England v Australia, 3rd Investec Test, Old Trafford, 4th day August 4, 2013

Good but not great

Although the Ashes are almost within their grasp, there are obvious areas in which this England side can improve
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It is probably an odd time to find fault with England. Barring a miracle - and the weather forecast suggests it will take a miracle for there to be much play on day five of this Test - England should retain the Ashes at Old Trafford on Monday. They will have stretched their unbeaten record to 11 successive Tests and given themselves a decent chance of finishing the series back up at No. 2 in the Test rankings. They are a good side deserving of praise.

But if they want to take the next step, if they want to progress from good to great and extend their period of relative success well into the future, it may be time to assess what they are doing well, what they can do better and take steps now to strengthen and improve.

England have not been at their best in this series. They have not needed to be. Australia have shown improvement and have a couple of young players who could go on to form the basis of a competitive side in the future. For now, though, they are at one of the lowest ebbs in their history and success against them should be taken in context. It does not make England a great side.

If they are to beat South Africa home and away - probably the ultimate test of a team right now - if they are to win regularly in Asia - a major problem for England teams despite the excellence of the performance in India recently - they cannot accept what they have. They need to improve.

A key part of doing that will be to ease the burden on their four-man attack. Over the last year, three of the four have endured lengthy injury lay-offs and it has been noticeable that the potency of the attack has reduced as this series has progressed. It is telling that James Anderson (128.5 overs) and Graeme Swann (173), indisputably England's best bowlers, have delivered the most overs in the series and, in the first innings of this Test, Anderson returned the worst figures of his career. They are being asked to carry too heavy a burden.

A four-man attack has served England well. It helped them reach No. 1 in the world Test rankings, it helped them win a Test series in India and it looks as if it will help them to win three successive Ashes series. It may be the least bad option England have when selecting sides at present, but there is no way it is ideal.

For a start it relies a great deal on the excellence of a couple of players. There is, for example, no substitute for Anderson should he suffer injury and his absence might well expose a four-man attack as limited and missing the necessary skill or variety to regularly win the biggest Tests.

There are times when it leaves England without options in the field, too. Unless this seam attack can find lateral movement, whether by seam or any form of swing, they are reliant simply on containment and waiting for mistakes from the opposition. There is currently no one with the pace, the height or, perhaps, the left-arm angle to unlock batsmen in unhelpful bowling conditions. While there are few tall left-arm fast bowlers in the county game at present, England do have the option of players such as Chris Tremlett, Boyd Rankin and Steven Finn who can, when fit and firing, unsettle batsmen even on placid surfaces.

A four-man attack is a risk, too. If one of them is injured during the game, it increases the burden on the remaining members of the side to unreasonable levels. That, in turn, can encourage bowlers to attempt to ignore minor injuries, which increases the risk of sustaining more serious injury.

The ideal scenario would be to develop an allrounder. While there are candidates in the county game, each of them has a major caveat.

Chris Woakes seems to lack the pace and consistency to trouble good batsmen on the flattest of Test wickets; Ravi Bopara lacks potency with the ball; Rikki Clarke is deemed, probably unfairly, as lacking the bowling quality; and Ben Stokes, who may be the most likely candidate in the future, remains a work in progress. He does have the pace, though, and a first-class batting average of 35 and bowling average of 27 is not to be dismissed. Perhaps of more concern, is that he has not looked completely comfortable on the international stage in his nine limited-overs appearances.

Long-term, Warwickshire's left-arm swing bowler Keith Barker, arguably the most dangerous new-ball exponent in county cricket at present, might be worth consideration.

Another option - one England are loathe to take - would be to push Matt Prior up to No. 6 and play a specialist five-man attack. They do, after all, already possess several bowlers with a more than acceptable claim as batsmen - the likes of Stuart Broad, Swann and Tim Bresnan - which offers some solidity even if the top-order batting fails.

There are several reasons they do not take such an approach. The first is that Prior, at No. 7, is given the ability to play his natural, positive game without the responsibility of a top-order batsman, while they also prefer the security of the extra batsman in the knowledge that it helps them secure draws from tough situations, build imposing scores in others and that they have the bowling attack to cope with the burden.

The other reason is one of England key problems of late: their top-order batting has not been reliably consistent. Indeed, you could make a strong argument to suggest it has not been consistently good since the series against India in the summer of 2011. While most batsmen succeeded eventually on the tour of India at the end of 2012, there was no time when all of them were in form at the same time.

The selectors have to strike a balance between the benefits of continuity of selection and the dangers of complacency. There is, at present, little evidence to suggest they are getting that wrong. And while the top-order batting remains unreliable, it is perverse to weaken it further by replacing a batsman with a bowler.

There is no obvious solution to that problem. At least six of England's top seven - all but Jonny Bairstow - can make very strong arguments for their retention on the grounds of either outstanding records (the likes of Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell) or outstanding promise (Joe Root). Even Bairstow, at the age of 23, can be allowed the benefit of the doubt as he is learning his trade at present and came into this series hopelessly short of first-class cricket.

That may well be the crux of the problem. England went into this series, like so many, on the back of a diet of limited-overs cricket. Their players were weary, mentally as much as physically, while also out of touch with the rigours of the red-ball game. England's schedule, based on the premise of making the most money, not the best cricket, remains a major impediment to progress. If they really want to go the next step, they need to find a way to ease the burden on their top players.

Reducing the schedule significantly is not realistic at present. The ECB requires the money for many reasons - most of them very good - and any reduction in fees would have consequences for the county game, the women's game, the grassroots game and even disability cricket. A successful England team pays for much of the rest of the English system.

The other solution would be to allow the players to specialise; to allow them to give up at least one format of the game in order to concentrate on another. But England currently have a policy that obliges players to be available for both limited-overs formats or neither and some players would be reluctant to forgo the financial rewards of playing less often.

But if England really want to progress as a side, if they really want to go from good to great, these are the problems for which they need to find solutions.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on August 5, 2013, 9:54 GMT

    It is time people gave this English team its due. Not all great sides have every base covered. The great West Indian side of the 70s and 80s never had a genuine all-rounder. After the retirement of Lance Gibbs they also didn't have a spinner. The great Aussie side of the 90s and the 2000s never had a genuine all-rounder. This England side has in the likes of Bresnan and Broad bowlers who have the genuine potential as batters. They have two/three 'great' batsmen in their line up. They have one of the greatest off spinner playing for them. They have an excellent keeper batsman. What else do you want?

  • hhillbumper on August 4, 2013, 19:59 GMT

    We need an all rounder for sure.England are still the number 2 team because they can do something that India can't which is travel.When India win a series in South Africa or Australia then we can talk. If we go 3 nil up I would consider blooding some younger talent in the bowling. England are still maddeningly inconsistent and you wonder how tired the bowlers are.Anderson is s till a world class bowler but Broad needs to take more wickets.Not sure about Bresnan and while he has good stats I wonder if another bowler would give more results. I think the future will like with Topley. It is a shame that Woakes does not have more pace.Of course in future you might find Jamie Overton coming to the fore. One bad test does not make a bad team and the other way to look at this is that a misfiring England have done what they have done

  • xtrafalgarx on August 6, 2013, 8:20 GMT

    England are not a "Great team" by any means. Infact i think as a whole, the standard of cricket has taken a backward step, I wouldn't consider a great side either with their lack of a spinner. @Prabhakar Muthukrishnan , England only have 1 batsman capable of being put into the "great" category, and it's not Cook, Trott or Bell. It's Kevin Pietersen, and him alone. Jimmy is probably a great bowler now, and Swann a very good spinner, just under great. Otherwise a team with untried guys like Root and Bairstow who is dodgy, Bresnan (no offence, nice lad) and Broad is by no means a GREAT SIDE.

  • Macedon on August 6, 2013, 7:55 GMT

    Great teams show up to win every test. They certainly don't start playing for a draw in their first innings which England did in this match. England play to not lose, great teams play to win.

  • 2MikeGattings on August 5, 2013, 21:15 GMT

    A lot of tripe is talked about Cook's tactical inflexibility and supposed lack of a killer instinct. The fact is this team has figured out a way to win that usually works, and because it works they don't like to deviate from it. I don't think this is an underachieving England squad. Quite the opposite, in fact, with such an experienced core of players I think England probably have less scope for improvement than younger sides like the rejuvenated India. Are England great, no and they never were, but they were first among equals for a while before being well beaten by a superior SA team. The question to be asked is are Australia exceptionally bad because they are on course for another hiding in 2013 after a historic beating in 2010/11.

  • SICHO on August 5, 2013, 19:27 GMT

    @landl47, I agree with Stephen Axtell, the players he mentioned aren't getting any younger (KP is actually older than Smith!). Anyside would struggle against any opposition without their best players, just take an England side without KP, Bell, Prior, Cook and Anderson (he's only good at juicy pitches anyway!) and imagine how they would fare against this same Oz team, my guess; not convincing. SA has many talented upcoming fast bowlers, it's just that they aren't hyped by the media like in Eng and Oz.

  • whatawicket on August 5, 2013, 16:16 GMT

    i can understand if before the saffas series last year George and some of us English supporters thought maybe we were better than we were, rose tinted spectacles i suppose. on our day we can be a good side, but on the next we can be dire. i hope this test is what we seem to do lately middle test blues but we never at any time during it, looked the better side.

    our top order in all the tests so far this series have looked out of sorts but the old adage form is temporary class is permanent with these guys doing it over a good period. with 77 centuries between them. lets hope its business as usual at Durham

  • tickcric on August 5, 2013, 16:06 GMT

    England a top side talent & skill wise are still negative and defensive in a challenging situation. They are no champions.

  • ThyrSaadam on August 5, 2013, 15:46 GMT

    England are really far from great, and it starts with their captain, Cook, who is a GREAT batsmen, but the most uninspiring captain. He is mostly reactive, and needs to be aggressive as a captain, and in my humble opinion, believe is biggest challenge to the current English squad attaining true "greatness".

  • on August 5, 2013, 14:37 GMT

    @landl47 you left out JP Duminy in the very good category (& both he and Philander could make the jump to greats - I think Duminy definately will he's an incredible cricketer and SA's replacement for Kallis).

    SA also has a bunch of young quicks coming through easily as good as pattinson/starc/bird but they can't get in the side because of Steyn-Philander-Morkel. I'd back this SA side against the great Aussie sides of recent vintage. One of the missing ingredients has been a quality spinner.

    JP Duminy was recently easily SA's best spinner in Sri Lanka and since coming back from injury his bowling is hugely improved. It will be very interesting to see in Duminy gets an extended bowl in tests and how his bowling goes in the longer form.

  • on August 5, 2013, 9:54 GMT

    It is time people gave this English team its due. Not all great sides have every base covered. The great West Indian side of the 70s and 80s never had a genuine all-rounder. After the retirement of Lance Gibbs they also didn't have a spinner. The great Aussie side of the 90s and the 2000s never had a genuine all-rounder. This England side has in the likes of Bresnan and Broad bowlers who have the genuine potential as batters. They have two/three 'great' batsmen in their line up. They have one of the greatest off spinner playing for them. They have an excellent keeper batsman. What else do you want?

  • hhillbumper on August 4, 2013, 19:59 GMT

    We need an all rounder for sure.England are still the number 2 team because they can do something that India can't which is travel.When India win a series in South Africa or Australia then we can talk. If we go 3 nil up I would consider blooding some younger talent in the bowling. England are still maddeningly inconsistent and you wonder how tired the bowlers are.Anderson is s till a world class bowler but Broad needs to take more wickets.Not sure about Bresnan and while he has good stats I wonder if another bowler would give more results. I think the future will like with Topley. It is a shame that Woakes does not have more pace.Of course in future you might find Jamie Overton coming to the fore. One bad test does not make a bad team and the other way to look at this is that a misfiring England have done what they have done

  • xtrafalgarx on August 6, 2013, 8:20 GMT

    England are not a "Great team" by any means. Infact i think as a whole, the standard of cricket has taken a backward step, I wouldn't consider a great side either with their lack of a spinner. @Prabhakar Muthukrishnan , England only have 1 batsman capable of being put into the "great" category, and it's not Cook, Trott or Bell. It's Kevin Pietersen, and him alone. Jimmy is probably a great bowler now, and Swann a very good spinner, just under great. Otherwise a team with untried guys like Root and Bairstow who is dodgy, Bresnan (no offence, nice lad) and Broad is by no means a GREAT SIDE.

  • Macedon on August 6, 2013, 7:55 GMT

    Great teams show up to win every test. They certainly don't start playing for a draw in their first innings which England did in this match. England play to not lose, great teams play to win.

  • 2MikeGattings on August 5, 2013, 21:15 GMT

    A lot of tripe is talked about Cook's tactical inflexibility and supposed lack of a killer instinct. The fact is this team has figured out a way to win that usually works, and because it works they don't like to deviate from it. I don't think this is an underachieving England squad. Quite the opposite, in fact, with such an experienced core of players I think England probably have less scope for improvement than younger sides like the rejuvenated India. Are England great, no and they never were, but they were first among equals for a while before being well beaten by a superior SA team. The question to be asked is are Australia exceptionally bad because they are on course for another hiding in 2013 after a historic beating in 2010/11.

  • SICHO on August 5, 2013, 19:27 GMT

    @landl47, I agree with Stephen Axtell, the players he mentioned aren't getting any younger (KP is actually older than Smith!). Anyside would struggle against any opposition without their best players, just take an England side without KP, Bell, Prior, Cook and Anderson (he's only good at juicy pitches anyway!) and imagine how they would fare against this same Oz team, my guess; not convincing. SA has many talented upcoming fast bowlers, it's just that they aren't hyped by the media like in Eng and Oz.

  • whatawicket on August 5, 2013, 16:16 GMT

    i can understand if before the saffas series last year George and some of us English supporters thought maybe we were better than we were, rose tinted spectacles i suppose. on our day we can be a good side, but on the next we can be dire. i hope this test is what we seem to do lately middle test blues but we never at any time during it, looked the better side.

    our top order in all the tests so far this series have looked out of sorts but the old adage form is temporary class is permanent with these guys doing it over a good period. with 77 centuries between them. lets hope its business as usual at Durham

  • tickcric on August 5, 2013, 16:06 GMT

    England a top side talent & skill wise are still negative and defensive in a challenging situation. They are no champions.

  • ThyrSaadam on August 5, 2013, 15:46 GMT

    England are really far from great, and it starts with their captain, Cook, who is a GREAT batsmen, but the most uninspiring captain. He is mostly reactive, and needs to be aggressive as a captain, and in my humble opinion, believe is biggest challenge to the current English squad attaining true "greatness".

  • on August 5, 2013, 14:37 GMT

    @landl47 you left out JP Duminy in the very good category (& both he and Philander could make the jump to greats - I think Duminy definately will he's an incredible cricketer and SA's replacement for Kallis).

    SA also has a bunch of young quicks coming through easily as good as pattinson/starc/bird but they can't get in the side because of Steyn-Philander-Morkel. I'd back this SA side against the great Aussie sides of recent vintage. One of the missing ingredients has been a quality spinner.

    JP Duminy was recently easily SA's best spinner in Sri Lanka and since coming back from injury his bowling is hugely improved. It will be very interesting to see in Duminy gets an extended bowl in tests and how his bowling goes in the longer form.

  • wibbly on August 5, 2013, 14:25 GMT

    Very good article. This is not a great team and never will be with the current line up. When Stuart Broad is opening your bowling and Bresnan is first change then that is a very average bowling attack. Even your spearhead, Anderson, an excellent bowler, averages 28plus per test wicket - not exactly in the Marshall/Ambrose/Lillee/Steyn/McGrath class. And as for great batsmen? Cook is very good but not very easy on the eye and will not win many games by dominating an attack and scoring quickly. Bell can be inconsistent while Pieterson is the one true potential 'great' but has become increasingly injury prone. Prior is a batsman/keeper out of the top drawer and Swann is the best spinner in the world today. Taken as a whole this England team does not compare very well with any of the great teams of the 80's and 90's.

  • on August 5, 2013, 13:57 GMT

    George, how much longer would you give the Root-Cook partnership to develop? A major part of the success in 2005 was down to Strauss and Trescothick giving us consistent starts. Strauss and Cook wer a good opening pair as well. As Australia have shown us, a dodgy opening pair only serves to encourage the opposition. I was never in favour of dropping Compton and moving Root up. So far, despite the score at Lords when he was dropped early, I'm not seeing anything to make me change my mind. Compton and Cook averaged 57 together: Cook and Root is currently scraping at under 25. It also makes a mockery of those demanding Compton to be dropped for slow scoring when you currently have Root in this game having faced 114 balls for 21.

  • Jaffa79 on August 5, 2013, 13:48 GMT

    England are certainly not great that is for sure but they are a good team. They have churned out wins in this series despite some of their big guns not firing. Australia are nowhere near the level they have been but retain great fighting spirit. After England, they play England at home, SA away, Pakistan away and SA at home! England at home probably represents their best chance! If they struggle against Swann, then Ajmal in UAE on those decks could be a massive challenge. It could be a very painful 18 months to be an Aussie cricket fan!

  • on August 5, 2013, 10:48 GMT

    @landl47, oh please. Anderson, Kp, Prior, Swann and Trott are not getting any younger. So times are going to be bleak for England pretty soon. The so called depth in England bowling has already been proven to be false.

  • landl47 on August 5, 2013, 10:29 GMT

    As an England fan, I would love England to be a great side in my lifetime. I'm 65, have been watching cricket since the 1950s and have never seen a great England side. However, great sides are born, not made. The West Indians of the 1970s and 80s and the Australians of the 1990s/2000s, generally accepted as the two great sides of modern times, had a large number of great players at the same time. Those players got old and retired and the WI and Aus are now very ordinary sides whom England has beaten regularly over the last decade.

    South Africa, #1 in the rankings, have 5 great players (Smith, Amla, Kallis, DeVilliers and Steyn) and a couple of very good ones (Morkel, Philander). As they get to the end of their careers SA is going to slip- see the recent results against SL without Smith, Kallis and Steyn. They're not a great side, just the best at present.

    England and India have the best prospects at present. Whether either will become a great side we'll have to wait and see.

  • greyhair on August 5, 2013, 10:25 GMT

    Well said Mr D. I'd love to see England make the best of themselves long-term. Might more horse-for-course flexibility help? Sometimes move Prior's 43 average to 6 and bring in extra and/or different pace (faster? left-arm?) or extra and/or different spin (more off or left-arm - wrist?!) and if the extra can bat so much the better. Finn, Onions, Panesar, Tredwell, my fave Kerrigan can't tho. So the allrounder route? What seems to be going on there is Rashid, Borthwick, L Wright have much improved their batting this year and might average 30 or more in tests (like Morgan, Bairstow, Bopara at 6), but their bowling might well be less effective than, say, Bopara's - more likely than his to get splattered, given his experience and cunning. Selectors stymied I'd say. So? Over to the sports psychologists to get the top order back to their former collective consistency and the whole team aching to be No 1 rather than fearing the responsibility and retreating, as they did last time.

  • proczilla on August 5, 2013, 10:11 GMT

    Im a bit confused by this article, as this is an english team on the decline and have little chance of moving from good to great in the near future. The side may have an impressive record on paper, but The best of Trott, Pieterson and Prior are behind them. KPs century was scratchy at best, and the only English batsmen showing any pure class this series has been Ian Bell, who has gained my admiration much to my annoyance. Their bowling unit is pretty much Swann and Anderson, with the latter being half the bowler that English fans seem to think he is. Sure he is pretty handy with a swinging Duke ball, but put him on a flat track with less swing and he becomes pedestrian and goes to water. Keep in mind that this series was 14 runs and a dry day away from being 2-1 Australia, and not a good Australia at that.

  • Guernica on August 5, 2013, 10:04 GMT

    @Milhouse79 - it's true that the likes of the Waugh brothers and even someone like Gooch used to do a lot of bowling in the 90s (and get quite a few wickets). However, I think test cricket has changed. Batting teams have become more aggressive, pitches are generally flatter and I think bowlers like that would get targeted these days. England could certainly have used Root more in this game - not sure why they didn't after his success in the last one.

  • harry93 on August 5, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    This team'll never be great. They've got no ticker. A great team would have gone all out to win this test. Predictions of back-to-back white washes were amusing at the start of the series and are positively hilarious now. England won't win another test in this series (their excuse being they're dead rubbers) and it'll finish 2-1. The Aussies will regain the Ashes in Australia taking the series 3-1 and 10-0 to the Poms will end up 4-3 to the Aussies.

  • WhoCaresAboutIPL on August 5, 2013, 9:52 GMT

    I think we would probably all agree with this article and its conclusions. However the ICC ratings are themselves not to be taken at face value. Currently India lie above England even though the recent record is 6-1 to England! The change in position presumably reflects some good results from 2010 disappearing? We all know the 3-0 to Pakistan was a bad result, and it seems to have been a major factor in the apparent demotion. Several writers suggest that the 2-0 to the Saffers was "crushing" - in fact only one match was a bad defeat, the other two could actually have gone either / any way.

  • Guernica on August 5, 2013, 9:48 GMT

    Barker should certainly be looked at closely. I don't think his batting is strong enough for a genuine all-rounder but it's on a par with Broad/Swann and his bowling alone is worth considering. Luke Wright is one who hasn't been mentioned in the article. People may laugh but he has always done pretty well in pressure situations which suggests he has the temperament to succeed and adjust his game accordingly.

  • on August 5, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    Is it just me that it is really getting tired of this whole "Must perform in the Sub Continent". Quite frankly teams like England, Australia and South Africa perform much better in the sub continent than teams like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka perform in England, Austalia and South Africa.

  • on August 5, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    I did not read the article, but any discussion on "Good but not Great" should have a pre-requisite of the side being at least No.1 in Test Rankings, and by a fair margin. England right now are at No 3.

  • itsthewayuplay on August 5, 2013, 8:59 GMT

    The timing of this article is indeed odd. For a neutral like me, an Australian win keeps the series alive and keeps me interested in the last 2 tests. Whilst this series hasn't reached the heights of the 2005 series, the first test, the 2nd up to a point, and this current one so far has been good value. Sport after all is about entertainment and this series so far has provided plenty of that. I'd rather watch highly entertaining cricket whichever teams are involved rather than poor cricket by my own team (India). The ideal scenario for me is for both teams to go into the final session of fifth day at the Oval with 2 wins each and both teams in with a chance of victory. But based on the pitch and time left that looks unlikely. Whether England is great or not is a question for another time. The question should be how much more entertainment can we squeeze out this series?

  • Jaffa79 on August 5, 2013, 8:54 GMT

    I agree with the premise of having a 5th bowler and it would certainly keep Anderson fresh if we had one. Bairstow is a solid guy but clearly lacking real Test match quality, so having someone at 6 or 7 (as Prior should move up) wouldn't hurt the batting at all. I can only really think of Stokes as an option as he has pace and gives it a fair thump with the bat. He is nowhere near the finished article (dreadful against spin) and needs overs and innings under his belt, although I think England will pick him for Aus this winter and possibly during this series. My only reservation is that sometimes captains don't trust the 5th bowler with enough overs to justify his inclusion and if Stokes (or whoever) is only given 6 or 7 overs a Test match innings then you could argue that it would be better to give Root a few more overs and get the best batsman available in place. The great thing about the Aussies 95-05 was the likes of the Waugh brothers, Blewett, Lehman and Clarke, who could all bowl

  • jb633 on August 5, 2013, 8:49 GMT

    By the same token I don't think there is a great side in the world at the moment. Having watched the South African debacle in Sri Lanka recently concluded, I think they are going to face their toughest challenges when they play away cricket in Asia. If Pakistan play their cards right and produce the same pitches they did against England I can't see South Africa winning against Ajmal, Hafeez and Rehman. Their lack of any spinning options makes them very one dimensional and they don't have the depth of batsmen to cope if they have injuries. By the same token India have yet to prove they can play away from home and I wouldn't be suprised to see them whitwashed again in South Africa. To me it says a lot about world cricket at the moment that we are seeing home whitewashes so regularly. The quality of cricket is simply not as high as it was in the 1990's and no side comes close to the legendary Aussie side.

  • humdrum on August 5, 2013, 8:49 GMT

    @crockit;Broad is almost world class and Lee only test class? Truly a bizarre sense of humour,one must say.So in the 60 test matches he has played for his 200 wickets,how many match winning performances,which decisively swung the game for England ? Lee would be streets ahead of Broad.Also you forgot to mention the key factor which Aus to dominate and that is aggression,which has never been England's forte.And you can't develop it overnight.

  • Cuzzer on August 5, 2013, 8:49 GMT

    I can't disagree that this side is good but not great. It's worth remembering though, that the "great" Australia side never won regularly on the subcontinent either. And they would nearly always lose at least one Test to England in the Ashes, when let's face it, England were at their lowest ebb. Most sides have an off Test, this was hopfully it for England, and they can bounce back and finish this series with at least another win.

  • jb633 on August 5, 2013, 8:36 GMT

    I personally do not think there are any great sides at the moment and as I stated after the test at Lord's the Ashes are no longer the litmus test for an English team. I would suggest our batting line up lacks a quality dynamic player who can really get on top of the bowling. Obviously we have KP who will play one innings a series that wins the game but we need someone else who can be destructive when the situatuion suits. The bowling for me is by far the bigger concern. I would suggest that unless the pitches do a great deal we look pedestrian. Look at us v SA, NZ (away) and even this test, we have no pace or variation that can take the pitch out of the equation. I think Swann is a good bowler to left handers and his stats will always look good against sides that have predominantly left handers e.g, Aus, WI, Pak. Against right handers he looks far less convincing.

  • bumble23 on August 5, 2013, 8:34 GMT

    no wonder that india is ranked no 2 in the test rankings. Just like IPL srinivasan must have had a hand in this ranking system. Shame on ICC to let the ranking system get rigged. One cannot suppress the smile after seeing india climb to the 2nd position. 4-0 against a poor australian side makes them reach 2nd in the ranking. The most embarassing part is that some indian bloggers justifying their 2nd position.

  • crockit on August 5, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    4 frontline bowlers is enough if they are collectively good enough. Windies in their 70s -90s pomp often had 4 greats measured by wicket taking ability and low average (e.g. Holding, Croft, Garner and Roberts). If you told them they needed a 5th frontline bowler they would have laughed (enough to get relief overs out of Richards. Aus in their 90s to noughties pomp had two greats (Warne and McGrath) one world class (Gilespie) and one test class (Lee). They did not need the decent part-time bowling of Steve Waugh for much more than a bit of relief and partnership breaking. The difference is simply that England have no greats, two world class (Anderson and Swann), one almost world class (Broad) and one test class (Bresnan). This is a good attack but not great. The key to England improving lies in improving whatever quartet they put out. A bit more out of the batters would also help!

  • humdrum on August 5, 2013, 8:27 GMT

    Better SA teams than the present one have failed to beat india home and away in the last 4 test series. In fact during India's last tour to SA,clive rice openly said that if the tosses had gone to india,they would have won the series.Mind you,i repeat 4 test series India and SA level. that's consistency for you overseas and home.against that benchmark merry England's performance against SA home and away,particularly that of last year.so please grow up,englishmen, there are miles to go before you can preen.

  • on August 5, 2013, 8:27 GMT

    Australia are starting to get the hang of playing these 'great bowlers'. For Australia's overall confidence in the 10 Ashes tests it was important that they made a stand in this test which they have done. Another such batting performance and Australia will be staring at a 'Naked Emporer'. Clarke and Rogers have shown the way and now none of our top 6 will fear any of their bowlers. As good as Swann is; he isnt unplayable. By the time of the last match in Australia; I'm sure that almost every one of the top 6 will have found their method of either milking him for runs or flaying him to all parts! A 10 match series ending in Australia was only going to benefit Australia in the long run.

  • philknight on August 5, 2013, 8:25 GMT

    "That may well be the crux of the problem. England went into this series, like so many, on the back of a diet of limited-overs cricket. Their players were weary, mentally as much as physically, while also out of touch with the rigours of the red-ball game." England just played NZ in 5 tests. In fact, given how competitive the series was in NZ, and how the kiwi bowling attack consistently put the English top order under pressure, I think they benefited from being more test ready than an Aussie side who easily crushed Sri Lanka at home.

  • pulkit10 on August 5, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    I don't really see the comparison with India either. Not to downplay on the massive achievement of beating a team like India in their own backyard but if India were to field a team today, it would look a lot different than the one that they faced before and recent changes have yielded results for them too. Back then, both Australia and England faced a team with fading stars well beyond their past, an extremely overworked captain and a very ordinary bowling attack (below average even). Literally 7 of the 11 were underperforming or not performing at all.

    For England to perform, they'll have to get aggressive. They are unable to enforce results - a hallmark of great teams - & too often, they are out of ideas and work hard just to bat their way to a draw. That's not how you dominate oppositions. You do that by slamming hundreds and taking wickets - two things that become hard when you have batsmen trained to defend 500 balls a session and bowlers that don't create chances.

  • Shaggy076 on August 5, 2013, 8:08 GMT

    Skten; I did say South Africa were streets ahead so forget that series then the only loss is Pakistan away. It puts them above the rest. Madhusan - I give you that India can be a very good side even if they don't win away but they need to be at leastt competetive away and in recent times they have been a walk over away from home. Australia only have one completrd series where they were uncompetetive and that puts them in front of India for mine.

  • VillageBlacksmith on August 5, 2013, 8:02 GMT

    as long as Eng keep thrashing aussie who cares?? And slagging off Eng is an insult to the teams they beat... like the aussies... If Eng aren't good, how bad are the others?? Crikey...

  • gtr800 on August 5, 2013, 7:56 GMT

    Despite being a good side England are far from being great. Despite England beating India back home, India's general aggressive attitude has yielded them more wins which of course mean more on the ranking system hence justifying their 2nd position. Can England ever reach no.1? Probably not in this generation of players, as soon as a pitch which they cannot use reverse or spin they resort to conservatism. Plus they don't have any aggressive players who can take the game out of the oppositions hands in a day barring KP. For England to be great they need to stop being afraid of losing, they need to play aggressively But judging by the current regime it's unlikely to change soon. As a neutral it's definitely loathsome to see 11 individuals leave or forward defend the ball for most duration of their innings, I guess that's why cricket is suffering in England. England's defensive strategy aren't exactly a crowd accumulator

  • highveldhillbilly on August 5, 2013, 7:54 GMT

    Funny how one of the key ingredients missing from the English team is an all-rounder. Apparently it's the difference between a good and great side. Note it's not a great batsmen they're missing it's an all-rounders. So it just goes to show the value of Kallis. There are always a couple of really good to great batsmen around teh world at any stage and a couple of really good to great bowlers. As for great all-rounders, they're a much rarer breed.

  • GeoffreysMother on August 5, 2013, 7:54 GMT

    An excellent article at an appropriate time. I think there is a real issue bringing youngsters like Root and Bairstow into all formats of the international game at the same time. There is far greater analysis of a player these days and much more international cricket so the pressure is relentless. Once a player has fully secured his place in one format then it is time to bring him into the other formats. Bairstow is a good example of this - he is the promising nearly man in all three formats but secure in none. Let him play Test and county cricket so he can refine and work on those skills he needs at the higher level. But, and a big but, encourage him to play the sort of attacking cricket that is natural to him and the England team needs, rather than pick people who slowly grind out good county statistics by limiting the range of shots they play.

  • on August 5, 2013, 7:53 GMT

    I dont forsee SA losing the No.1 Spot for at least another 2 years. Anything can happen, but they are just too strong at the moment. England is bleh...India Needs work. At the moment no other team has found what they needed to truly compete for the No.1 spot with the no.2 spot a mile away from it.

  • dariuscorny on August 5, 2013, 7:50 GMT

    @hhillbumper when Eng wins a 50 over WC then only we can consider them good which they are not.............i know we all talk here about test matches,but greatness covers that too which Eng lacks........peace

  • on August 5, 2013, 7:38 GMT

    Think you find the only real weakness is at 6 - and has been since Collingwood / Flintoff retired. The replacements have not quite made it at test level. However, to make the case for a fifth bowler seems to miss the point that the great teams of the modern era - West Indies and Australia - had most success with a four-man attack with a bit of part-time spin/seam to help out. I think England just need to bowl a bit more Joe Root as he develops for this. Genuine all-rounders Flintoff / Kallis are exceptions rather than the rule. Great teams pick their best six batsmen, a wicket keeper that can bat at seven and their best four bowlers. As for the unsuccessful series - Pakistan was due to not being able to play spin, sri lanka too - the series against India suggests they have improved on that. Loss against South Africa - well they are the best. And as for NZ away - no Swann - when he retires England may have to rethink. Home and away wins against India and Australia is not that bad.

  • 158notout on August 5, 2013, 7:27 GMT

    IndiaNumeroUno - I disagree with your blinkered viewpoint. Whilst I do not think England are great they are certainly deserving of being above India in the rankings. You only need to look at the last series between them to work that out - 4-0 in England and 2-1 away in India. Further proof offered by the last tours to Australia - England won 3-1 with 2 innings victories, India got hammered 4-0, by an Aussie team that had just drawn a home series with NZ. England also drew their last tour to South Africa. India got back up to #2 by smashing an abysmal Aussies side 4-0 at home. India are definitely improving - Kohli, Dhawan and Pujara all great additions to the batting line-up, but their pace bowling will let them down outside of India. Until they find at least two decent seamers then they will struggle to match England or SA.

  • on August 5, 2013, 7:25 GMT

    I do not understand why each time India is targeted for not doing well outside their backyard ...this is the same for most other countries as well. With the exception of the series where England beat India in India recently. One cannot call England a world class team just because they managed to beat a weak Australian side in England. Look at their run rate and you will see why they are termed as the most boring side in world cricket today. Just as the Indian batsmen have struggled against the seaming ball so have the non Asian players against genuine spin. The solution is to have balanced pitches which assist pace and spin - well this is the work of the curators. Also there was too much hype over Anderson's bowling though I am not saying that he is a really good bowler - look at his match figures when the pitch did not assist his style of bowling and you will know what I am saying! A genuine fast bowler is one who extracts juice even out of flat wickets (Hadlee/Holding).

  • on August 5, 2013, 7:17 GMT

    Finally somebody put things into perspective.

  • SKTEN on August 5, 2013, 7:15 GMT

    @Shaggy076...True India does not deserve to be no.2 in the test rankings....however, England lost a home series to South Africa, were white washed by Pakistan, almost lost to New Zealand and drew in Sri Lanka...hardly a record becoming of a side which is no.2..

  • SL_BiggestJoke on August 5, 2013, 7:01 GMT

    That's the reason its ranked third in the ICC TEST rankings, below S Africa and India. It got a bit lucky with weather and a weak Indian test side in 2011 to become to number one for a short duration (after which it hardly play any Test cricket for months). Once it played Pakistan away, the gloss was off.. probably the shortest stint as #1 in test rankings!

  • on August 5, 2013, 6:52 GMT

    England are a good team, and for someone who spent the 90s acutely depressed, that will do for me. South Africa are clearly the number one side, and India being ranked at two shows how utterly divorced from reality the ranking system is. The great Windies side of the eighties had real strength in bowling depth. Sourh Africa and England have real problems if Steyn or Anderson are sidelined through injury. Australia don't have that problem as they have a conveyor belt of mediocre bowlers to choose from. India, outside their own backyard, are fishes out if water. So England may challenge SA for the top spot for the next couple of years, but neither is knocking on the door of greatness.

  • milepost on August 5, 2013, 6:50 GMT

    England are boring. Dobell sums it up nicely here. There's nothing to push your chest out or be proud of here as an England fan. It's OK to play to secure the series, that's fine. Cricket fans want good cricket though and England cruise in snooze mode.

  • Sir_Ivor on August 5, 2013, 6:49 GMT

    It is surprising that this question has even been considered. Beating the Australians in the current Ashes when they are in a total state of disarray may be a great achievement given the fact that this game was first played by these two countries.England's loss to Pakistan even if it came in the desert, is their real worth. The Roots, the Finns and the Bairstows may have raised visions of a West Indies/Australia like supremacy for England in the next decade but that is not the case. They were able only to draw a series in Sri Lanka not too long ago. Perhaps beating India in India 2-1 is what has caused this illusion. Even against this Australian side which lost to India 0-4 just before the current Ashes,England nearly lost the first Test and have to depend upon rain and bad light to not lose the 3rd Test which is on its last day as I write this.The problem with most winning teams unlike the West Indies is the inclination to get pompous.In England's case this is quite laughable really.

  • electric_loco_WAP4 on August 5, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    @humdrum- Absolutel well said !! 'england are yet to achieve a fraction of what the aussies achieved' You are a bit generous to Eng .They a long way to go yet and got to play way above potential to achieve that 'fraction'.Even a 'fraction' of a billion is a huge part in itself and needs some reaching !!

  • electric_loco_WAP4 on August 5, 2013, 6:34 GMT

    Ha ,illusions of greatness, cropping up for Eng is as much of a laugh you can get out of cricket. Forget great team, they don't have 1 great player in the team. They have 1 or 2 avg. to good test bats -Cook,maybe KP ?- but the bowling is as weak as it can get with barely avg. medium pacer Anderson the spearhead. Less said of the rest of spin, Swann is well below Ajmal,Herath,Ajanta, Narine and even Fawad Ahmed and is just about avg. -no Warne material - who is helped by tailend wickets but is taken apart by top players like Clarke ,Amla ,AB De etc. Well ,even Aus has 1 great bat in M Clarke and the no.1 pace attack in the world ,are anything but 'great' .Nor are Eng, just ask NZ who w/washed Eng just before the CT in Eng.

  • Herbet on August 5, 2013, 6:25 GMT

    We need Cook and Trott to rediscover their old solidity with the bat, particularly Trott. We have been 3 down for not enough too often, but both are class, undropable players. The other option of moving Prior up to 6 seems a good one. Bairstow, as yet, is not ready. In his place we need a genuine strike bowler, someone who might go for a few but will take wickets, the most likely candidates being Finn or Tremlett. It would appear no coincidence that while replacing Finn with Bresnan has increased solidity, we look less potent.

  • on August 5, 2013, 5:59 GMT

    Enlgnad have several chinks in their armour. They have yet to make 400 in a single inings. Cook, Trott and Prior have been completely neutralised . The only class player they have is Pietersen . Anderson has been overbowled, Swann has had helpful conditions and Broad"s contributions are usually with the bat. The much vaunted Finn is not even in the team . Australia are a very ordinary side and yet this match was remininiscent of a game in the late nineties when these two teams clashed. England can never be a great side with a "safety first ' captain who would prefer a draw first and who is anxious to send a night watchman 30 minutes before stumps! how can you ever win a game with that mind set ? Come on Australia at least embarass them and stop their preening with such mediocrity . How can a team that consistently scores 2.5 runs an over be great. they are far from great - only boring ! Ramamnujam Sridhar

  • on August 5, 2013, 5:52 GMT

    Good points Mr Dobell! Greg Chappell once put a season's worth of concentration into one innings (201 vs Pakistan at Brisbane 1981 iIrc) and it certainly looks as if Jimmy Anderson's 10 wickets in the First Test could be "more of the same". The talk from the Sky commentators have been about England's batsmen wearing down the Australian bowlers, Harris in particular. Instead, the England seamers are being worn down as combined figures of 98 - 18 - 338 - 2 from the first innings give evidence of. Captain Cook must learn to bowl his quicks in shorter spells as does Clarke and England really do need to find their Watson, whose importance to Australia in this context cannot be over-emphasised.

  • Shaggy076 on August 5, 2013, 5:22 GMT

    Its hard to determine great or who is the best. The ICC standings has India second so that points system is quite laughable. How can any team be second and never win away. I would have England clearly at second but some distance behind South Africa. The great sides don't have any weak links and England lack bowling depth and only a couple of there batsman can be considered great, the rest are quite serviceable.

  • ODI_BestFormOfCricket on August 5, 2013, 5:21 GMT

    truly england are good not best. They dont have attacking batsmen to chase 300 runs in one day. Cook may be run getter at strike rate 30 or 40, but never be a match winner and attacking batsman.

  • dsig3 on August 5, 2013, 4:38 GMT

    There is no doubt they are a very good side. Even facing our Aus boys who are well below par its clear they are very competent. Particularly the batting. Anderson is the only scrub in the batting line up. But they are certainly not great. Even SA is not a great team and SA flogged England at home. The fact that we are slightly ahead in this test match speaks volumes about England. We should not even be close. I genuinely believe Aus has a better bowling future than England. Batting is a different story though.....

  • IAS2009 on August 5, 2013, 4:37 GMT

    i am not sure why great word is associated with this England team, beating a weak Aussies team do not make England great team, they lost home series to SA last year, and did not win convincingly away, they were very close to be beaten by NZ earlier this year, England is OK team right and that's where it ends. When you say great it means the WI of 70 and 80 and aussies of 90's and 2000's.

  • dunger.bob on August 5, 2013, 4:15 GMT

    At the time of writing, England hadn't won or drawn the match. So, the Ashes had not yet actually been retained even though it's the most likely outcome. Not reality yet though .. Neither has England won this series yet. They may be 2-0 up and not likely to lose this Test now, but the series is not yet decided. .. The return series in Australia is definitely not yet decided. .. not by a long shot.

    Despite all these not yet reality things the author is already in South Africa playing for the #1 spot.!! ... Isn't that perhaps a little bit premature? .. he just presumes that Australia's run out of fight and will meekly roll over. .. No problem, job done. 3 matches into a 10 Test series and it's pretty much all over. .. OK then, if you say so.

    I don't know about anyone else, but I reckon there is a lot of cricket left in this series. .. If nothing else, Australia have shown themselves that they can slug it out. .. They will have gained some much needed confidence.

  • humdrum on August 5, 2013, 3:00 GMT

    @hhillbumper-remeber the walloping handed out by SA last year? These very same bpwlers were thrashed and even in this series, when they are under the hammer, they look a bunch of sad sacks.Wonder how the world class anderson ended with the worst stats of his career when he is at the peak of his prowess.But it can't hurt to pat yourself on the back in self congratulation,particularly when you get such oppurtunities after 30 years.If the aussies were boorish as the top team in the world, england outdo them in this as they are yet to achieve a fraction of what the aussies achieved

  • gsingh7 on August 4, 2013, 22:31 GMT

    as an englishman, its embarrasing at times when england who are lurking at the moment at number 3 behind sa and india in ranking is called a nearly great team. bored by this theme.greatness is achieved by performing for years as a team , england cud only hold number 1 spot for 9 months.past wi and australian teams were great.at present ,both are bottom of rankings in all formats.i think england must first save this present match before being considered great .

  • Blokker on August 4, 2013, 22:31 GMT

    Feels like England are on the wane, from a not very high peak. A 'great' side has at least a couple of great bowlers, this England side has two very good ones, but no greats.

  • Iddo555 on August 4, 2013, 21:45 GMT

    Engloand do deserve to be number 2 in the world, they have smashed India home and away and are about to beat Australia at Home after beating them away 18 months ago.

    They are not as good as SA so will end this series wherhe they deserve to be, 2nd in the world behind South Africa in tests

  • Ramski1 on August 4, 2013, 21:44 GMT

    Why do pundits always bang on about have a 5 man attack. The greatest Test sides of all time were the 80s WIndies and last decades Aussies. BOTH sides had 4 man attacks! There are 90 overs max in a day with weather and slow overrates we probably get 80-85 overs on average. The key is to have 4 really good bowlers with no weak link. Given that a quality spinner will bowel 25 overs that leave 20 overs each for your remaining 3 quicks. The extra bowler is a luxury. The only way you have 5 bowlers is if you have a genuine all rounder who justifies his place in the team in either facet of the game. Englands strengths has been 1. that there 4 bowlers are a tight unit ie their weakest bowler (Finn/Bresnan/Tremlett/Onions) are still good quality, hence no weak link. 2. Prior has been quality at seven and 3. they have a tail in Broad, Bresnan and Swann who will generally score 50-75 runs.

    Basically they are a very good test side with 2 greats in KP and Jimmy, followed close by Swann and Cook

  • 07sanjeewakaru on August 4, 2013, 20:50 GMT

    If England were grate this test should've been like the Adelaid test in the 06/07 Ashes.Yes..England is a good side with some iconic players like KP,Jimmy,Cook (the batsman) and with a quality spinner Swann. But captaincy is not enthusiastic as many grate side had.I saw 2 no.11's almost got hundreds and 9 men in the boundary when Brendon Maculum batted in NZ.This good side has long way to go if they want to be a side that capture the imagination of everyone.They might have the talent to do that.KP and Jimmy is really on there.

  • Mitty2 on August 4, 2013, 20:40 GMT

    If Eng played like they did against us against SA they would get smashed. If we played like we have - despite our promising (and superior to Eng's) showing against SA - so far, we'd get further hammered. Eng's batting rarely fire collectively; they didn't even do it in the historic Indian win. Their batting order is poor, with their top 3 in their intention to "ground down the opposition" are usually just prolonging the time until they eventually get that good/unplayable delivery. Root isn't good enough to open (180 helped by an easy drop on 6) and should be in the middle order, and a quicker score is needed at the top of the order. Too much burden is on bell and KP, but despite Bell's brilliance so far, KP is the only batsman in the whole English line up (including Prior so far) who can consistently put pressure on and attack.

    Their bowling is incredibly reliant on Anderson and Swann, and I simply can't see their bowling line up getting them to number one spot.

  • shillingsworth on August 4, 2013, 20:36 GMT

    Pretty bored with this theme, particularly from a writer who ludicrously proclaimed the England side of 2011 amongst the best 5 of all time. For reasons best known the the administrators, England and Australia are currently engaged in a 10 test marathon. Whether England are better or worse than the current South African team or any other team apart from Australia is irrelevant. By the time they get to play South Africa 2 years hence, the composition of both teams will be much changed. In the meantime, who cares whether England are good or great? Whilst they play only Ashes cricket, they only need to be better than Australia.

  • sidzy on August 4, 2013, 20:09 GMT

    @sunil i completely agree with you Eng have one great player(KP) and a good seamer (anderson) and a good spinner with couple of quality batsmen....but eng doesn't have the flair of champions thats what their negative tatics shows..SA are no. 1 team in the world but they crush the opposition like they did to aus in perth & even ricky ponting made that point after the test match...

  • 2MikeGattings on August 4, 2013, 19:56 GMT

    England pretty much already have a specialist T20 side and more rotation in the test/ODI squads would certainly help.

    I actually think England done a great job of playing to their strengths over the last 5 years, and recognizing that they have not had a world class all rounder since Flintoff retired has been an important part of that. After Botham retired there was a very prolonged and completely futile attempt to slot someone into the same role. It was a lesson well learned.

  • Sunil_Batra on August 4, 2013, 19:39 GMT

    England are a good sid,e they have good batsman, good fast bowlers and a quality spinner. Not as good as the great aussie side but they are the best english side i have seen.

  • Sunil_Batra on August 4, 2013, 19:39 GMT

    England are a good sid,e they have good batsman, good fast bowlers and a quality spinner. Not as good as the great aussie side but they are the best english side i have seen.

  • 2MikeGattings on August 4, 2013, 19:56 GMT

    England pretty much already have a specialist T20 side and more rotation in the test/ODI squads would certainly help.

    I actually think England done a great job of playing to their strengths over the last 5 years, and recognizing that they have not had a world class all rounder since Flintoff retired has been an important part of that. After Botham retired there was a very prolonged and completely futile attempt to slot someone into the same role. It was a lesson well learned.

  • sidzy on August 4, 2013, 20:09 GMT

    @sunil i completely agree with you Eng have one great player(KP) and a good seamer (anderson) and a good spinner with couple of quality batsmen....but eng doesn't have the flair of champions thats what their negative tatics shows..SA are no. 1 team in the world but they crush the opposition like they did to aus in perth & even ricky ponting made that point after the test match...

  • shillingsworth on August 4, 2013, 20:36 GMT

    Pretty bored with this theme, particularly from a writer who ludicrously proclaimed the England side of 2011 amongst the best 5 of all time. For reasons best known the the administrators, England and Australia are currently engaged in a 10 test marathon. Whether England are better or worse than the current South African team or any other team apart from Australia is irrelevant. By the time they get to play South Africa 2 years hence, the composition of both teams will be much changed. In the meantime, who cares whether England are good or great? Whilst they play only Ashes cricket, they only need to be better than Australia.

  • Mitty2 on August 4, 2013, 20:40 GMT

    If Eng played like they did against us against SA they would get smashed. If we played like we have - despite our promising (and superior to Eng's) showing against SA - so far, we'd get further hammered. Eng's batting rarely fire collectively; they didn't even do it in the historic Indian win. Their batting order is poor, with their top 3 in their intention to "ground down the opposition" are usually just prolonging the time until they eventually get that good/unplayable delivery. Root isn't good enough to open (180 helped by an easy drop on 6) and should be in the middle order, and a quicker score is needed at the top of the order. Too much burden is on bell and KP, but despite Bell's brilliance so far, KP is the only batsman in the whole English line up (including Prior so far) who can consistently put pressure on and attack.

    Their bowling is incredibly reliant on Anderson and Swann, and I simply can't see their bowling line up getting them to number one spot.

  • 07sanjeewakaru on August 4, 2013, 20:50 GMT

    If England were grate this test should've been like the Adelaid test in the 06/07 Ashes.Yes..England is a good side with some iconic players like KP,Jimmy,Cook (the batsman) and with a quality spinner Swann. But captaincy is not enthusiastic as many grate side had.I saw 2 no.11's almost got hundreds and 9 men in the boundary when Brendon Maculum batted in NZ.This good side has long way to go if they want to be a side that capture the imagination of everyone.They might have the talent to do that.KP and Jimmy is really on there.

  • Ramski1 on August 4, 2013, 21:44 GMT

    Why do pundits always bang on about have a 5 man attack. The greatest Test sides of all time were the 80s WIndies and last decades Aussies. BOTH sides had 4 man attacks! There are 90 overs max in a day with weather and slow overrates we probably get 80-85 overs on average. The key is to have 4 really good bowlers with no weak link. Given that a quality spinner will bowel 25 overs that leave 20 overs each for your remaining 3 quicks. The extra bowler is a luxury. The only way you have 5 bowlers is if you have a genuine all rounder who justifies his place in the team in either facet of the game. Englands strengths has been 1. that there 4 bowlers are a tight unit ie their weakest bowler (Finn/Bresnan/Tremlett/Onions) are still good quality, hence no weak link. 2. Prior has been quality at seven and 3. they have a tail in Broad, Bresnan and Swann who will generally score 50-75 runs.

    Basically they are a very good test side with 2 greats in KP and Jimmy, followed close by Swann and Cook

  • Iddo555 on August 4, 2013, 21:45 GMT

    Engloand do deserve to be number 2 in the world, they have smashed India home and away and are about to beat Australia at Home after beating them away 18 months ago.

    They are not as good as SA so will end this series wherhe they deserve to be, 2nd in the world behind South Africa in tests

  • Blokker on August 4, 2013, 22:31 GMT

    Feels like England are on the wane, from a not very high peak. A 'great' side has at least a couple of great bowlers, this England side has two very good ones, but no greats.

  • gsingh7 on August 4, 2013, 22:31 GMT

    as an englishman, its embarrasing at times when england who are lurking at the moment at number 3 behind sa and india in ranking is called a nearly great team. bored by this theme.greatness is achieved by performing for years as a team , england cud only hold number 1 spot for 9 months.past wi and australian teams were great.at present ,both are bottom of rankings in all formats.i think england must first save this present match before being considered great .