The Ashes 2010-11 January 8, 2011

England target No. 1 ranking


England's coach, Andy Flower, has praised the ruthlessness of his Ashes-winning cricketers, but warned that their 3-1 series win must not be seen as an end in itself, as the squad prepares to embark on a tough ODI campaign against Australia that will test their readiness for the World Cup in the subcontinent later this year.

Speaking on the morning after England's innings-and-83-run victory in Sydney, Flower said that, while the successful defence of the Ashes in Australia was a special achievement, it would be disrespectful to the challenge posed by other countries to single it out as a crowning glory.

"Our celebrations were good, and well deserved by the players," said Flower. "We had a good time and I think the guys are reflecting on a job well done and a job that they are very proud of. But our ultimate goal is to be No. 1 in the world, and in no way would I demean the Ashes series in saying that. Any series against any international nation is important in its own right, and any Test win is a very proud moment for me and our players. I think it would be disrespectful to view it any differently."

England's itinerary has left them little time to sit on their laurels. Much as was the case in 2009, when the team departed for Belfast shortly after wrapping up victory at The Oval, the squad set off for Canberra on Saturday to prepare for the two Twenty20 internationals that precede the seven-match ODI series. "There's not much rest time," said Flower. "The guys won't be able to bask long in the sunshine. They have to get their training boots on, and get back to work soon."

One man who will not be joining them on that trip, however, is Alastair Cook. England's Test vice-captain is not a member of the one-day set-up, and so he is set to fly back to England on Saturday evening, to reflect on his phenomenal achievement in racking up 766 runs in the five Tests, a tally that has only ever been exceeded by one Englishman in Australia - Wally Hammond, who made 905 runs in 1928-29.

"Cook had a particularly outstanding series," said Flower. "He's a very strong young man, he's displayed that strength in a number of ways through his career, and he's overcome most challenges that have been put in front of him, which is testament to that strength of character. Our players are picked to play international cricket because we believe they are good enough, and crucially they believe they are good enough."

Cook's turnaround in form has been stunning, after he struggled to 100 runs in the first four Tests of the English season before saving his short-term place in the side with a gutsy second-innings century against Pakistan at The Oval.

"Considering that people were calling for his head not so long ago, it is an outstanding riposte," said Flower. "Although that's not why he did it. It was because of the pride he has in his own performance and because he is very proud to play for England. I am very happy for him personally, and we're all thankful that he made those contributions to the team for us."

The team ethic was the defining feature of England's Test campaign, and of their rise and rise in the past 12 months, in which they have not lost a single series or tournament in any form of the game for 15 series and counting. The knock-on effect of such confidence is that the less-experienced members of the team, such as Tim Bresnan and Chris Tremlett, have been able to slot into the set-up without missing a beat.

"Bresnan and Tremlett stepped into the breach very skillfully I thought, and held themselves well under pressure," said Flower. "It's not easy to do when you don't play a lot of cricket at the start of the series, and you're asked to take over because of injury or form, but they did it very well. It's down to a combination of things. It's a testament to their character and the way they handle pressure, but also a testament to the unity in the side, and the fact that they felt comfortable coming in and didn't feel like outsiders."

The fact that England have forged a squad of international-standard players, rather than just a first eleven as was the case in 2005, augurs well for the challenges that lie ahead, with Flower hinting that changes of position and personnel may come into play when the team reaches the subcontinent in February for the World Cup. But all the while, that aim of No. 1 remains the ultimate focus.

"It's realistic, it's achievable," said Flower. "I don't know if we'll get there or not, but it's certainly what we are aiming for. This result will give the players a lot of confidence, and some of the results they are achieving are building that confidence all the time. Winning the Twenty20 World Cup, playing well in South Africa, and winning two of the last Ashes series are all things that will build the confidence of the side."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Tushar on January 11, 2011, 13:41 GMT

    The problem for Indian fans doesnt seem to be with the England's desire to be No.1, but with the website's policy of publishing many articles (with Chappell at the forefront) accusing that India doesn't deserve to be No1, and then coming up with this series of articles almost stating that England are no.1 in waiting, and its only matter of time before India shades the false title and England claims the top spot.

  • romanc on January 11, 2011, 13:10 GMT

    I don,t thing it is England's improvement made them to win ashes... rather it wad Australian's bad performance...India had proved everywhere in the world...unless some bad umpiring was not there in Australia, India would have won the test title there...

  • Ajay on January 11, 2011, 5:35 GMT

    Eagerly waiting for England - India series.... Lets see if England can break "THE WALL"...if the can see off VVS .... if they can sustain SACHIN ...if they can defend Zaheer.... if they can ...if they can ...

  • Michael on January 11, 2011, 1:24 GMT

    You have to give credit to the English bowlers,particularly the fast men who ALL swung the ball including reverse swing,something the Aussie bowlers struggled with.Another reason why they triumphed was their discipline.They never wavered from their plans and bowled tight,suffocating line and lengths. From what iv'e seen from the Indian bowlers is that if they don't have conditions to suit spin,the only man good enough is Khan.India's batsmen are still great but some won't be around for long whilst the English batsmen are a team experienced enough yet young enough to post consistent big scores. Not forgetting Sth Africa who like India have a couple of stars in the team.Steyn is a matchwinner on any surface and Kallis's batting exploits have saved them.

    My point is,England have a well balanced team with no passengers aboard so whoever thinks they cant be the No.1 team in the world is kidding themselves and speaking from the heart not the brain.

  • Samuel on January 10, 2011, 19:57 GMT

    @Trueman's_Ghost - I think England would have to whitewash both Sri Lanka and India to even get close, so somehow I don't think England will reach the top this summer...

  • Chris on January 10, 2011, 17:43 GMT

    @meety - you talk a lot of sense mate - can u pls teach jonesy2? England do have an improving team and with a fair run of results will be very close behind India as worldl ranked No.2 at the end of this summer... reasons; mental toughness that simply was not there before and a great team spirit. India have some great players, aging but great, but after Zak their attack is very very ordinary. Eng v India are always close series of late, this will be no different, but I take England to win 2-1 or even 2-0 considering India have no time to prepare after their tour of WIndies. True test as many have said will then be can England win in India?

  • Ramanathan on January 10, 2011, 17:41 GMT

    Guys i am commenting for what Darren Gough said about England & your fellow old cricketers comments after England winning ashes,Winning ashes does not make you contenders for No:1u have to win consistently everywhere, if u are able to beat Srilanka in Srilanka & India in India u will become No 1 & consitently win ashes for next 5 series

  • Dummy4 on January 10, 2011, 16:44 GMT

    England have retained the Ashes for the first time Down Under in the last 25 years. Well done Andrew Strauss and the England team. Strauss has been an inspirational leader for the England team and most of the credit should go to Andrew. Lets not forget how much he backed Alister Cook prior to the series. There were so many questions being raised about his technique and all the other stuff. Strauss backed Cook to the hilt and sure enough the Essex opener did not let his Captain down.

    It was really heartening to hear Strauss say at the end of the series that the job was not done as yet. England really look good to challenge India for the number one status. I'm really looking forward to the series between England and India next summer!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Grant on January 10, 2011, 16:11 GMT

    The "predictor" on the ICC ranking site doesn't go as far as the India-England games (and I'm not clever enough to do the calculations without), but India are no. 1 by quite a long way. Even if England did beat them at home, I think India would stay top. Ranking actually work quite well in that respect- India have saved up a lot of credit, so a narrow away slip up wouldn't cost them their crown.

  • Samuel on January 10, 2011, 14:41 GMT

    I never understand why an England side saying they are aiming for No. 1 provokes such anger - surely that should be the aim of all the test sides? And whenever anyone else says it, it never generates such a heated argument. Looking at both the fixtures and the talent available, as an England fan I have to say I'm optimistic it can happen, but I'm not saying it will happen - what's wrong with that?! I just feel that England are the only side with any real depth in all areas at the moment - we have several wicket keepers, many good young batsmen, a well stocked seam department (although a lack of any real quickies coming through is a bit of a worry) and a few promising spinners around the country. The India series is huge, and I think a lot depends on the weather - if it's like the end of last summer, England will be favourites. If it's like last year's early summer, I expect a few bore draws.

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