Usually the last hurdle is the toughest, just ask Satchin Tendulkar in his pursuit of that 100th international century, but in the 5 years since hitting plumb bottom (8th) none of the series have been as easy as this one that finally sees England ranked number one in the world.
So much so it’s almost an insult to Bangladesh to lump them in with this current Indian mob, who after all, until Saturday, had spent the last 20 months at the top of the pile.
In reality it hasn’t been a 5 year rise from 8th but a 2 year ascent from 6th. The first year was the arse end of the Fletcher regime which had been heading in a downward spiral from the moment the Ashes were won in ’05. It was followed up by the disaster that was the Moores and Pietersen show. As Kev put it a bit back it’s all down to him quitting and getting Moores the sack, it would have never happened under either of them. It wasn’t until Strauss was given the captaincy and Flower the head coach role that things really started to happen.
Now England did get over the Aussies with three innings victories to retain the Ashes in Australia but they had to work a bit harder than the three wins in this series, only one innings victory to go with two big run defeats. But then if the Aussies had put in as half-hearted effort as the Indians have here they would have been slaughtered, by England, their own fans, ex-players, media etc etc.
This has been a shoddy display by India. Are the effigies out in Delhi and Calcutta? Well as someone said it was Fletcher’s aim to get England to number one, he’s just achieved it as the coach of the opposition. He’s still as dull as ever as well.
Now can they keep the spot? Better placed than in ’05, partly due to the other teams not being as good as back then. They don’t have the great players that say Australia had with the likes of McGrath and Warne but there is depth there and with the fact India have been crap, England still have room for improvement. Strauss got back some form at the end of this last test, Cook found his after a slight blip, Trott to come back, Pietersen showed on a couple of occasions that he has it in him not to be an idiot – unfortunately he can very quickly revert to
it’s the way I play stupidity. Someone asked me what he’d got in that last innings, I said he’d just got his 50, the reply
Oh, he’ll get mid 60s then give it away with something stupid. Pretty spot on – Morgan, well jury is still out, OK if you give hi a start with spinners. Bell, still poncing off the work of others, stat padding, only thanks to Bopara sitting and waiting for hour after hour and then Prior getting out upping the pace that Bell didn’t finish lowest scorer.
Bresnan, not bad for a fat lad. What is it? 45 with the bat and 25 with the ball, unbeaten in his 9 tests to date. Can’t ask much better than that for someone many thought was a one day player and not for tests. The ball to get Dravid in the first innings, I think the Indian number three is still in shock, what a delivery. How that didn’t get the TMS champagne moment I don’t know, robbed.
Broad has the ability to match Bres with the bat and should be class with the ball if he does what he’s done of late instead of that
enforcer rubbish. Swann, best spinner in the world and hasn’t really been required and when used was going all over the park instead of taking wickets. Getting the groove back wickets wise in that last innings but still pasted for 88 off 13, he’ll be back though. Anderson, ball is swinging and yet Bres and Broad took the wickets in the first innings, second he went round the park cause with even four wickets to his name and the ball swinging he started bowling short, wide rubbish. There’s too much short, wide rubbish from him over a complete match to be eulogised the way he is by his media mates. Does he do it consistently through a game? First innings and second innings? Start of an innings and end of an innings? No. The ball’s swinging and his bouncers are being smacked for six by tail enders. He should be mopping them up not padding their stats.
There’s depth, which wasn’t about in ’05, of the Ashes success Tremlett, Finn along with the likes of Onions not involved here, the latter two not involved at all this series. Seemingly batsmen ready to come in as well.
One concern is the captaincy and head coach in that they’re very by the numbers. Little flexibility. Three pacemen and a spinner, never changing even though the extra batsmen hasn’t really been needed. Switching of the batting lineup for different situation never seemingly considered. And a very cautious way of doing things, Strauss quick to spread the field when bowlers are being sprayed around even when the batting side require over 200 runs to make England bat again.
Rectify the problems and that makes you think they have a chance to keep that number one spot and create a top, top side. But then this is England we’re talking about.