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England is on top of the world

Ted Corbett
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NEW POSTER BOY: Ian Bell (right) may be selected for the No. 3 spot in the England batting line-up at Jonathan Trott's expense after his double hundred against India in the fourth Test. — Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
NEW POSTER BOY: Ian Bell (right) may be selected for the No. 3 spot in the England batting line-up at Jonathan Trott's expense after his double hundred against India in the fourth Test. — Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Andrew Strauss, the England captain, has warned his players they must not relax now that they have been presented with the huge ICC gold and silver mace — the symbol that they are the finest side in the world.

He said: “The greatest pitfall is feeling like you have done it all. I'd be a bit disappointed if the side fell into that trap. It's not what we're about as a unit.

“We were confident we could win both Test series against Sri Lanka and India this summer but what exceeded our expectations was how well individuals played. That was impressive and a great springboard for future success.”

It is easy to say, but six months will go by before England can next impose its new winning ways on anyone.

It has nothing except one-day cricket in the autumn and does not start its next Test until February when it takes on Pakistan in the Gulf.

Long holiday

At a time when many argue that there is too much Test cricket and that players have a constant concern about burn-out it seems odd that the greatest team on the planet should have a half year holiday. Players, who have never been averse to being paid to put their feet up, will claim the down time will benefit them eventually but surely those who sell the game commercially ought to put their finest on display rather than lock them away for six months.

In addition, while England slumbers there is a chance for the second team, South Africa, to overtake it although that would add to the attractions of its meeting in England next summer. No one should underestimate what England has achieved in pulling off only the seventh whitewash in a four-match series against the team ranked the world's best when it began.

I will leave others to debate where India went wrong — although surely the key moment in this series was the injury to Zaheer Khan. But England grew strong on the performances of England Man-of-the-Series Stuart Broad and Ian Bell, who received the Man-of-the-Match award.

This summer will be remembered as the time when both grew into manhood. I know an old Test player whose only comment on Bell was that “his highest score is against Bangladesh and that is a blot on his record.”

His double hundred against India has put that stigma behind him and there is even talk that he may be selected at No. 3 in place of Jonathan Trott whose Test batting average is 57.79.

Broad was almost dropped at the start of this series. Now his name is first on an unchanging team sheet as one of the all-rounders who might, in an emergency, bat a couple of places higher.

Broad, James Anderson, perhaps the finest just-short-of-fast bowler in Tests now, and the often underestimated Tim Bresnan undoubtedly won the series for England because the off-spin of Graeme Swann did not come forward until the final Test when he took nine wickets.

Cricket, which had taken third place behind Premier League football and the coming Olympic Games, is at an all-time high in the public estimation.

The new ‘street cricket' is being used to calm the sort of youngsters who rioted, looted and bashed their way from the front pages to the police cells, the Oval was a sell-out on all five days, and even my football-mad handy man came in to ask “has Tendulkar got that hundred?”

When an English sports fan shows concern for an opposition player it is a sure sign England is top of the tree.

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