Saturday, 13 August 2011

In Praise of English Test Cricket...

The England Test Cricket Team - No.1 in the World.

No, it isn't a surreal dream - it is an almost inconceivable fact.

I'm a 1990s boy and can recall enjoying watching the cricket during those formative years. Clearly at a County level I followed Glamorgan and indeed it was a brilliant memory when they won only their 3rd County Championship in 1997. I still have the Western Mail from the following day safely stored upstairs to mark a historic event after their previous victories in 1948 and 1969 (it's a good thing too because they look nowhere near winning a 4th title anytime soon!).

English Cricket - In the Doldrums
This was the era of Mike Atherton, Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe, Devon Malcolm, Andy Caddick, Darren Gough, Dominic Gough, Jack Russell et al.

I remember watching the Test matches with enthusiasm but it was as if the script had been written before a ball had been bowled. England would lose to Australia in every Ashes series and they would never win the Cricket World Cup. It was a team of underachieving grafters. Great talent but with an inability to fulfill their potential.

This of couse was the era of Steve and Mark Waugh, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Brian Lara, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Mark Taylor, Hanse Cronje (yes, I know I know), Shaun Pollock, Allan Donald, Anil Kumble.

This was my era.

The concept, having lived through that decade that Australia could be anything other than the top team in world cricket was just unthinkable. If I were of an older generation, I could probably have said the same of the West Indies in the 1970s and 1980s.

Top of the World
So it comes to pass that England have climbed to the summit of Test Cricket.

The historic 2005 Ashes triumph over Australia was something of a false dawn. They couldn't follow that up and indeed were embarrasingly whitewashed by the Aussies back on their own soil at the end of 2006.

But there is no denying that England now deserve their position at the top of the ICC Test Championship.

Since May 2009, they have gone 9 Test series without defeat...

Beat West Indies 2-0 (home)
Beat Australia 2-1 (home)
Draw 1-1 with South Africa (away)
Beat Bangladesh 2-0 (away)
Beat Bangladesh 2-0 (home)
Beat Pakistan 3-1 (home)
Beat Australia 3-1 (away)
Beat Sri Lanka 1-0 (home)
Lead India 3-0 (home)

The victory over Australia in Oz last Winter was truly majestic and proved beyond doubt that the order was changing. It is however more than apt that they have reached the pinnacle by unseating the Team that have been in that place since December 2009. India have been a shadow of their former selves this summer but don't take anything away from England - they have demonstrated a ruthless ability to tear their opponents apart at the first sight of weakness - a quality required but that has rarely been witnessed in an English cricketing team in my 20 year memory.

The Reliance Mobile ICC Test Championship mace
They have reached the pinnacle with a solid batting line-up in Strauss, Cook, Trott, Bell and Pieterson. But it is the growing depth in the bowling attack that has impressed me over recent years. Anderson, Bresnan, Broad, Swann and Tremlett have taken English Test Cricket to another level and they are a team to fear.

England will at the end of this month formerly take over from India as the holders of the Reliance Mobile ICC Test Championship mace (pictured). They follow Australia (74 months), South Africa (4 months) and India (19 months) to top the rankings.

They deserve their place and I hope that it will continue for some time. On current form, there is little doubt that that can be the case.

It seems like a long time since those dark days in the 1990s!


  1. I think you mean Dominic Cork ;-)

    I was there today. Terrific atmosphere. In all my years following cricket I've not seen an England team like this. I reckon we've had better players in almost every position, but we've never had a better team. They play as one, enjoy each other's successes and push each other to do better! The thing with the batting is that since Bresnan has come into the team it's pushed Swann down to number 10 and he averages over 20 in tests, that's unheard of really. The batting line-up is second to none.

    The Indian middle order are stars, take nothing away from them, but they aren't used to the English conditions and our players have made the most of them!

    I'll probably analyse more in a post of my own tomorrow, but good blog Mark - I loved that England team you mentioned (Dominic Cork being my favourite - along side Nick Knight in the one day team).

  2. Ha! Brilliant! My old age managed to morph Dominic Cork and Darren Gough into one - a worrying thought!

    I look forward to reading your post!