Saturday, 13 August 2011

England: The Best In The World?

England took a 3-0 lead in the test series against India today, a lead that ensures that England replace India at the top of the ICC Test Rankings table.  India have been top since December 2009 when, ironically, South Africa’s failure to beat England at home allowed India to over take them with series wins in Sri Lanka & Bangladesh.
Sreesanth c Pietersen b Bresnan 5, England win.

In truth this has been a disappointing series so far, India’s batsmen have succumbed to England’s pace attack while their bowling attack has been stretched by injuries.  England’s batsmen have been happy to capitalise on India’s woes.  Dravid apart, India’s vaunted batting line up has struggled with England’s mastery of…  er…  English conditions and making the most of swing friendly conditions.

England’s next aim will be to consolidate their position at the top, a position they last held in the 1950’s from regaining the Ashes in 1951 to succumbing to Richie Bennaud’s Australia side in the 1958-59 Ashes series.  Any team wishing to follow in the footsteps of the West Indies teams of the 1980’s and the Australia sides from the mid 1990’s onwards has to do two things, they have to beat their immediate rivals and win in the sub-continent.

For England, the next 12 months give’s them an indication of how long their stay at the top will be.  They are scheduled to play Pakistan (in the UAE & Dubai) and Sri Lanka away during the winter.  While these will be tough challenges in dry, flat conditions conducive to spin, completely different from the humid, damp swing & seam friendly conditions here.  After that will be a much tougher challenge.  Should India lose at the Oval next week, they will slip to third, their place taken by South Africa who happen to be touring England next year.

Of course, by the time South Africa visit these shores next Summer England might have consolidated their place at the top no matter what happens as both India and South Africa have tricky series coming up.  Both Australia and Sri Lanka come to South Africa over the winter, while India also face Australia who will be desperate to rebuild under Michael Clarke.

England has reached the top of Test cricket’s rankings.  However we are a very long way from finding out if this side is a flash in the pan or the newest team to join the pantheon that includes the great West Indies, Australian and England sides of the past that dominated cricket in their time.

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