The Ashes victory in 2005 was an unbelievable high for England, but since then it has hardly been smooth sailing for them. Wins against Pakistan and West Indies have ensured that their home record remains reasonably impressive, but overseas it's been a completely different story. The defeat in the first Test against New Zealand in Hamilton was their tenth in their last 15 matches abroad: apart from being blanked 5-0 by Australia in 2006-07, they have also lost series in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The only saving grace was the win in Mumbai in 2006 which helped them salvage a drawn series in India.
Their 1-10 win-loss ratio is only marginally better than West Indies' 1-12 during this period, but a 7-2 success ratio at home indicates the problems have mostly cropped up overseas. Have the batsmen failed to adjust to the variations in pace and bounce of pitches abroad, or have the bowlers been unable to replicate the good work that they've consistently done in England?
The table below indicates the blame should be apportioned almost equally. The batting standards dip appreciably overseas, with the batting average falling to 29 from a lofty 40. In 15 Tests abroad England have only scored ten hundreds, which compares very poorly with 24 centuries in 14 home Tests. The bowlers have let the team down similarly, conceding nearly 43 runs per wicket, almost 11 more than their average at home. The disparity between five-wicket hauls is equally glaring: nine at home, and just four abroad.
The captain and their best batsman have been two of their biggest culprits overseas. Michael Vaughan has averaged just 30 outside England during this period, while Kevin Pietersen hasn't fared much better: in 25 innings at home he has hammered seven hundreds, but 30 tries abroad have fetched him just a couple of three-figure scores. The last time he managed a half-century overseas was more than a year ago, in Perth in December 2006. Since then he has gone 12 innings without even getting to a fifty.
The one exception to England's generally shambolic batting overseas has been Paul Collingwood. He has been by far England's best batsman outside home, averaging almost 47 in 14 Tests. His stats are almost as good in England too, making him the only batsman to average more than 40 both home and away.
Monty Panesar has been the biggest disappointment among the bowlers, giving the lie to the theory that lack of seam and swing movement has been England's biggest bugbear outside home. Panesar has been England's best bowler at home over the last two seasons, with five five-fors in 14 Tests and a strike-rate of less than 58 balls per wicket, but overseas he has been far less effective in conditions you'd expect would offer him more assistance. In ten games he has only managed 27 wickets, requiring 88 deliveries per wicket. Of those ten games, six have been in the subcontinent, where Panesar has a poor haul of 13 wickets. Similarly, James Anderson and Steve Harmison have been much more potent at home.
Like among the batsmen, the bowling heroes have also been the less glamorous players. Matthew Hoggard and Ryan Sidebottom have done with the ball what Collingwood has contributed as a batsman, getting wickets in all conditions against all opposition.
The partnerships for each wicket further elaborate England's batting problems. Apart from the fourth wicket, the stands overseas have been significantly smaller than those at home. The difference is highest for the fifth and sixth wickets - while England's middle and lower middle order have contributed useful runs at home, they have floundered abroad: the last six partnerships aggregate only 120.
At the same time, England's bowlers have failed to turn it on outside home. The average stand they concede for three wickets - the second, fourth and sixth - is over 60, while a couple of others touch 40. And while England's last six stands score around 120 overseas, their bowlers concede more than 200 to the last six partnerships of the opposition.
Did Nel deserve to be dropped?
Andre Nel has reacted sharply to the South African selectors' decision to drop him from the Test squad for the tour to India, but a look at the numbers will indicate the move has some merit. Over the last two years Nel's returns have been a poor 43 wickets from 16 Tests - an average of under three per match - at a bowling average touching 40 and a strike-rate of a wicket every 75 deliveries. Among South African bowlers who bowled at least 1000 deliveries during this period, only Nicky Boje has done worse. (Click here for the full list.) Nel's replacement, Charl Langeveldt, gets an opportunity to improve upon some fairly ordinary numbers in a fledgling Test career: in six games he has taken 16 wickets at an average of 37.