England v Australia, 4th Investec Test, Durham, 4th day

A magical session, but England can get better

Nine wickets in a dramatic session saw England surge to a series victory, but that should not be allowed to gloss over the issues raised against Australia

George Dobell at Chester-le-Street

August 12, 2013

Comments: 70 | Text size: A | A

Stuart Broad beams with delight as he takes the final wicket, England v Australia, 4th Investec Test, 4th day, Chester-le-Street, August 12, 2013
Stuart Broad was at his inspired best to haul England off the floor © PA Photos
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As the champagne corks flew and the England team celebrated, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that this is the golden age of English cricket.

After all, England have not just retained the Ashes, they have done so for the third time in succession. They have won this series 3-0 with a game to spare and, underAlastair Cook's fledgling captaincy, they have gone 12 Tests unbeaten in a stretch that includes a series win in India. What is more, their team contains three men with 20 or more Test centuries and three with more than 200 Test wickets. For England, at least, it really doesn't get any better.

They may be on the brink of further achievements, too. If England win the final Investec Test at The Oval, they will be the first England side to win four Ashes Tests in a home series. And, if they prevail in Australia, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen will, fitness permitting, have played a part in five Ashes- winning sides. No England players have won more. England also require only a draw at The Oval to move back above India to second place in the Test ranking table.

There have been some hugely impressive performances from England players over recent days. Bell, who has now played three match-defining innings in the series without winning a Man-of-the-Match award, is fast developing into the batsman his talent suggested he could a decade ago. It would be premature to label him a 'great' - he has unfinished business against quality spin bowling and the newer, harder ball - but he has taken a significant step in that direction in this series. His batting has been the key difference between the sides.

Stuart Broad, too, enjoyed a wonderful game. It was Broad, bowling with pace, persistence and skill, who provided the impetus for England to claim nine wickets after tea on the fourth day of this game with a spell of 5 for 20 in 40 balls. Topping 90mph at times, Broad looked every inch the fine Test bowler his talent has long suggested he could become. His match haul - 11 for 121 - was his best in Tests to date. If he could add consistency to his list of attributes, England would have a special bowler.

In the light of such facts, any criticism seems churlish. But the truth is that there was nothing straightforward about this result. The 3-0 margin does not reflect the ever-improving competitiveness of the Australian team or England's enduring problems with their top-order batting. It does not reflect that Australia have led on first innings in three of the four Tests; that four of England's top seven averaged under 30 and only one of them above 40 or that, by the end of this match, James Anderson looked a shadow of the man who started the series and that Steven Finn, supposedly the future of England's fast bowling, could not even make a 13-man squad containing five seamers.

Most of all, though, it does not reflect the fact that this was a modest Australia team. While the bowling of Ryan Harris, in particular, has underlined the worth of their bowling attack, there is no avoiding the conclusion that this is the weakest Australia batting line-up to contest an Ashes series in England for many years. Any analysis of England's performance has to recognise that.

That may be no bad thing. England have been down this route before. By the end of 2011 they had enjoyed a series of fine victories and dared to look too far into the future with talk of establishing a legacy. Such hubris came back to bite them hard.

This time they know they are not the finished article. They know that Jonny Bairstow's credentials as a Test batsman are unproven, they know that Joe Root's development as a Test opener remain a work in progress and they may be in the process of learning that the burden placed upon the individual components of a four-man attack is unsustainable.

Most of all, they know that one or two of their players are considerably nearer the end of their Test careers than the beginning. This just might prove to be Graeme Swann's final home Test series. History tells us that no player is irreplaceable, but quite how England find a replacement for Swann remains a mystery. It is as close to mystery spin as England can go.

There have been times in this series when England have looked flat and uninspired on the field, too. When they have looked timid with the bat and impotent with the ball. When the somewhat prescriptive - overbearing, even - nature of their coaching set-up has appeared to stifle creativity and limit England to a pragmatic team playing percentage cricket. That will be fine against modest opposition but against the best, against South Africa, it will leave them short. It leaves them a good, but not great, side.

They can be better than that. In Cook and Pietersen they possess great batsman. In Swann they possess the finest spin bowler England have had for decades. In Broad and Bell and Anderson and Jonathan Trott they have players who, freed from the fear of failure, have the talent and temperament to play Test cricket with distinction. England have rarely coaxed the best out of many of those players in recent times. They can improve.

Andy Flower has been at the centre of just about everything good to happen in English cricket over the last five or six years. No England coach has come close to emulating his achievements and his record invites no argument about his future.

But even Flower needs to reinvent himself. Even Flower needs to reflect on the environment in the England camp and decide whether it remains conducive to bringing the best out of his players. If England conclude that recent results justify a continuation of current methods, they will not fulfil their considerable potential.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 15, 2013, 7:45 GMT)

@Chris_P / Landl - It's really difficult to predict (5 years time). Some players mature late and some don't go on to fulfil early potential. I will though say (playing devil's advocate) that of the Eng names Landl mentioned only Root and Finn look definite test class. Maybe SA do have depth , just that it's not needed right now. Also re Cook being 28/Broad 27 - AB is 29 and VP and MM are each 28 and Amla is 30 so not all SA players are close to retirement. Steyn will be a huge loss but he may have some time to go. From Eng's perspective , the one player I fear will be hard to replace is Swann

Posted by JG2704 on (August 14, 2013, 18:23 GMT)

A couple of comms saying this is the best Eng side in recent decades. I strongly disagree. I would say the Ashes 2005 line up (pre the last test) was better. Better captain , better formation , better tactics/mindset and they beat unarguably a top Australian side . Now , if you replaced Giles and G Jones with Swann and Prior you really would be cooking.

Posted by   on (August 14, 2013, 15:41 GMT)

Perhaps this is the Golden Age of English cricket. Perhaps we aren't ever going to be a nation who can bat a side into submission a la India or the Waugh/Ponting Australians. Perhaps we aren't ever going to be a team with immortals like Tendulkar, Gilchrist, Warne, McGrath etc. We won't ever have a pace battery to terrify all before us like the West Indies. What we do have is a team full of personalities. There is no team with quite such a mix of people in it and this comes over on the pitch and away in interviews. Be they mercurial genius types like KP, the joker in Swann, the pantomime villain Broad, they do gel well together. More crucially, their erratic nature means we can plumb the depths one Test and hit the heights in the next. There is no better Test team to watch right now and that's been true for a number of years. If you want drama, England give it to you by the bucketload.

Posted by dabhand on (August 14, 2013, 13:12 GMT)

@David Brumby - so the other back to back ashes series count for nothing either - even when England were playing a team much stronger than the current one - myopia seems to affecting those 'little grey cells'.

Posted by thebrotherswaugh on (August 14, 2013, 0:23 GMT)

I fully agree - ENG can definitely improve. They have good bowling and batting depth at the moment. OZ have been reasonably lucky that your batting line-up hasn't fully clicked into gear thus far - when they do, we'll be chasing 600+. I just hope OZ can manage a draw (or win) in the last test. @Ramski1 - pretty well summed up. ENG are a far better side than OZ at the moment, that's an undeniable fact, and anybody who thinks otherwise is delusional at best. Bell and Swann have been the best two performers for ENG. I still can't believe how well Bell is batting - he'll do well in OZ as well. I reckon it will be 3-0 or 3-1 to ENG in the return series. The next time you fellas play SA (in SA I presume) should be an absolute humdinger of a series. I rate ENG a better test side than IND at the moment (in all conditions).

Posted by 512fm on (August 14, 2013, 0:21 GMT)

Its a shame that we (New Zealand) didn't pick up that last wicket in Auckland, because now that series just gets overlooked when the fact of the matter is England were dominated in 2 of the 3 tests and should have lost that series. I still think they are a long way away from South Africa, and their winter in 2012 (where they lost 3-0 to Pakistan and drew with a weak Sri Lankan side) can't be forgotten so easily.

Posted by   on (August 13, 2013, 23:31 GMT)

@TheBigBoodha on (August 13, 2013, 8:38 GMT)

To say these two side have been even, and the only decider luck is moronic. Granted each side has thrown the advantage to the other team on numerous occasions, but each time the Australians have looked beat they have been, and each time England have looked beat someone has stepped up. That's the difference between the sides: stepping up when the chips are down. I think the Australians call it "mongrel" don't they?

Posted by WonkyBail on (August 13, 2013, 22:55 GMT)

likeintcricket on (August 13, 2013, 19:04 GMT) I would agree re: England v SA last year, England on the basis of the series were clearly second best. As for Pakistan "batsmen flourishing" only one of them averaged above 40 so I would say they merely struggled slightly less and the first 2 tests England could easily have won, but failed. It seems whenever England do well at anything it is due to luck but when they lose luck has no part in it, strange that.

Posted by M.Usman-Sharif on (August 13, 2013, 21:53 GMT)

great win by england... just awesome and amazing

Posted by Hammond on (August 13, 2013, 21:32 GMT)

@Front-Foot-Lunge- I agree mate it is sad that after heaping derision on England for the better part of 20 years, my countrymen can't also find it within themselves to praise a superior England cricket team. Seems as if most Aussies are happy to dish it out, but taking it in return just isn't in their rulebook. Sad, and I apologise on behalf of my countrymen.

Posted by Hammond on (August 13, 2013, 21:29 GMT)

@likeintcricket- funny that you ignored Englands tour to India hey?

Posted by likeintcricket on (August 13, 2013, 19:04 GMT)

This English performance is great but remember they are still to win against SA and Pakistan whom they lost badly. The same batting combination failed miserably in UAE where Pak batsman flourished. Against South Africa's classy batting and explosive bowling the English teams were no match. Australian's actually proved that English side can be beaten easily with a little more composure. The Aussies could have won the first Test and third was decidedly in their favor. This is just a shame that Aussies lost this test after 147 for 1 with such a strong tail. They just needed to reach 200 and the high morale would have carried them through. My advice to Aussies is to change Lehman and hire someone like Mark Taylor or John Wright. I think they have an excellent bowling attack and batting is just low on morale. The batsman are scared and nervous. If they just keep faith in this team and give them some confidance, these same players will do a reversal on England next year.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (August 13, 2013, 18:52 GMT)

It's sad to see such bitterness from certain ozzie quarters. When Mcgrath and Warne were playing all those years ago, most England fans were able to appreciate good bowling and good cricket. Now England are the ones who are always on top and to me it seems like there's quite a lot of whinging and not the deserved praise of this England attack that really should be one of the first things to be mentioned by the opposition fans after such a heavy series (3-0 and counting) defeat. In this series, Harris has been outstanding for Aus. But he's been the only one worth a mention. England find a contributor every time, that's why they've won the series.

Posted by dan9 on (August 13, 2013, 17:31 GMT)

Whether Eng are very good or great is a matter of opinion (I err to the former) but what's indisputable is this is as good a team they've fielded since the War, standing easy comparison with their counterparts of the mid-50's and late-70's. Winning three out of four tosses and batting first has helped in this series but, in all departments, they boast proven performers and strength in depth.

Posted by Shan156 on (August 13, 2013, 17:29 GMT)

Seriously, I would like to have what some Aussie fans (like @AmigoAustraliano) on these boards are having. We are leading 3-0 and while it has not been a joy ride throughout, eventually it is England who have prevailed and have won the series comfortably. My friends, it doesn't matter who outplayed who for large parts of the series. What matters is winning those crucial sessions of the game which translates to the end result. England have done that handsomely. It is a myth that Aus. were dominant this series. Except for 2 freakish last wicket partnerships, England were ahead in TB and won it by 15 runs. Lord's was a hammering - even the most one-sided Aussie fan would agree. Aussies dominated the OT test. Perhaps, had it not rained on the 5th day, they *may* have won (not guaranteed, mind you). Chester was even stevens till the Aussie 2nd innings. For one session, it looked like the Aussies will easily win but England won the evening session and with that the game.

Posted by JetmansDad on (August 13, 2013, 16:32 GMT)

All this talk of how even this series has been (apart from the scoreline) reminds me of tennis ... the defining characteristic of top tennis players is their ability to raise their game at key points of the match, the most recent Wimbledon men's singles final being a perfect example. No one watching would claim that Murray was 3 sets to love better than Djokovic, but that was the result because in a tight match Murray played better on the big points.

Same with this Ashes series. When the chips are down, England have found a way to raise their game in order to win the crucial sessions and, consequently, the series.

Doesn't matter how tight and close the rest of the match is, the team that performs at the critical moments is going to win, and Australia have so far proved unable to do that ... to the extent that I am not convinced they wouldn't have found a way to fail to beat England on day 5 at Old Trafford.

Posted by whoster on (August 13, 2013, 14:56 GMT)

This is definitely England's first 'golden era' since the embarrassment of riches in the 50's (Cowdrey, May, Barrington, Graveney, Evans, Laker, Trueman, Statham etc). England also had great players in the late 70's/early 80's (Botham, Boycott, Gower, Willis, Knott/Taylor), but with a few ordinary players to keep them company. This England side has all bases covered; batting, keeper/batsman (despite Prior's lean series), pace bowling and spin.

They're still not a great side though, and will only become one if and when they beat South Africa.

Posted by Ramski1 on (August 13, 2013, 13:52 GMT)

Prior to the series England were a side with an exceptional bowling attack led by the swing of Anderson and spin of Swann. There batting was good but not great and relied on Cooks appetite for runs and KPs potential for genius. They did however have a clear weakness against quality spin.

Australia arrived with a batting line up containing only 1 genuine test class batsmen (who was carrying a back injuy). There seam bowling was good but not great and they had no spinner of note.

Essentially for them to win they needed to play above themselves and for England to have a shocker.

England have done enough without being exceptional, but with so many test quality players they have had enough individual performances in each game to get over the line.

Posted by   on (August 13, 2013, 13:28 GMT)

Jonathan Trott & Matt Prior would look to have a happy ending to the first part of the 10 TEST war. In the end, Shane Watson would look grumpy and Michael Clarke would wait for that one magical moment...... Australians have a strong bowling line up with Pattinson, Cummins, Starc, Johnson & co. in the shadow but their batting line up is built a very fragile one. They need to get the basics right and show immense concentration like Mr. Cook ( albeit he has not been that extraordinary this summer at home). With 2014 T20 World Cup & 2015 World Cup up for grabs, it's time for the spirited individuals to step up and prepare to win those two. Then, the GOLDEN ERA will truly be established. India & South Africa are also feeling the same. Meanwhile, Kumar Sangakkara would long to win at least one major ICC trophy in his lifetime ... Kallis wants his 2nd one.... therefore the next 18 months might be the highlight of this cricketing millennium!!

Posted by   on (August 13, 2013, 13:20 GMT)

England has done enough to put the Aussies away. Let us not forget their recent struggles with New Zealand who are far from the top of world cricket. Against South Africa they cannot live. England is a weak batting side where only a few occasions do more than 2 batsmen succeed. . As a consequence they always have to play with 4 bowlers and that is a strategy that has come close to failing on several occasions.

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

Stuart Broad was racing to become a superlative bowler a few years ago, when he was consistently performing the role of an 'enforcer'. However, the coach 'removing' that enforcer role; and a few unwanted and un-timely injuries alone slowed down the pace of that race. Now, since he is back on the track, hope the coach (and all of us) leave him alone; he can reach the pantheon of players like Truman & Statham ( my heroes from the past)

Posted by jb633 on (August 13, 2013, 13:07 GMT)

Excellent article and I must say I agree with it. For all those lambasting it because England are not a great side, just please read it. We are not a great side, you will not hear any players or fans calling it as such. We are a good side and have some very good results ie India in India and Aus in Aus were two excellent results. I think we really need to be careful that we don't let things drift over the next year. The batting has looked shaky and on flat wickets the bowling has looked innocuous. I think we need an all rounder who can ease the burden on the main seamers.

Posted by AmigoAustraliano on (August 13, 2013, 13:07 GMT)

Golden era! Please. This English side were not even close to defeating South Africa, they have been outplayed for large parts of this ashes series and were barely capable of beating New Zealand! I mean come on, golden era? Based on the last month - Get out of jail thanks to Bell era.

Posted by 2nd_Slip on (August 13, 2013, 12:28 GMT)

Nice victory by England but lets not get carried away. Even a fragile looking Indian team went into a series with this Aus team and emerged as comfortable victors. Fact is, this is a weak Aus team and least we forget not so long ago Eng were struggling to put to bed a bottom ranked NZ team. The benchmark is at the moment is Greame Smith's men, the mighty South Africa.

Posted by mikkkk on (August 13, 2013, 12:04 GMT)

@Charlie101

We've already beaten India and Australia away and we drew the last away series in SA. The only place we struggle is in the subcontinent and I think is was only the fact that we had the two series agianst Pak and SL in the run up to the Indian series that helped the team believe they could win there. Pak might have stuffed us but we improved and learned through that series. England (and other non sc teams for that matter) will always struggle over there when they havent played there for years. How many times was it before Warnes team won there? Did that stop them being great. Of course not.

Posted by   on (August 13, 2013, 11:53 GMT)

As I commented on another article, Eng have developed a very good team (I'm Aussie, btw!). However, they are NOT a GREAT team - to be honest no-one seems to have been able to have become that since Aus' first signs of decline during the middle of the 00's (Clarke, Ponting and Hussey's heroics aside). Can Eng become a great team before their best players retire?

I agree with TheBigBoodha apart from the last part of his 3rd paragraph - yes, things have been even (a lot closer than the scoreboard suggests), but Eng have simply been better when it mattered most & Aus have run out of steam before delivering the knock-out blow.

Both teams have concerns to address and also the potential to improve. The key point (from an Aus perspective) is that given the closeness of this serious in terms of the general play, Aus can feel quite confident of a "#returntheurn" happening in about 4-5mths time in Aus - all those who talked of Eng thrashing Aus are conspicuous by their silence!

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (August 13, 2013, 11:51 GMT)

Surely if England can win 3/4 games played and yet only functioned at 60% then how much more can we achieve? Forget for now that Dreadful series v SA and see where we are and can be. Cook and Trott as well as Prior have not made big runs though Cook's 60's having been well compiled and Trott's innings have been stylish-and hell it is quite annoying that a score of 50 will rate a mention but 49 will not. But the substance has been missing in this low scoring series. Add to those details the inexperience of Root and Bairstow- Root needs to get more singles and not stay becalmed though facing Harris is not easy, while Bairstow has the shots but needs a way of forging them together. In the bowling dept, England were seen as a one bowler team-Anderson-so it is ironical that he has been in the shadows much of the time since. Broad has been great but not productive till now and Bresnan has found spaces to get into other bowlers don't. Somehow England have won the situations by brain mostly.

Posted by mikkkk on (August 13, 2013, 11:50 GMT)

@DustyBin Sorry I cant help but laugh. Every team benefits from a great all rounder but you don't just stick one in there because you think you aught to have one. He has to be a very good (and effective) to warrant a place. We don't have one so we don't play one. Using Watson as your benchmark undermines your argument. A "game changer" who never changes games, a over hyped show pony who repeatedly fails to show. As for "but he's bowled staggering nos. of maidens" as has been remarked in the commentry this is clearly a ploy by England not to let him into the game and just play him out rather than devastating bowling. England play 4 bowlers and have done for years and look at their results. Australia have played their "all rounder" for years and look at theirs. If they need a spare bowler they'll use Root who has more wickets in this series. Aus obsess about having sloggers opening or an all rounder yet it never works for them. Theyre too rigid in their thinking. Just pick Test players.

Posted by mikkkk on (August 13, 2013, 11:39 GMT)

@Dark_Harlequin You don't seem to understand that Golden Age is of course relative to whatever the norm is for a particular country. You say it's is as much to do with Australia slipping as England rising. Well that could be said also for when Aus were consistantly beating Eng. They weren't beating a great England side they were beating probably the worst England sides in our history. A Dark Age as it were.

Posted by HumungousFungus on (August 13, 2013, 11:07 GMT)

What should be very sobering for Australia is that they are 3-0 down in a series in which England, in eight innings, have not exeeded 375. There will soon follow a series on better pitches in Australia, where what is largely the same England batting line up (swap Strauss for Root and Collingwood for Bairstow, whose respective performances largely cancel each other out) racked up scores of 517/1, 620/5, 513, and 644 in 2010/11 against bowling attacks containing the likes of Siddle, Harris, and Watson, lest we forget...What has become very apparent is that Australia's batsmen cannot perform when put under pressure, and England have just about been good enough with the ball to make them crack at the key times. At various points in this series, Australia have suffered the following collapses: 5-9, 5-53, 10-86, 5-28, 5-46, 9-77 and, unfortunately, it doesn't matter how well you are bowling when your batsmen are putting you in holes like these...

Posted by TATTUs on (August 13, 2013, 10:52 GMT)

Well I see two average teams playing average cricket and competing with each other in how to play bad and throw away the game more than two good teams playing competitive cricket and England emerging stronger. None of the batsmen have been able to show patience once the ball does something and show some fight or technique. Bell and Rogers being the exceptions. Cook , Prior Trott Root, Bairstow and KP [despite the 100] are having an average series. Do you believe that?! And still England leads 3 to zip. Shows how bad Australias batting is. None of the batsmen except Clarke and Rogers know to play 'test cricket'. Its really sad to see the state test cricket finds itself in. Only South Africa has the batsmen capable of batting like they do in test cricket and in ALL conditions. England are second but far far behind. India are 3rd even farther behind. Aussies ...well I dont know where they stand. 2 good quality batsmen and you expect to win a test? No mate, NO!

Posted by Harlequin. on (August 13, 2013, 10:46 GMT)

If the only way we are going to judge English test cricket is on Ashes victories, then this is indeed a golden era. But that has as much to do with Australia slipping as it does with England rising. If we are to judge England against the rest of the world, then it is not like we are head and shoulders above the rest, in fact we are not even above SA, so for it to be described as a golden era, great or special is setting the sights very low. This is just another article getting carried away with success by an author prone to bias and hyperbole.

Posted by DustyBin on (August 13, 2013, 10:40 GMT)

For the next Ashes in Australia , England need (don't laugh) a Shane Watson (cue Aussie fans replying with "you can have THE Shane Watson for all we care...").By that I mean : a guy batting 6, who averages >30, who can bowl "dry" & take the heat off his colleagues. People are slagging Watto for his LBWs & rubbish reviews, but he's bowled staggering nos. of maidens, allowing his mates a breather on (for England) very hot days & hard dry pitches. It will be hotter & drier in Aus. & the 4 English bowlers could suffer breakdowns. There have been times here when each English bowler has looked spent & they need a 5th to relieve pressure. Maybe swap Bairstow for Stokes @ the Oval? Bairstow will make the tour as 2nd keeper anyway, hasn't exactly scored 100s from no. 6, & Stokes' bowling domestically looks more threatening than Woakes' trundlers.

Posted by Baby_Ate_My_Eight_Ball on (August 13, 2013, 10:33 GMT)

England are winning the series 3-0 yet our most reliable batsmen of the last couple of years (Cook, Trott and Prior) have all been well out of form. The Aussie batsmen haven't been getting runs because they aren't good Test quality batsmen. There's a difference between form and class. If Cook and Trott, in particular, had hit form then this series would have been something of a procession. Admittedly the Aussie bowling has been very good for the most part, Rhino Harris in particular, which hasn't allowed them easy runs. But Harris is 33 and has only played 15 tests because he's made out of glass. He has less shelf life than any of the England players.

Judging by some of the moaning about marginal decisions (which have probably evened themselves out over the series) there must have been a bad harvest Down Under because the Aussies are serving up sour grapes in large portions.

Posted by wrenx on (August 13, 2013, 10:32 GMT)

Why exactly will this be Swann's last home test series? He seems to be managing his elbow injury, and he's 34, not 38. The absence of any other decent spinner in the country will probably mean he'll still be playing the next time the Ashes is contested in England

Posted by   on (August 13, 2013, 10:30 GMT)

'In the light of such facts, any criticism seems churlish.' No it is not churlish. We have positions of relative weakness (Bairstow, Root can't score quick up top, third seamer). To be progressive we must not accept mediocrity just because it is part of a winning team - we must challenge it. We must also offer hope to those who are not part of 'Team England' that they can break into it and that it is no closed shop. We might have players performing adequately, but what if we had other players who could perform excellently? Maybe we have been spoiled in recent years, but this is a decent England team, and that is all. So no, it's not churlish. Criticise constructively as much as you want.

Posted by aracer on (August 13, 2013, 10:29 GMT)

"If this is the weakest AUS batting line-up for ages, what does it say about England's, given that they have been no better than Australia for the last two tests?" - have you not read the article? The Australia line up is weak, as has been shown over multiple tests before this series. Several of England's normally reliable big run scorers are on a bad run of form - has Prior ever had this bad a series? That doesn't make them weak - they have proved themselves over multiple previous matches to be amongst the best in the world, not something you could say about most of the Australian line up.

Posted by   on (August 13, 2013, 10:17 GMT)

England can get better? Rubbish. Their bowling lineup all average 30 and up and their batsmen are hardly world beaters. England has struggled against the lowest ranked teams in tests and are very lucky not to be down 3-1 in this series. Its amazing how arrogant a team of average players gets when they a couple of games.

Posted by   on (August 13, 2013, 10:15 GMT)

The only truly great teams were Lloyds and Richards WI and Australia's Taylor and Waugh teams, no other team today even comes close.

Posted by sachin_vvsfan on (August 13, 2013, 10:08 GMT)

This is the best Eng side i have seen since 1996 but i agree with @Chris_p. The author seems to be getting carried away.The bottom 4 are there for bowling and Broad did his job perfectly . Anything that he adds with bat is a bonus. He doesn't have to work anything against quality spin to be considered 'great'.

Cook and Trott have been patchy. Root has been inconsistent but has youth and talent at his side and will be groomed. KP, well you never trust those knee injuries. And What about Matt prior? Will he be part of the next ashes series in AUS?

Posted by   on (August 13, 2013, 9:49 GMT)

Belly is ALREADY a great Test batsman. Will you carpers ever be satisfied - when he has 14,000 Test runs and 33 Test centuries maybe!!! And even then you will say that he has not converted enough 100s into 200s or some such nonsense!

RGW

Posted by Nutcutlet on (August 13, 2013, 9:40 GMT)

The era of this England side, Flower's Era I'll call it - has a number of characteristics that reflect the manager's own qualities. Organized, disciplined, reliable, playing the percentages, cautious/conservative in selection, always. Flower knows his players & with KP (a one-off anyway) back in the fold, there's no one not singing from his songsheet. Every member of the team knows the words anyway. The left-field picks of past years ( Hollioake, Afzaal, Tudor, etc) just don't happen anymore - the central contract system has seen to that. The modern Eng side is professional in all respects & it's good enough to beat any other country with the exception of SA & Pak in the UAE. But it has to evolve as the players get older & it's here that Eng may well be moving gradually into difficulties, as Oz has now. KP & Swann are a year or so from finishing & Jimmy is being dangerously over-used, IMO. SB can break down at any time. Who is waiting to take their places? Does anyone know?

Posted by BillyCC on (August 13, 2013, 9:39 GMT)

@clarke501, good point. South Africa are clearly the better side now, but hard to tell whether that they will be the case when they next meet in 2 years. Regarding the greatness of this England side, it's up there relative to other English sides, but nowhere near the dominance of the West Indies or the Australians in the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s. You can forget the dynasty talk, it's only been four years of Ashes victories. Try 16 years and then let's talk.

Posted by Gibbo64 on (August 13, 2013, 9:10 GMT)

Icfa posted some poor comments about lucky foreign acquisitions and a week Aussie team. How come Australia was recognized as a great team when they beat England for 16 years and England had poor quality players. Sour grapes I suspect but get used to it. We had to but the worm has turned and you must be gutted. Now you know how England fans felt. England are not a great batting side either in the current series but have still won. The first test was only close because the last wicket partnership was a world record score plus the highest score by a #11. Take that out of the equation and England would have won by nearly 200 runs.

Posted by TheBigBoodha on (August 13, 2013, 8:38 GMT)

The series has been pretty even all up, and 3-0 is a very, very harsh result for AUS, and flatters Eng enormously.

If this is the weakest AUS batting line-up for ages, what does it say about England's, given that they have been no better than Australia for the last two tests?

This was the third game Australia could have won, and yet again there were key moments where they had plain bad luck.The Bresnan LBW decision completely shifted the momentum of the game. It probably cost Australia a win. It was more than just the 33 runs he added after that - it was the way it relieved pressure for Swann and Broad to start swinging freely. Those 90 runs were the difference between the two teams - not England's superior top-order batting or bowling, which have been no better than Australia's. So all this stuff about "England's golden age" is very strange to me.

I still see two very evenly matched teams, and the games are testament to that - but not the series scoreline.

Posted by cozens on (August 13, 2013, 8:15 GMT)

yes, it is a modest Aus team, but to be perfectly honest, speaking as an Englishman. I do not care ! we had enough modest teams that were humiliated during the 90's and early 00's. Sooner or later Aus will recover and become great again, so keep the foot to their throat for now and enjoy it while it lasts - regardless of their apparent strength, or lack thereof.

Posted by Charlie101 on (August 13, 2013, 7:58 GMT)

To be considered a great side we will have to retain / win the Ashes down under and then go on to win in South Africa . Will be virtually impossible but if a team has beaton India , Australia and SA away from home then it will be only fair to attach that "great" label.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (August 13, 2013, 7:47 GMT)

@icfa on (August 13, 2013, 3:53 GMT), It's really quite funny when people try to put England down and include the accusation that they only do well because they play more games at home than away. You know that their argument has no basis when that one comes out because the number of matches that England play at home and away is very balanced. If you took the time to check any facts rather than just making hateful comments you'd see that.

Posted by shillingsworth on (August 13, 2013, 7:47 GMT)

@Shan156 - Totally agree re Fletcher. I'd add that the England team he inherited was a complete shambles. People forget the home defeat by New Zealand in 1999 which left England at the bottom of the rankings. Fletcher was fortunate in having a captain of Hussain's calibre but Flower couldn't have achieved anything either without Strauss and Cook.

Posted by shillingsworth on (August 13, 2013, 7:40 GMT)

@himanshu.team - Can't really see the point of the England v SA debate. Of course SA are stronger at the moment. However, since England don't play them again until December 2015, I'd say that it will be increasingly difficult to tell which is the better of two evolving teams. SA face the retirement of some significant players. So do England. We've no idea who has the better replacements.

Posted by heathrf1974 on (August 13, 2013, 7:04 GMT)

@QTS It is called slow over rates and waiting for overcast conditions. It is a good tactic.

Posted by Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (August 13, 2013, 7:03 GMT)

England have a good solid hard to beat team but I'm not sure of talk of any dynasty. Anderson, Trott, Swann & Pietersen might not be around by the time Australia come back to England or will be close to finishing. The lesson Australia didn't learn was preparing for progression ..... Taylor and Bopara are next in line aren't they? If you look at the current cycle since England retained the Ashes in 2009 this year is the equivalent of 1993 in Australia's cycle commencing in 1989. In that year Australia revealed Warne and in the next two years McGrath and Ponting. Ironically the money available via t20 & IPL means that the recruitment of young S African batsmen looking for a county wage initial may decline. From my view county cricket is suffering the same drop in quality and neglect that the Sheffield Shield has which has restricted Australia's supply of Test batsmen.

Posted by LancsTwins on (August 13, 2013, 6:58 GMT)

@icfa last time I looked England did pretty well in away series. Winning in India is fairly impressive, don't you think, and that was only last December, then a draw in NZ. Hardly a disastrous run. You can only beat what is in front of you- not England's fault if the Australian batting collapses constantly. However you slice it, England are the second best side in the world after SA. Not a great side perhaps, but a match for anyone. No reason to think this is about luck. And incidentally the big performances in the tests that have won this series have come from Bell, Anderson, Swann, and Broad. England born and bred!

Posted by himanshu.team on (August 13, 2013, 6:55 GMT)

I am an Indian and I do feel that currently England are a better side than India. However, are they a better side than SA? I doubt. Even India thrashed Australia 4-0. Though the scorline suggests 3-0, Australia had the upper hand on a couple of those matches. Even till yesterday tea time, Australia looked favorites. They have thrown it away due to the lack of killer instinct that the earlier Australian teams had. There was no Gilchrist to walk out at no.7 and smash a run-a-ball century to take the game away. So I would not read too much into the numbers just yet. In fact I would rate their 2-1 win over India, in India, much higher than this. In order to be the best test team in the world there is still a long way to go.

Posted by Wunfa517 on (August 13, 2013, 6:39 GMT)

@icfa. Yup. Thatseries home win against India in India for instance?

Posted by Herbet on (August 13, 2013, 6:22 GMT)

On what basis might this be Swann's last home series?

Posted by   on (August 13, 2013, 6:00 GMT)

@icfa - that's pretty much what he's saying if you read the article.

Posted by jango_moh on (August 13, 2013, 4:07 GMT)

well played broad, but i have to say the aus batting is pretty weak and inconsistent!!! so i wudnt rate this series win very highly, but still kudos to the eng team.... SA looks to be the strongest team as of now, but again i dont think by much, no invincible team rite now and i think thats a good thing...

Posted by crick_sucks on (August 13, 2013, 3:53 GMT)

You mean luckier when you say better don't you? It is just luck that you acquired some foreign talent. It is just luck that you seem to be playing lot of home games. It is just luck that you run into the WORST Australian team in the history of cricket. So stop blowing your horns claiming to be a world class unit which you are not.

Posted by QTS_ on (August 13, 2013, 3:15 GMT)

It is remarkable how one or two ENG batsmen bail the team out so often - Strauss in Ashes 2009, Collingwood in SA 2009-10, Trott and Broad against PAK 4th Test 2010, Pietersen against SL 2nd Test 2012, Cook in India 2013, Prior in NZ 2013 and now Bell in Ashes 2013. This characteristic is demonstrated in the several doughty one-wicket draws over the years and has contributed significantly in several series results. Hardly any other team is capable of pulling such tricks so often, including SA. Also, this way, amends are made for deficiencies of other batsmen, as in Cook, Trott and Prior now. Even if ENG adopts new strategies, it might be worth keeping this special skill in the book.

Posted by MB40 on (August 13, 2013, 1:25 GMT)

Great article, and a satisfactory word about Andy Flower. I would suggest a new batting coach should be trialed on the winter Ashes tour. The English batting has been very hit and miss (sometimes literally) - it seems bizarre that Trott of all people has the highest strike rate of England's batsmen, yet hasn't found any real form, Root, barring the 180 has looked unprepared for this level of Test cricket. No names immediately spring to mind for a Gooch replacement, although I know Graham Thorpe is the one day batting coach - the English could have used some of his grit and determination.

I rate David Saker highly, but Allan Donald has coached England's bowlers before, and he could perhaps accompany the touring party to hopefully give the tall, fast-bowlers Finn/Tremlett/Rankin/Broad that extra menace that he had.

And finally, someone - Flower, presumably - needs to be making sure the burden of captaincy doesn't stop Cook from being the world class batsman he was in India and before.

Posted by landl47 on (August 13, 2013, 0:51 GMT)

This isn't a great side in the way that the West Indies in the 70s and 80s and the Aussies in the 90s and 00s were great sides. It is a very good side, one of the best England sides I can remember in my 50+ years of watching cricket.

I think it needs two components to become a great side. First is a really solid opening partnership. Think of Greenidge/Haynes or Hayden/Langer. To achieve that England needs to put two really good and youngish players together and let them grow. They have already done this with Cook and Root. It hasn't borne fruit yet, but it's early days, especially for Root. The main thing is the potential is there, which is why it would be a mistake to go back to Compton now.

The second is a genuine allrounder, capable of batting in the top 6 and taking a full load as a bowler. England might also have a candidate here, in Ben Stokes. He's still very raw and has some maturity issues, but he's genuinely quick and a terrific hitter.

The future beckons.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (August 13, 2013, 0:27 GMT)

I don't think England can get any better than this. While they are a good team, they are far from the legendary WI and AUS teams of recent vintage. There will always be a few non-performing individuals in the English team from time to time. In a way, English fans can look forward to that because they wouldn't know which player will put up his hand on a given day. Ian Bell did it twice this series, KP, Root, Anderson, and now Broad have all contributed individually to win them games. I think that's more important to the English supporter; winning test matches. This is the peak of English cricket, as good as it gets, and should be cherished by their supporters and followers until the inevitable end of the cycle.

Posted by Chris_P on (August 12, 2013, 23:38 GMT)

Come on George, let's not get too carried away. They beat a very ordinary batting side & didn't really go on with the bat even though 2 of the 3 pace bowlers against them had indifferent games. Unless they unearth top shelf replacements for Pieterson/Trott/Anderson & Bell soon, this will not last long, & this is posted by someone who takes a keen interest in the game. If you compare the back-up that South Africa has, for example, the gap will only get wider. I don't see England ever dropping back to the bad old days simply due to the fact their county system gives their batsmen the experience to tough out games, but to make the jump to the top of the pile? Doubtful. They will though, stay ahead of us though on their turf, & long term I see us winning at home, but glory days are way off for both sides.

Posted by GeoffreysMother on (August 12, 2013, 23:21 GMT)

England's recent batting may also reflect both the quality of bowlers (pretty good) and the quality of pitches (pretty poor) in their last four series against India, NZ and Australia. DRS has also produced more outs than would have been the case a few years ago. How else would you explain such poor scores yet such a high win ratio? Whilst this makes for exciting cricket it doesn't help batsmen's averages. Maybe 30 is the new 50 and we need to think about relative performance. Bairstow's average is low but it is above Cook's. Prior's and Trott's and not far of Pietersens. They are less under scrutiny because they have scored runs in the past when 400+ /side was more the norm?

Posted by shillingsworth on (August 12, 2013, 23:10 GMT)

As far as I recall, most of the hubris in 2011 emanated from some sections of the media, one of whom bizarrely classed the England side as one of the top 5 test teams of all time.

Anderson has indeed been disappointing in the last 3 tests, yet all the talk after Trent Bridge was of England's supposedly 'unhealthy' reliance on him. More nonsense peddled by some media pundits.

Posted by Shan156 on (August 12, 2013, 23:07 GMT)

"No England coach has come close to emulating his achievements and his record invites no argument about his future. " Beg to differ. Under Duncan Fletcher, England achieved what only Aus. have achieved and that is a series win in SA against a strong side. IMHO, that remains the biggest achievement of an England side since 1986-1987 when they won the Ashes down under. The win against India in India 8 months back was great but the opposition was not a patch on the SA side that Eng. beat in 2004-2005. England had defeated a strong, full strength SA side. India had a few newcomers, their spin attack (led by Ashwin and Ojha, and for 2 tests, a 'past it' Harbhajan) was still raw, and their pace attack (led by the unfit Zaheer and the mediocre Ishant Sharma) was toothless. It is still a great achievement but I think the win in SA was bigger. The Ashes win in 2010-2011 was special but the quality of the opposition make it inferior to the win in SA.

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