2011 Review

Hold the accolades, please

Sure, England had a great year but their true test will be how long they can sustain their world-beating ways

Andrew Miller

December 28, 2011

Comments: 46 | Text size: A | A

Matt Prior and Stuart Broad cherish the winning feeling, England v India, 4th Test, The Oval, 5th day, August 22, 2011
Top of the tree, but can they stay there? © Getty Images
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As cricket's worldbeaters of yesteryear would readily attest, the challenge of being the best is as much about one's inner drive as anything else. When West Indies and Australia ruled the roost for decades at a time, their endless strings of victories eventually came to feel commonplace, and yet the more the results racked up, so too did the expectations associated with them. One slip - be it against England at Sabina Park in 1989-90, or Bangladesh at Sophia Gardens in 2005 - and prophecies of doom would swiftly follow.

With that in mind, England's performances in 2011 - glorious though many of them were - will be better judged two or three years down the line, once the euphoria of their ascent to No. 1 in the world Test rankings has been put into context by their ability (or otherwise) to sustain the same levels of desire that got them there in the first place.

Taken in isolation, England have rarely - if ever - been quite so formidable in the longest form of the game. They boast an established raft of batsmen with an extraordinary collective repertoire, from the insatiable crease occupation of Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, to the exquisite strokeplay of the newly mature Ian Bell, and on through the explosive capabilities that Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan and Matt Prior all possess in abundance.

Further down the order, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad have the ability to produce match-turning innings, as each man proved during the fraught early stages against India, and that's before you even factor in the devastating potential of England's bowling outfit. James Anderson was peerless during the Ashes and unplayable at key moments against India, while two of England's outstanding performers of the year found themselves on the fringes of selection for one reason or another - Chris Tremlett in the Tests against Sri Lanka and Steven Finn on the one-day tour of India.

As a consequence, the statistics of England's Test year were stunning. They added a further four double-centuries to the three that they managed in 2010, and in so doing eclipsed Len Hutton's 1938 Ashes summer as England's most prolific year for "daddy hundreds" ever. On the back of such domineering performances, they racked up a further four innings victories in eight Tests, to take their recent tally to nine by an innings since December 2009.

Had it not been for some foul weather during the Sri Lanka series in May and June, England might have expected to extend that record even further, although their most remarkable victory of the year was achieved in spite of the elements. In an incredible final-day heist in Cardiff, England overcame the apathy of the Welsh public, 938 of whom bothered to show up at the ground, and bowled Sri Lanka out for 82 in 24.4 overs to snatch a result from the dampest of draws.

"Sometimes you have to create your own intensity," said Andrew Strauss, in arguably the most succinct explanation for England's current Test form. Their desire to scale the heights proved irresistible to each of their opponents, even in situations of apparent weakness such as existed against India in the pivotal second Test at Trent Bridge. On that occasion it was Broad who stepped up with his defining performance - a gutsy half-century, a six-wicket haul including a hat-trick, and a Saturday evening session that will never be forgotten by any of the thousands of fans who thronged to watch the tussle for top spot hot up.

Despite all that, 2011 was not a year that will be recorded with absolute fondness by England. Their performances since 2009 had been impressive in all three forms of the game - steady improvement in Test cricket, notable successes over 50 overs, and of course the World Twenty20 triumph in 2010 - but in a year of upheaval on the limited-overs front, they suffered three substantial embarrassments, one of which came at the World Cup, no less.

There are mitigating factors for each of the setbacks - their 6-1 drubbing by Australia came in the immediate wake of the Ashes, which in turn left the squad on their chinstraps ahead of a gruelling two-month World Cup campaign. To allow the team just three nights at home between those tours was a travesty, and one that will not be repeated now that the next Ashes trip has been brought forward to 2013-14. But if England truly aspire to be the dominant team of the coming decade, which is clearly the aim, they will need to find ways to forge results in adverse circumstances, such as a post-season series against a chastened India team.

 
 
England's target for 2012 ought to be five series wins. Like for Glenn McGrath with his 5-0 predictions of old, any less of an ambition would be a suggestion of weakness
 

Right at this moment, England arguably have more to prove than at any other stage in their post-2009 renaissance. An unfair assessment? Maybe, but then again, when Michael Vaughan's men got within spitting distance of the No. 1 ranking in the summer of 2005, their credentials were demolished in the subsequent 18 months. All the signs would suggest that England are better prepared to cope with the heightened expectations this time around - their squad is far deeper for starters - and yet, on the occasions when they allowed their standards to slip, that old adage about team spirit being an illusion glimpsed in victory rang disturbingly true.

On the flip side, England did have a number of reasons to feel encouraged about their all-round development. Cook, the new one-day captain, was derided as a "plodder" by Michael Atherton but responded with a remarkable string of performances, including 80 not out from 63 balls in a 23-over run-chase against India at the Rose Bowl. A host of big-hitting young batsmen were given their first taste of international cricket, with a particular view to the World Twenty20 defence in September 2012, and while there were plenty of calamities along the way, the achievement of beating both the World Cup finalists, India and Sri Lanka, albeit on home soil, was not to be sniffed at.

Either way, the true test of England's mettle is lurking around the corner. Kevin Pietersen returned to Test form after a troubling 18 months with a bombastic brace of hundreds at Lord's and The Oval, but his one-day appetite remains in some doubt. And then there's the thorny issue of the Test captain, Strauss, whose last hundred in that format came in Brisbane back in November 2010. He added another century of huge significance in the tied World Cup game against India in February, but could not replicate those levels of intensity in England's home summer.

With just one form of the game keeping Strauss occupied these days, he has been in mothballs since August - which on the one hand represents a welcome break for a player who has given so much to the cause for so long. Nevertheless, his personal drive has been one of the defining features of England's surge in fortunes since 2009. He turns 35 in March, and will need to prove swiftly that his achievements of the past two years have not left him sated.

New kid on the block
Though he went on to endure a tough tour of India, the most eye-catching debut of England's year was that of Jonny Bairstow in the fifth ODI against India in Cardiff. At the age of 21, and with an asking rate of nine an over to overcome, he proved that even born-and-bred Englishmen can clear the ropes on demand, with a thrilling 41 not out from 21 balls.

The year's big revelation, however, was arguably Tim Bresnan, even though he hardly qualifies as a newcomer after five years in and around the international set-up. After returning to Test cricket with a bang in Melbourne in the final week of 2010, he moved himself effortlessly up the pecking order in 2011. His all-round display against India at Trent Bridge was so irresistible that the injured Chris Tremlett was barely mentioned for the rest of the summer. Come the flat decks of the Emirates in January, Bresnan's stamina is sure to be in high demand.

Fading star
Paul Collingwood's demise was swift and unbecoming of a player who had been so self-sacrificing throughout a decade of international involvement. However, it quickly transpired that his Test retirement, which he announced midway through the Sydney Test in January, would not be enough to prolong the rest of his international career. At times during his stop-start World Cup campaign, it seemed he was being selected primarily for his offcutters, and when England unveiled their three-captain strategy at Lord's in May, the fact he was overlooked for the Twenty20 role in favour of Broad barely caused a ripple of dissent. At Test level his departure, like that of Nasser Hussain in 2004, was poignant but well timed, with England ready to take their batting to a more purposeful level.


Jonny Bairstow helped give the innings some substance, India v England, 2nd ODI, Delhi, October 17 2011
Jonny Bairstow: debut of the year © Getty Images
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High point
In terms of personal satisfaction, it was tough for England's players to top the events on the final day of the Ashes in January. However, their most complete performance came at Edgbaston in August, when Alastair Cook's 294 formed the bedrock of their total of 710 for 7 declared, England's highest innings score since 1938. That was the contest that sealed an unassailable 3-0 series lead, and so guaranteed that they would finish the series as the world's No.1 Test side. That they went on to complete the whitewash at The Oval was a bonus.

Low point
Losing to Ireland and Bangladesh in the World Cup was embarrassing, although in mitigation, England's frantic scramble into the quarter-finals at least provided a compelling storyline to what would otherwise have been an interminable first month of the tournament. It was England's later visit to the subcontinent, in October, that was the true nadir of the year. On the one hand, the tour could be written off as an end-of-season irrelevance, especially seeing as England had just won 3-0 against India in their home ODIs. On the other, they knew full well that a chastened opposition would be gunning for revenge. Naive batting gave way to slipshod fielding, and with the likes of MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina primed to capitalise, England never gave themselves a prayer.

What 2012 holds
England played just eight Tests in 2011 - their lightest workload in that format for more than a decade. However, 2012 promises a reversion to type, with 15 Tests in the pipeline against five different opponents. It will be the year that determines England's right to be considered the No. 1 team in that format, with trips to UAE, Sri Lanka and India bookending the year, and a seismic (though scandalously curtailed) three-Test series against South Africa providing the summer highlight. Their target at this stage has to be five series wins. Like for Glenn McGrath with his 5-0 predictions of old, any less of an ambition would be a suggestion of weakness.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (December 30, 2011, 0:38 GMT)

Thanks for some perspective Andrew. England are (at least in tests) a very good side, but they are not (yet) a great one. The two great sides I watched (West Indies 1976-90 and Australia 1995-2007) had an abundance of great players. I'm not sure Engand have the players to strike fear into the opposition (think Richards, Marshall,, Garner, Holding, Warne, McGrath, Ponting, Waugh). Looking forward to the Pakistan series, and I think it will give England a real test.

Posted by Saim93 on (December 29, 2011, 20:01 GMT)

Against Pakistan im expecting a 1-1 draw, hard to see either team winning

Posted by AlanHarrison on (December 29, 2011, 12:56 GMT)

@ dunger.bob: I agree with you that England's recent success does not bear any comparison to the success of West Indies c.1980-1995 and Australia c.1995-2007, and that some people have greatly exaggerated the achievements of the England team. Be careful yourself however of avoiding exageration of past teams' success. 1. "England hardly won a test, let alone a series against Australia for 16 years. 16 years." In fact in the 16 years you are talking about (1989-2005), England won 7 tests against Australia, more than most teams at that time (though admittedly they played Aus more). 2. "the Windies had simply laid waste to everything that they saw for 20 years or so." In fact West Indies remained unbeaten in test series for 15 years (between defeats by NZ in 1980 and Aus in 1995), but as Pakistan fans will tell you, they didn't simply lay waste to everything within those 15 years: in fact they usually struggled to record a series victory against Pakistan when Imran Khan was captain

Posted by hhillbumper on (December 29, 2011, 11:02 GMT)

The distance between our test results and our ODI form. We are the flip side of Indis really. We could not really give a damn for ODi and India are besotted with it. Lets stick with test cricket as that is what we seem to care about.20-20 is a luagh but not real cricket.

Posted by   on (December 29, 2011, 10:08 GMT)

er.Vaibhav we have never said we are the best at ODI - lets face it the way forward in the world is Tests being the pinnacle and T20. ODI is a dying format and i doubt whether it will be around for much longer- so that means by my reckoning that we (england 0 are ranked 1 on tests and World T20 champions - talk about clutching at straws lol

Posted by   on (December 29, 2011, 9:57 GMT)

Fourandsixes Australia are everybodys whipping boy? oh i was sure that they just won against the former number 1 side, oh wait they did !!! listen mate, England have beaten everybody putin front of them recently, and i dont get how you are so confident of this Pakistan team that was only recently hammered by England. How about this aswell Ste13 i believe that if you check the Test rankings Swann is still the best spin bowler- it makes me laugh how so many people come on here giving it all that about there own teams when they dont check facts first, it just goes to show how blinded by their own teams people are. And look i can say this confidently because I have followed England through thick and thin, i have seem them at their worst and now they have proved to be the best in the World- Come on Enlgland for a great 2012!!

Posted by harshthakor on (December 29, 2011, 9:08 GMT)

I wish England all the best.At present England is the only outstanding team in the world in test match Cricket.Arguably this is the best English team in 40 years whose recent performances compare with the authority with which top Australian and West Indian teams vanquished their opposition into submission.England has the most balanced of batting line ups wi8th Strauss,Cook,Bell Pieterson Trott etc and a balanced bowling attack with Swan,Anderson Bresman etc.,in addition to a fine allrounder in Broad.

Let us hope this team can transform from just very good team to one of the all-time great teams.

Posted by Shan156 on (December 29, 2011, 2:53 GMT)

@er.Vaibhav, some team has to be the best of the current lot. They may not necessarily be a good team but some team *has* to be the best of all the teams out there. With your infinite wisdom, you have ruled out England because they lost a ODI series 0-5 even though we are talking about the best *test* team. Still, let's have it your way. England is not the best. Best teams don't lose a 4 test series 0-4 either, excuses notwithstanding. That rules out India too. SA, perhaps? They were unable to defeat a weak OZ side at home and are struggling against a mediocre SL team. So, they are out. SL lost to England and Pakistan and lost the first test by a huge margin to SA. Pakistan lost 1-3 to England just last summer but they have managed to stay undefeated in a test series all year this year. Perhaps, they are the best team then? How about NZ?

Posted by Shan_Karthic on (December 29, 2011, 1:24 GMT)

England's real worth will be determined after they tour SL & India, where they have successfully avoided playing Tests for more than 3 years. They have a good team for pace friendly pitches and avoiding playing in India & SL for such a long period has helped them retain a high winning percentage and ranking. Until England has a successful subcontinent tour (which Aus did so frequently in their heydays), they are just a home bully (home as defined by fast pacy pitches, not ground in England).

Posted by dunger.bob on (December 29, 2011, 0:08 GMT)

jg, I'm sorry to keep banging on about this, but it really does annoy me and I have to get it off my chest.

A lot can happen to a team over time. Lets look at a five year stretch. The most obvious thing is that your players are 5 years older, but apart from that you have to consider the impact of things like injury and loss of form. I'm not wishing it on you but how would things look if Jimmy Anderson and Ian Bell were both injured and Alistair Cook had an inexplicable loss of form and suddenly became a Phil Hughes class walking wicket ? You will have to cope with that at some stage. Maybe you can. If so, great, you're still on track. If not, then, well good try but no cigar.

I'm done, got no more to say. Hope there is at least one Englishman who can see where I'm coming from with this.

Posted by dunger.bob on (December 28, 2011, 23:31 GMT)

@JG2704: No worries mate, credit where it's due. I'm looking forward to our next encounter. Hopefully we will be able to put up a better fight next time, but I wouldn't count on it. Also, you won't get too many Aussies saying that the stated aim of emulating those great sides is arrogant or not do-able. Most of us understand that you have to think big to be big. It's not arrogance, it's a statement of intent.

Can you understand my p.o.v though? No one here is saying that your team is not the top of the wozza. They are tremendous, it's just that we don't generally go out of our way to tell you that.

However, this push to elevate the side into the company of the two sides mentioned is grossly premature to say the least. You have to sustain that level of dominance for another 10 years to tick the first box. Longevity.

You've made a great start, but that's all it is yet, a start. As the man said, lets hold the accolades for a while yet.

Posted by Kreacher_Rocks on (December 28, 2011, 23:07 GMT)

@JG2704, No disrespect to SL's superior showing, but the turn of the SL vs. SA series is probably a South African oddity. They have been the weirdest team at home - in the last 2 years they have faced 4 teams at home: England, India, Australia and now SL. Assuming that SL will administer the last rites to the match on Day 4 or 5, against each team SA will have failed to close out the matter. They tied the 4-match series against England 1-1 and that was the only series where they came back from behind to tie the series. Against India, Australia and now SL it has been a case of scoring emphatic victories, then crashing spectacularly to end up with 1-1 results against each team.

Posted by sk12 on (December 28, 2011, 22:04 GMT)

Win atleast 2 of the Pak/SL/Ind series, we'll then agree England is a gr8 team. Otherwise accept that its just a bit better than the rest, just like how we (India) were for the last 2 years.

Posted by CricketFundas on (December 28, 2011, 22:02 GMT)

There is no doubt that this is a great English team, however they are yet to prove their mettle against the Asian teams on their turf. I fully expect Pakistan to beat England next year, and England would be pounded if they played India or Srilanka in their backyard. You'd be a fool to think otherwise.

The fact of the matter is that all the top teams today (SA, Aus, Eng, Ind) seem to do well in conditions that suit them, and falter otherwise. There is no team today that matches the Aussies of the past era (with Mcgrath, Shane Warne, Lee, Gilchrist, Hayden, Ponting in form,...). Now that was a clear #1 with absolutely no questions asked.

Posted by   on (December 28, 2011, 19:55 GMT)

Well said - if England do win the upcoming series in 2012 v Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies, South Africa and India , they have every right to be called "great". However, it will be a surprise if they do manage it! I suspect that they will win just 2 of the 5 series (Sri Lanka and West Indies). It may turn out to to be only 1 - West Indies at home! Nevertheless, 2012 should be an interesting cricketing year. The lack of an agreed line on DRS is a shocking omission on the part of the spineless officials at the ICC. It does seem crazy that sport at the highest level is let down by poor administrators - how can it be right that even when everyone watching knows the umpire has got the decision wrong, the incorrect decision is allowed to stand! DRS is NOT infallible, however it is a huge improvement on the arbitrary judgement of a fallible umpire! Come on ICC - 2012 is time to INSIST that ALL test cricket embraces technology!

Posted by Sreerang on (December 28, 2011, 19:14 GMT)

Yes, England are on top right now. But difficult to see them reigning for long. They are a team which has good allround strength and everybody seems to be in form. But also they have had it a bit easy this year with Australia in the process of rebuilding, India having half the team injured and Pakistan in turmoil. Its not always going to stay the same. And as seen in the India ODI series, unless England also win everywhere(read sub-continent) they will never be considered great. I doubt if England has won a test match, forget series, in India in the last 20 years.

Posted by hhillbumper on (December 28, 2011, 18:49 GMT)

Randy Oz.Australia have been rebuilding for the past 4 years.As for luck how many great teams did Aus come up against in their pomp.England were in the Doldrums and South Africa choked.The one time you came up against a decent England team in your pomp you lost.I think it would be great if we could play Aus more recently though it does cheapen the averages to get such cheap wickets. Lost to NZ and South Africa recently so your lot are going well aren't they

Posted by chimerical on (December 28, 2011, 18:28 GMT)

If England comes out undefeated in the 5 series, they would have cemented their place as the number 1 side in the World. Beating India in England is a good performance, but then coming to India (who will probably be no 2 at that stage) and even drawing the series would be a great performance. Swann has a chance to really establish himself!

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (December 28, 2011, 17:49 GMT)

Great article and synopsis of this past triumphant year. I do wish people though would stop pointing at the age of a man soon to be 35 and wondering. If a guy is fit then 35 is nothing and presumably his head is better than in his youth. I am tempted to think in terms of Test age not actual life age as being important. In any case hopefully Strauss has a few more years left in him, and with a bit of luck his batting form will return. He is the obvious leader of that side. Though youth has its attraction, I do not want to see a team of 20 year olds, thanks. RandyOz- please help yoiurself by not revealing your phantasy world too explicitly or get a slot on comedy hour. The last remnants of the great Aussie side are unravelling before our eyes. Like the old Indian is too.

Posted by Shan156 on (December 28, 2011, 17:45 GMT)

@JG2704, hear, hear. To me too, that was the lowest point for England. Honestly, I didn't expect England to win in India. I even thought that if England managed to win a single ODI, they would have done well. Unfortunately, that didn't happen although we managed to win the T20. Despite the 0-5, what really ticked me was the fact that except one game (I believe, in Mohali), England were steamrolled in every other game. The final ODI, that you mention, was really heart-breaking as we managed 0-100 only to lose all our wickets for the addition of only 30 runs or so. Let's hope England get better. Also, I don't think it is wrong for any team to aspire to emulate the feats of the great Windies and Aussie teams of the past. No one said that England were as good as those teams. Simply wishing that we could be as good is not wrong. Re: SL vs SA, it is the Durban curse for SA @JG2704; nothing else:-) Although, SL did play very well.

Posted by Shan156 on (December 28, 2011, 17:40 GMT)

@dunger.bob, excellent comment. It is kind of an arduous task for us England fans to locate messages like yours' amidst the slew of trash posting by fans of a certain region who simply cannot digest the fact that England knocked them over easily in a recent contest that was billed a marquee series. You would find few Eng fans who would really compare this England team to the great Windies or OZ team of yore. We are simply enjoying our day in the sun and we are very well aware that it won't last for ever. We know there is a lot left for this team to achieve in test cricket, leave alone ODIs. Series wins in the sub-continent and against SA are absolute necessities for a team to even be compared to any of those great teams. We are looking forward to the next year when we have a chance to tick some of those boxes. Will it be easy? Definitely no. Is it impossible? Again,definitely no. Let's see how it all pans out. Till then, let England fans cherish the best *Eng* team in recent memory.

Posted by   on (December 28, 2011, 14:44 GMT)

BCCI missed a big trick not to include a test series when Eng visited India this year. England were awful in the ODIs to lose 5-0 (their last 10 ODIs in India read 10-0 favoring India and they have not won a test series in India in decades) and could have easily been thrashed by India to achieve a closure for the April debacle. While India has won both ODI and Test series in Eng last few years, England cannot count any in India in a long time.

Anyway, for India a tough year with 4 challenging overseas assignments and a worldcup is coming to an end and will be playing a lot at home in the next 2 years. In the same time the Poms have to tour the subcontinent. So, India can easily take back their No.1 position.

Posted by   on (December 28, 2011, 14:09 GMT)

No Team can stand in the top spot if they don't produce quality spinners. Any team needs variations on a pitch that doesn't assist swing. The demise of Aussies after Shane Warne's retirement shows that fact. To be threatening, England need to produce another high-quality spinner (apart from Swann) to suit the turning pitches of the Sub-Continent and UAE. With only pace bowling and very little variations through Swann, they will face the music. One more notable issue is the way their batsmen play spin. The recent ODI series with India showcases their poor level of playing spin on slow turning pitches. But, to give credit, this is the fittest, strongest and the best English side in the recent years...

Posted by AlanHarrison on (December 28, 2011, 13:50 GMT)

Miller is undoutedly right to try to put England's successes this year in perspective. Listening to the likes of Botham and Vaughan going on about England looking set to be the best team in the world "by a distance" for years to come (don't these guys remember what happened after the triumphs of England teams they were involved in themselves in 1981 and 2005?) is about as tiresome then listening to same TV commentary teams going on about England being 'dismal' after they lost 5-0 in India. It seems to be the way of the English media to exaggerate success and failure: haven't these guys read Rudyward Kipling about meeting with triumph and disaster and treating these two imposters just the same? @ FatBoysCanBat: I think the error you pointed out must have been corrected

Posted by Percy_Fender on (December 28, 2011, 13:49 GMT)

To be a champion side, one needs at least two great batsmen and of course a minimum of three great bowlers. The West Indies teams of the 80s and 90s and the Australian teams after that till 2005 had this combination. And they kept winning. England have a great fast bowling trinity with enough and more in bench strength a great off spinner and a couple of spinners who could surprise everyone in a couple of years. The thing is that even in the past England have had these combinations but have been largely abysmal in performance.I believe that a batsman who was on the verge of being discarded permanently, becoming a modern day Bradman in the very next series,can only because of the captain's and the team's luck. That is what Andrew Strauss is having at the moment. Pakistan are a good side and are playing in their own turf of the middle east. They have a good pace attack and a great spinner in their ranks.If England has to win, their luck must hold. In any case it points to a great series.

Posted by Gizza on (December 28, 2011, 13:25 GMT)

I'm predicting England will tie with the West Indies 1-1 in there own backyard, the one Test series Andrew didn't even mention in the article. Darren Bravo to be leading run scorer.

Posted by er.Vaibhav on (December 28, 2011, 12:57 GMT)

you are pretending to have your england team best hwzz that...because best teams don't lose their recent series by 5-0

Posted by Agnihothra on (December 28, 2011, 12:57 GMT)

yes Andrew.. write off all the england losses as insignificant...

Posted by BarmyIan on (December 28, 2011, 12:25 GMT)

I'm assuming fourandsixes wasn't watching the way we destroyed the Aussies in Australia a year ago?

Posted by   on (December 28, 2011, 12:25 GMT)

Way too much caution in those opening lines. The team must certainly celebrate what they have achieved this year. What they do in coming years will not undo this. There is sometime this tendency to think too much about sustainability of high levels of cricket. This is kinda unnecessary. Let the players stay in the today and enjoy their glory.

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (December 28, 2011, 11:34 GMT)

england had very sucessfull year in 2011 in tests ( not in odis ). but there real test will be came when they will tour pak , sl ,india . however on bouncy , green tracks england remains best with there very good swing bowlers & batting .

Posted by Y2SJ on (December 28, 2011, 10:34 GMT)

If Swann can spin England to series victories in India and SriLanka, we can agree that he is the best spinner among current players. If England fails to win in SL and India, they have no right in being called Great. They might be ranked 1, but not Great.

Posted by JG2704 on (December 28, 2011, 10:19 GMT)

Lots of predictable jealousy tinged comms here. We've done all that before. Thought it was quite a well written article although I would say the lowest point was the last OD series in India. At least in the WC those bad defeats vs Ban and Ire were sandwiched by the draw vs Ind and win vs SA. To me the Indian tour was a possible evidence of regression in the OD game. Normally I'd be very worried but after a poor OD series vs Oz and a poor WC Eng came back strong vs SL and India - regardless of what the excuse makers say about those sides. The whole Indian OD series was awful and the lowest point for me was when we were chasing a moderate total and were over 100-0 and then folded.Hopefully England have done all the prep work and their "The hard work begins now"stance isn't just empty words.

Posted by JG2704 on (December 28, 2011, 10:19 GMT)

@dunger.bob on (December 28 2011, 08:56 AM GMT) - Good on you for the praise. I always had grudging respect/envy for the dominant Oz side. Got to be honest the England team has said they wanted to be compared to the great Oz/WI sides which is maybe a little naive/tempting fate but I suppose when you are asked about your goals you have to respond with ambitious statements. I don't see it as arrogance because they're not saying that they are as good as those 2 sides. I have a worry in years to come esp re our batting and our captaincy. Time will tell if we can produce the players to fill the shoes of the players who have done so well in recent years. We have 3 big tests in playing 2 series in the SC and a home series vs SA. I was very confident of us beating SL but the way they have fought back vs SA , I'm not sure if it's a SL resurgence or a SA decline. I'm obviously hoping the latter.

Posted by Tom_Bowler on (December 28, 2011, 10:15 GMT)

England are clearly the best team around at the moment but recent success has been far too short lived to judge them against the great sides of the past. Their biggest threat at the moment is complacency which the glaring weaknesses in every other Test side may lull them into. Flower and Strauss need to make sure that they continue to meet challenges one by one as they have done in their ascent. Pakistan look a competent side and will be hard to beat on the UAE featherbeds, Sri Lanka has rarely been a happy place to tour for England so good performances in both series will be a further step forward. Given Pakistan's lack of batting firepower and fallible fielding and Sri Lanka's struggle to take wickets that's an achievable target. If England's next goal is to be regarded as a truly great side they must continue to regard each and every series as an incremental step on that journey.

Posted by spence1324 on (December 28, 2011, 10:12 GMT)

@Randyozz LOL yeah andrew miller has been quiet,thats because he is siting back with a nice bottle of cold bubbly and toasting the fact that england are the undisputed number 1 team in the world! Happy new year.

Posted by dunger.bob on (December 28, 2011, 9:14 GMT)

part 2 of my rant.

The Aussies also won 4 50 over World cups in that period, 3 of them undefeated.

Previously, the Windies had simply laid waste to everything that they saw for 20 years or so. They produced a parade of fast bowling talent that the world hasn't seen the likes of since. Some of the guys that came later weren't even born when they first began their dynasty at the top.

So please, have your jokes, talk about relegating Aus to the second tier and just generally enjoy your time in the sun. It's been a while and we don't bregrudge you that, but also consider this. Will you still be there when the current crop ages. How will it look in 5 years. 10 years. 15 years. If you are still there and landing lots of heavy punches then you have earned the right to be compared to those truly great teams. Until then, lots and lots of work to do.

Ps. We are now only 4 or 5 batsmen and maybe 2 bowlers, oh, and a wicketkeeper away from knocking you blokes off your pedestal.

Posted by dunger.bob on (December 28, 2011, 8:56 GMT)

As an Australian, it's not a natural thing for me to praise England, except when they deserve it, and at the moment they certainly do. There is no doubt that England is the top dog with a team that seems as formidable a thing to crack open as Fort Knox from our perspective. Don't you guy's worry, your team is seen as the benchmark and we are generally speaking, full of respect.

One thing that does grate a little bit is this subtle but nevertheless relentness push to elevate the team into the same company as the Windies of the 70-80-90's and the Aussies 1989-2005. Both the Aussies and the Windies managed to maintain their supremacy over 15 years or more. Both those teams experienced generational change in their line-ups and survived, and in reality became even stronger. In both cases that was at least five years after first attaining ascendency. Both teams dominated in a tests and one day cricket. England hardly won a test, let alone a series against Australia for 16 years. 16 years.

Posted by RandyOZ on (December 28, 2011, 8:53 GMT)

Miller has been quiet for a while, hasn't he? Thanks for another heavily biased article Andrew. The truth is that England have got lucky with both India and Australia rebuilding and not playing SA recently. With the current Aussie attack number 1 in the world though the Ashes are going to be a walkover!

Posted by ste13 on (December 28, 2011, 8:21 GMT)

I can't see England staying on top for long. Last few months showed that Swann is no longer world's leading slow bowler, so England will struggle against Pakistan. It will be similar in Sri Lanka - lack of spin options will cost England. But the summer will be theirs, with moderate wins over WI and SA. India will still blow them away. Still, this is just guessing, thankfully as evidenced over the last two months - test cricket became unpredictable.

Posted by FatBoysCanBat on (December 28, 2011, 8:10 GMT)

LOW POINT: "England's frantic scramble into the semi-finals at least provided a compelling storyline..." England never made the semi-finals of the world cup. They were knocked out when Dilshan and Tharanga put on 230-odd unbeaten in the chase. NZ was the only non-sub-continent team in the final four [India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka]

Posted by godatno4 on (December 28, 2011, 7:51 GMT)

Its a general prediction that when the subcontinent teams prepare spinning/batsmen friendly tracks, they are termed flat track bullies. And when other teams do prepare tracks that suit their style, they are just termed sporting wickets!!! England is the most overrated team currently, agreed that they are a good side, but definitely not the best when compared to other teams in this era. India did have a bad summer, No explanations sought/made PERIOD. The next year will be a quite crucial and a litmus test to the No 1 rankers, I will be least surprised if they lose to Pak and then to SL and against India they def will lose. Let the games begin!!!

Posted by foursandsixes on (December 28, 2011, 7:07 GMT)

Eng will lose the series to Pakistan as their bowlers are not effective outside of English conditions, and the Pak batting is coming along nicely. I don't think they will beat any of the major teams outside Eng other than an Australia who is everybody's whipping boy at the present.

Posted by donda on (December 28, 2011, 5:26 GMT)

Pakistan will make england life very difficult in UAE as India did in India. England has to play out of their skin to win series against Pakistan because it's not there home and it's not bowling friendly pitches where medium pacers of england can make big impact. If England win against pakistan then i will believe that they will rule test cricket for long. Even draw series by england will not guarantee that they will stay on top for long. They need to win. As Aussies did in their time. Playing 10 test match at home and winning all cannot make you great team until you visit sub continent and beat india or pakistan. It will be very tough for england

Posted by Trevorbaj on (December 28, 2011, 5:09 GMT)

Hello Andrew, How many times have England played 'away' in this year? When India wins at home, they are branded, nothing of the sort with England!!

Posted by   on (December 28, 2011, 4:46 GMT)

dont worry let the poms come to india and we shall prove what they are as a team in adverse conditions where there is no seam but spin all the way

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Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007

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