 33. The team may have a different identity. Human nature and Englishness being what they are, perhaps only when a new team is formed will the current team truly get the credit they deserve.

Rob Smyth is the author of The Spirit of Cricket - What Makes Cricket the Greatest Game on Earth

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Posted by harshthakor on (August 17, 2013, 7:03 GMT)

Overall to me England show strong trends of drifting after being on top and not capitalizing when the tide is in their favour.There is a sharp tendency of the batting becoming defensive and often captain Cook's strategy becomes ultra-defensive.England have never lit the same spark as they did on the tour of Australia in 2010-11 where they played at their absolute best in all departments or on the 2011 home series against India.It hardly played at it's best against South Africa in 2012 where they literally never seized the initiative. To deserve the no 1 spot they should have won atleast 2-1 and the Proteas were deserving winners of the series and no 1 title.I praise England's efforts to win in India after being one down but their form again reverted in New Zealand .

England have hardly been at their best against Australia.On merit the scorecard should have been 2-1 and not 3-0 which hardy displays England's overwhelming superiority over their rivals.

Posted by   on (August 16, 2013, 22:59 GMT)

England were excellent for some years - their Ashes win in 2005 was, despite elements of fortune - was against a very good side. Since then, though, they have been beaten by better sides well equipped to expose weaknesses. Most of the victories have been a result of the drop off in quality of test cricketers and test match teams. Which is kind of sad, because it makes it difficult to assess the quality of their successes. There's good players, certainly, but some of these offer up only too rarely. In the current series, Bell, Swann and occasionally Broad or one of the other quicks have been the difference, along with DRS.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (August 16, 2013, 20:10 GMT)

@ neiljturner. Kallis would be the difference in any team! He is the only real deal 2 in 1 player in test cricket. He still makes runs, takes wickets, & snaps up catches in the slips. No team takes him lightly. What else could one ask for?

The "Kallis difference" is not what he does, but what he has done, & how that is reflected in those who play alongside him. He will go on being the difference. SA's test squad have all played their entire career with Kallis, & have absorbed his relentless work ethic & iron will. Smith is the skipper, but Kallis is the yardstick by which they have judged themselves. That will remain when he finally hangs up his boots. (And, given his fitness & the fact that he is not slowing down, that may still be a good while off.)

And no - without him Eng are still not a match for SA. They lost a gear or 2 when Strauss retired, and still have still not replaced Collingwood, who made a huge difference! Unfortunately, he is rarely given his due.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (August 16, 2013, 14:52 GMT)

@ jango_moh. To be fair, Rob Smyth does not seem to actually endorse the idea that " England had an isolated shocker at The Oval and were pretty much South Africa's equals for the last two Tests". Both descriptions are either side of the truth.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (August 16, 2013, 14:42 GMT)

@ jmcilhinney. When you wrote "Australia definitely outplayed England at Old Trafford and those who say that England could have won are deluding themselves but the chance of a draw was quite healthy," you forgot to add that Aus' inability to finish off South Africa in Adelaide last year should remind all that an intractable defense is the surest way to not lose a test. Bell evidenced that in India, & Prior in NZ, & could quite well have repeated the feats of a SA debutant & one legged old man! Mind you, the stream of Boodha excuses would have become an unbearable flood!

Posted by jango_moh on (August 16, 2013, 3:48 GMT)

@jmcilhinney... "There are plenty who are claiming exactly as you say about the current series: that England just got lucky and Australia could easily be up 3-1"... i did not say that at all my friend, i think eng is def a superior team to aus currently, no doubts about that... im just saying that we can apply the same consensus to the eng-aus series... just take the exact statements(including the earlier part), and apply it to an aus author talking about the aus team.... let me know if u get my point!!!

Posted by shillingsworth on (August 15, 2013, 22:54 GMT)

@irishwolfhound - 'England's ascendancy up until 2012 was built entirely upon home success'. 2010/11 Australia 1, England 3; 2009/10 South Africa 1, England 1. You may have dispelled one myth but in the process you've created another.

Posted by LePom on (August 15, 2013, 21:13 GMT)

@ ArthursAshes "I will also like too add the - very obvious -stunning array of mindboggling talents all at the same time at the same place at same team! Aus had an array of 'support' cast who were 'stars' and would be up with the best in any of the best of the top teams now."

They certainly were very good both as individuals and as a whole, and the depth that meant injuries were relatively unimportant when compared to the impact injuries had on other teams in the same period.

There were often times in that period when England had a first choice team that looked the match for Australia, but it felt like it was seldom that they could actually get the first choice team on the field all at once.

I also remember quite a few matches and series when, if you looked at the score cards afterwards, the difference between the teams was the performance of Shane Warne.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (August 15, 2013, 21:00 GMT)

What next for England ? How about improving in ODI cricket ? An abysmal record in the format that features the game's most glorious prize - the World Cup. Also, I don't think England's test team will get any better than this current one. England too will face the same dilemma Australia currently find themselves in. Let's see how they handle the retirements of KP, Anderson, Swann, Trott, Bell, and Prior in the next 3-4 years.

Posted by LePom on (August 15, 2013, 20:53 GMT)

@irishwolfhound - "England got their winning runs off bad umpiring calls i.e. Broad." Sorry but the whole premise of your argument is based on flawed logic. If Broad's runs were lucky and off bad umpiring calls then so were Agar's as he should have been out on 6 (and there were the Root/Trott decisions that could easily have gone England's way).

The result is what it is. If you count the bad decisions they are pretty evenly spread between the teams, so really they have had no material effect on the overall results.

It just feels that way when the team you are supporting loses, and believe me, as an England and New Zealand fan for decades, I know what that is like.

The simple fact is that England have played better when it mattered, and won the defining parts of the games that had a result. It is no different in most other sports, from rugby through to boxing.

Posted by   on (August 15, 2013, 17:59 GMT)

England have achieved a lot since 2011 but there were some embarrassing performances in this period. They were whitewashed by Pakistan and almost lost a series to a rather weak NZ team. It's like they always struggle after a major success.

This team has a strong batting line-up and a decent bowling attack. The reason why, I think, they can't become the best team in world or a dominant force consistently is because they don't have someone like Steyn in their bowling attack. You need a bowler who can win you matches in any conditions against the best of batsmen. Anderson is a fine bowler, but he is nowhere near Steyn. Broad, Swann and the others can be devastating on their day but they are not consistent or lethal enough to do damage almost all the time.

Anyway, the next couple of years do look bright for the English. They have an impressive line-up and are likely to achieve reasonable success, if not greatness.

Posted by applethief on (August 15, 2013, 9:07 GMT)

@Zenek Szulc I really, really don't understand this argument. So many people go on about how somehow Australia didn't deserve to even get close in the first test, and trot out the "fluke last wicket partnerships" line as if this is somehow justification for the argument. Did England deserve to win because man-to-man their top order scored more runs? Sorry, that's not how cricket works. The fact is that Australia SCORED those runs. Whoever was holding the bat. England got their winning runs off bad umpiring calls i.e. Broad. Australia sent players out to score their runs, it doesn't matter a jot what number the partnership was.

Posted by applethief on (August 15, 2013, 9:04 GMT)

@ John Duffield um.... comprehensively thrashed, unthreateningly drawn, applied pressure to and sunk. That's the summary of England v. SA in 2012. I'd say it's pretty clear England were outclassed - did you not see the series? England's ascendancy up until 2012 was built entirely upon home success. Being duly thrashed at home was an appropriate way to dispel the myth that they are anything more than a middling-to-average team

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (August 15, 2013, 8:26 GMT)

@LePom - Very valid points you made ,making perfect cricketing sense . 'Just because Aus had a really good run that lasted years does not automatically mean that it is either likely or easy for another team to do the same' - I will also like too add the - very obvious -stunning array of mindboggling talents all at the same time at the same place at same team! Fact is even the best team S Africa now don't have even 1 who is - except maybe Kallis ,perhaps Steyn -nearly as good as any 1 of those Aus bunch of superstars.These apart, Aus had an array of 'support' cast who were 'stars' and would be up with the best in any of the best of the top teams now.Kallis,though matches those Aussies in stature ,just falls short of the 'aura' or fear they struck in opposition that any of them can on their own take game away with a spark of genius. Steyn is on way to be 1 of greats but still has a way to go.SA being way ahead of the pack, I won't bring up topic of 'great' for the rest, let alone Eng.

Posted by ArthursAshes on (August 15, 2013, 7:50 GMT)

Of course England are getting older, but there again the same is true for South Africa. Several big names are the wrong side of 30, so looking forward the question will be one of how you integrate new talent in to the side to keep the team at the highest level.

Historically great teams have difficulty with this, a case in point being Australia. There was lots of talk a few years ago about the young talent they had coming through, but when all their experienced big winners retired at more or less the same time the young replacements didn't step up.

England have tried to integrate a few already in Root, Bairstow and Finn with mixed success. No 6 has been a problem position since the retirement of the much maligned Collingwood, Bairstow thus far being a cameo batsman like those before him. England has a lot of talent waiting, but it doesn't always come through, just ask Australia and the WIndies. South Africa and India will face the same question.

Posted by   on (August 15, 2013, 7:47 GMT)

@Landl47, yes, Bairstow and Root have already played test cricket, neither of them are settled into it though, far from it in fact. England may have plenty of talent coming through but as Aus have shown it doesn't always flourish straight away. By the time these guys come through they will be up against a much tougher Aus and an SA team which is also very strong.

Posted by landl47 on (August 15, 2013, 3:58 GMT)

Not many of the people writing here seem to have any idea of what talent England has coming through (and unfortunately the article doesn't enlighten them as much as an article entitled 'What next for England?' should).

I see the next few years, with the handing over of the torch from the old guard to the new, as very exciting. James Taylor just took 121* off an Australian attack featuring Bird, Starc, Faulkner and Lyon, all playing for their place in the test side. Gary Ballance is an outstanding young player- age 23, FC average 53.56, 16 centuries. If he were qualified for Australia he'd already be in the test side. Ben Stokes is a true allrounder, quick bowler and a great ball-striker. Kerrigan is an aggressive sla spinner. Reece Topley is a 6' 7" left-arm seamer with an excellent action. Root, Bairstow and Finn have already played test cricket. Ben Foakes is a W/K batsman. With Cook, 28, and Broad, just 27, that's an entire team.

What next for England? Onwards and upwards.

Posted by yorkshirematt on (August 15, 2013, 0:16 GMT)

Try and win the next Test, then the next series, then the one after that, then the one after that, then the one after that........ As has been going on for over a century!

Posted by LePom on (August 14, 2013, 23:58 GMT)

This article is full of rather a lot of assumptions around both Eng and S.A. The first assumption is that S.A. is going to keep playing at its current level and bulldoze all before it till 2015. The second is that the current run of form and approach will continue for Eng- basically meaning that even if they win against all the teams they face they have no chance of regaining #1 till they face S.A. again. The problem is that this is just as much an assumption as the idea of the 2010/11 Eng team dominating for years. Form slumps happen, and it is very possible that the Eng batsmen and bowlers could hit a good patch and regain the vitality of 2011. (They could also hit a slump and drop further) It is also possible that S.A. could be hit by run of injuries or form slumps and lose against other teams. It is impossible to know. Just because Aus had a really good run that lasted years does not automatically mean that it is either likely or easy for another team to do the same.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (August 14, 2013, 17:22 GMT)

What next? Well Try and win the Oval test, and then I suppose look to win the ashes in Australia, after that we have India visiting in the late summer, i cant remember who the early summer team is.

Posted by whatawicket on (August 14, 2013, 15:46 GMT)

next years 5 test series against India do not expect wickets similar to the ashes wickets. they will be similar to the last india played in the uk. nice and grassy so India will not be playing of 3 spinners as they did at home.

Posted by neiljturner on (August 14, 2013, 14:19 GMT)

@highveldhillbilly: The other thing to bear in mind is that if you take Kallis out of the SA team, the top 6 reads Smith, Petersen, Amla, de Villiers, du Plessis, Duminy. Going by the official ICC rankings, those players collectively have more points than England's top 6 (Cook, Root, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Bairstow). So it's hard to see how the loss of Kallis will make South Africa's batting side worse than England's.

It'll close the gap, certainly, but I don't think it will make enough difference for England to pick up the #1 slot unless Root and Bairstow blossom into world-beaters.

Posted by neiljturner on (August 14, 2013, 14:10 GMT)

@highveldhillbilly: But surely England aren't in any better a position as far as depth goes? An injury to Trott and they bring in... who? Ravi Bopara, with his test average of 32? Nick Compton (also 32).

SA's bowling depth looks better than it has for years. Did Kyle Abbott's 7/29 on debut not impress you? Then check out the domestic records of the likes of Beuran Hendricks and Ayabulela Gqamane.

I agree that spin is a problem for SA, but it always has been. It's a problem right now - the team are not going to get any WORSE in the spin department in the next few years. And people always say South Africa's pacemen are going to struggle on the subcontinent, but somehow they've managed a pretty decent record there over the last few years. Shaun Pollock, for instance, didn't have any more pace or swing than Vernon Philander, yet he averaged 27 in India, 25 in Sri Lanka and 22 in Pakistan.

Posted by   on (August 14, 2013, 13:17 GMT)

Love the selective statistics. England scored slower in 2012/13 because they played on slower decks. They scored less runs because they played on more bowler friendly decks. Anybody who tells me the weather in 2012 was as dry as 2011 can get stuffed. India were rubbish in 2011, SA weren't and neither have NZ/Aus at home. Good bowling attacks bowling giving nothing away. Put things in context!

Posted by   on (August 14, 2013, 12:58 GMT)

In current English side the batsmen who is successive in overseas is Jonothan Trott . Though he was struggling in the ongoing Ashes series he is definitely one of the biggest gun in the English team. He digs up and stays in the crease for long hours . His record in overseas tells how good he is. In the upcoming TEST CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES to be held in 2017 in England they will be the hot favourites if they have the present squad COOK TROTT BELL ROOT PIETERSEN ANDERSON BROAD SWANN BRESNAN FINN PRIOR but it seems to be doubt of the ages they reach ( swann , prior ) at that time . And noticeably most of them will become seniors as one cannot take a team to that position. Then the team will suffer a lot as in a position where AUSTRALIA is. They had the best team ever and when time comes all retired at once. The same thing THE MIGHTY WEST INDIES SUFFERED 25-30 years back. So they must be aware to avoid themself to be in such a position and to built the team to hold their position in Test.

Posted by heathrf1974 on (August 14, 2013, 12:57 GMT)

@Westmorlandia I agree it belittles the Ashes somewhat. The ICC need to schedule the matches and not the nations as the current system can skew the rankings.

Posted by heathrf1974 on (August 14, 2013, 12:54 GMT)

One thing for England is finding a suitable fifth bowler. Can Bresnan be England's number six or seven and Prior six. You can see the fatigue in Anderson and against quality sides in their own back yard having four bowlers might expose this weakness. They would then have five good bowlers and they could not only reach number one but maybe sustain it. The series against India in England could be an interesting one. England should win, but India may show some improvement from last time they were there.

Posted by cloudmess on (August 14, 2013, 12:39 GMT)

This may sound trite, but I honestly think that England's cricketers play too much all year round and are simply exhausted, mentally as much as physically. It would explain why their form in this current series has been spasmodic, looking ineffective at times, as if simply saving their strength for the critical moments. It would explain how Jimmy Anderson can look a world-beater for 2 tests, and powder-puff for the next 2 (a similar inconsistency applies to Broad). It explains why Trott looks as good as ever at the crease, but keeps losing concentration on 50 rather than 150. It explains why half the team are carrying niggles. I know of no other team in the world who play so consistently all the year round, year after year. The great Australian and WI sides of the past always got several months off. Until the money-makers stop flogging them, England will never realise the potential they showed in 2011; they will never get beyond the Very Good category.

Posted by jb633 on (August 14, 2013, 12:30 GMT)

@highveld, good points made there. Even as an English fan there is no way I will ever claim we are a better side than SA. We were beaten fair and square last year and we have beaten Aus fair and square in this series. I think more than the SA series our debacle in the UAE truly shows where the weakness lies. Against top draw spin bowling on a dusty wicket our guys will always struggle. I think this is now the test of SA. They really do have no spinners. Period. Philander will not be great on those tracks because the ball does not swing and he does not possess the pace to reverse the ball. I also do not back the SA batsmen to score against Ajmal and co in the UAE (if they produce the same wickets they did against Eng). IMO the UAE is going to be the toughest place for ENG/SA/AUS sides to play because the conditions are so alien and the spinners on show give you nothing. If PAK could get two class batsmen they could be invincible in those conditions.

Posted by highveldhillbilly on (August 14, 2013, 12:19 GMT)

@neiljturner. My concern for the SA side is that aside from the enormous hole Kallis' absence will leave any injury to someone like Amla, De Viller or Steyn will expose the lack of depth in SA. I don't really see any young batsmen bubbling to get into the side. Elgar hasn't convinced me. As for the bowlers, apart from De Lange (who may be injury prone and is still very, very untested) I don't see a serious strike bowler coming through. And then there is the spinner issue, nothing new but I suspect there will be raging turners in the away series in Pakistan for Rehman and Adjmal with very little bounce and no lateral movement. I think SA will struggle for wickets.

Posted by mahjut on (August 14, 2013, 12:08 GMT)

Posted by neiljturner on (August 14, 2013, 10:29 GMT) @highveldthillbilly: So... are you really saying that the only difference between England and South Africa is Jacques Kallis? which would be an awfully poor observation anyway given that England are the one team who have managed to stop Kallis machining the runs regularly...

next for England really is beating SA!

Posted by   on (August 14, 2013, 11:52 GMT)

England have a good bowling second to South Africa but batting other than cook and maybe Petersien have not performed outside England. Look at hundreds scored by Englishmen abroad in last few yeats

Posted by ilovusenthil on (August 14, 2013, 11:44 GMT)

What next for England?????? Transform the same performance in shorter formats.

Posted by rocket75 on (August 14, 2013, 11:37 GMT)

I think one of the interesting things since our amazing run of results in 20101 and 2011 is lack of solidity at number 6. Once Collingwood retired and Bell has moved up to number 5 we have not had the production from the number 6 we need - Morgan, Bairstow, Bopara have all flattered to deceive so far. Root was a success there in India but we moved him up the order. If we can regain that solidity at number 6 then we can push on. That number six slot is vital. I hope Jonny B proves himself there but not sure he will.

Posted by A.Ak on (August 14, 2013, 11:24 GMT)

Are you kidding - What next for England? - the next Ashes.

Posted by Lara213 on (August 14, 2013, 10:44 GMT)

If you have look at England's test schedule over the next two years it provides an opportunity to regain the top spot and retain it: next year India (2nd in ICC test rankings) are back for 5 tests, while Aus are back again (!) in 2015, after which England go to Pakistan for 3 tests and South Africa for 4 tests, a series which will probably decide the number one ranking. Those last two series will be the real test for England, but if they can win those and regain the Number One spot they'll have gained the experience and confidence to hold onto it for a long time.

Posted by anupkeni on (August 14, 2013, 10:34 GMT)

Error: From January 8, 2014 to the end of the World Cup in March 2013, England are scheduled to play ten Tests, a minimum of 34 ODIs and a minimum of 12 T20s Correction: From January 8, 2014 to the end of the World Cup in March 2015, England are scheduled to play ten Tests, a minimum of 34 ODIs and a minimum of 12 T20s

Posted by neiljturner on (August 14, 2013, 10:29 GMT)

@highveldthillbilly: "However I think this will change relatively soon."

Just out of curiosity, what makes you say that? Kallis may be nearing retirement, but aside from him, South Africa's key batsmen are younger than their English counterparts (Graeme Smith is younger than Kevin Pietersen, for instance; and Amla and de Villiers are both younger than Trott and Bell).

On the bowling side, Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann are both older than anyone in the South African attack, so there's no reason to think England will be gaining ground there any time soon.

So... are you really saying that the only difference between England and South Africa is Jacques Kallis?

Posted by   on (August 14, 2013, 10:22 GMT)

@highveldhillbilly you're just plain wrong when you say that Australia should have won the 1st test. England outplayed them totally and the only reason Australia were even close was thanks to 2 fluke last wicket partnerships.

Posted by Westmorlandia on (August 14, 2013, 10:09 GMT)

It's a shame we play South Africa so little. We aren't going there until winter 2015-2016, and they aren't due back in England until 2017 - a 5 year gap. And it's only 4 tests each way. We have the Aussies back in 2015! I know there is some rejigging of Ashes schedules going on, but it didn't have to be quite like this.

A more regular rotation is much more interesting for everyone. There are only so many teams around, it isn't too hard to play them all despite the cramped schedules, and it's going to be a shame if people feel we play the Aussies too much. It hurts the Ashes to have them too often.

Posted by   on (August 14, 2013, 9:58 GMT)

@pulkit10 - you're the only one here who has associated England with great. There's not much great about this English team. But they deserve credit for their success and that's what people are paying them. Whatever the manner they still lead 3-0 and that's what the record books will say. The fact that they are not great only makes their wins worth more. They can't rely on match winners like McGrath, Warne and Gilchrist like the great Aussie team to thrash their way through everything. They have to fight tooth and nail and they are good at doing that. The English teams of the 90s were criticized because they never won. This team is winning, that's all that matters. When you are 3-0 up in a series you deserve credit regardless of the way you got there.

Posted by Tumi_tlhomz on (August 14, 2013, 9:28 GMT)

South Africa are superior to England and showed that last year. you can't dismiss the 1st test as a fluke,England were outplayed by south africa at the Oval. The second test also saw some bad decisions like kallis given out when he wasn't(glove off bat) and in our second innings we were pushing for a declaration which explains the loss of wickets. The 3rd test we deserverdly won, we were on top for a large part of it and we shouldn't have allowed the likes of swann and broad to make those runs anyway. England are a good side but south africa are clearly better,period.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (August 14, 2013, 7:35 GMT)

@John Duffield on (August 14, 2013, 6:50 GMT), the ECB didn't think that those ODIs against Australia were more important. They thought that the ODIs they will play against Australia ahead of the 2015 WC, hopefully increasing England's chances of winning that tournament, are more important. Those ODIs they played in England were the quid pro quo required for CA to agree to the series in Australia.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (August 14, 2013, 7:32 GMT)

@jango_moh on (August 14, 2013, 4:51 GMT), no, not bias at all. You seem to have focused on the second half of the sentence you quoted and ignored the first half: "The first says that South Africa were painfully superior and deserved 2-0 winners". The author is not claiming that either is specifically the case but merely that they are the extreme views of the same set of events. There are plenty who are claiming exactly as you say about the current series: that England just got lucky and Australia could easily be up 3-1. While SA were easily the better side in game 1 of that series, the truth is that the batting and bowling of the two sides was fairly even in games 2 and 3 and it was really England's fielding that was the difference. They dropped numerous catches and the beneficiaries scored a lot of runs so they deservedly lost. It was a bad time for England to have what was their worst summer of dropped catches for quite some years.

Posted by highveldhillbilly on (August 14, 2013, 7:29 GMT)

@John Duffield and jango_moh. Jango I agree completely. John Duffield if we look at the current Ashes I could say that the Aussies should have won the 1st, 3rd and 4th test and the English only dominated the 2nd test so the teams are actually very well matched. I could also say that last year vs. SA the Aussies were the slightly better side in the first test, the much better side in the 2nd test and then were duly smashed to pieces in the 3rd test so the teasm were also pretty well matched. What does it all mean? Nothing. It's about overall series wins and the sustainability of the wins over many series. Eng are clearly a better side than Aus at the moment and SA have clearly been a better team than the Eng over the past few years. However I think this will change relatively soon.

Posted by pulkit10 on (August 14, 2013, 7:27 GMT)

The praise is unwarranted. Not to take anything away from England - they've played decent cricket over the last few years but the teams they have beaten have hardly been any good anyways. India, both home and way, were full of yesteryear stars that weren't putting runs on board (5 major batsmen were old and out of form) and the bowling lacked bite. They had a couple of youngsters in there but youngsters get slaughtered in a team where seniors don't perform. Same goes for Australia - hardly at their best with both Hussey and Ponting out of form. Sri Lanka is still very much a mediocre side and Pakistan is well, Pakistan.

The point is, this side isn't as great as your lavish praise makes it ought to be. Instead, they've gotten ahead because they are a decent team that has only really encountered mediocre opposition. They're good, not great. Even Flower admits that.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (August 14, 2013, 7:22 GMT)

@Les Corson on (August 14, 2013, 5:10 GMT), I'll tell you how it can be seen in a different light. In England's second innings in Durham they were yet again three down for not much and yet again they batted out more overs than were remaining when they lost their third wicket at Old Trafford. To claim that England weren't capable of batting out the day is to ignore what they have done for the majority of their innings in this series. Australia definitely outplayed England at Old Trafford and those who say that England could have won are deluding themselves but the chance of a draw was quite healthy.

Posted by   on (August 14, 2013, 6:50 GMT)

There has been a lot of rubbish written about the England v South Africa series last year. England were not outclassed, thrashed or whatever. They heavily lost the First Test and then the next two matches were very close.

It is a shame that the most important series in World cricket, England v South Africa, was reduced to a three test series that clashed with the London Olympics. Also the schedule means that they won't play each other until 2015/16.

Why the ECB thought a load of meaningless ODIs against Australia were more important than extra Test matches against South Africa is beyond me.

Posted by   on (August 14, 2013, 5:10 GMT)

"...to even the dreary stumble over the line at Old Trafford, will be seen through different eyes by virtue of what happened on Monday night." How can that be seen in a different light other than that England were outplayed and saved by the weather? It happens, they got lucky (as other teams have) and retained the Ashes on the back of a very unconvincing performance, in that test. Nothing they did at Durham should change what has happened beforehand. England have retained the Ashes and won the series, no taking anything away from them for that. But Manchester was a poor performance, nothing less, nothing more.

Posted by jango_moh on (August 14, 2013, 4:51 GMT)

"the second says that England had an isolated shocker at The Oval and were pretty much South Africa's equals for the last two Tests"... going by that logic, eng were superior only in one test against aus this series!!!! a little of bias there....

Posted by Kak-mal_Khan on (August 14, 2013, 4:24 GMT)

Please do not compare this England side to be playing like Pakistan cornered Tigers, that is a different team and different magic - as a Pakistan fan I will take that as a compliment that you have thought of Pakistan and the character associated with the team in you piece. BUT Pakistan team has NOT ONLY had to fight with the opposition, but also with their own demons within i.e poor fielding, and then also factors contributing towards their devastating fast bowling such as poor umpiring decision making it a requirement to pinpoint the wickets and have them cart wheeling out of the dirt. It has to be noted that DRS is playing it's part massively (positive) and also be said from a neutral perspective that England probably had the rub of the green, but overall the stronger team on paper has prevailed. Ian Bell for me is the standout guy, the bowling is strong because they play as a unit, but still need a genuine pacer for unfamiliar conditions. Well done England 'Awoken Lions'

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