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How England became top dogs

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Ben Dirs | 20:28 UK time, Thursday, 11 August 2011

India having been splattered across the windscreen of the juggernaut that is the current England Test team, the days when England were more of a clown's car of an outfit are becoming a dim and distant memory. But, lest we forget, those days were not too long ago.

BBC Sport explains what it took to lift England from being the worst Test team in the world in 1999 to the world's top-ranked team in 2011.

Central contracts

In 2000, then chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, Lord MacLaurin, introduced central contracts. Before then, for many players the step up from county cricket to the international stage had been akin to being plucked from repertory in Scarborough and handed a leading role in an MGM blockbuster, a shock many found too hard to handle.

MacLaurin - acting on advice from England captains and coaches past and present - realised a better course of action would be to earmark talent and shape and nurture it away from the humdrum county system, much like a studio from Hollywood's golden age grooming a talented starlet before thrusting her into the limelight.

"Suddenly Nasser Hussain [who was appointed England captain in 1999 and [coach] Duncan Fletcher had greater control of the players and therefore were in a better position to mould the team and the system to how they wanted it to be," says former England fast bowler Angus Fraser, who played 46 Tests between 1989-98.

Duncan Fletcher (left) and Nasser Hussain brought more rigour to the England set-up (Photo: Getty)

"Before, there was a different mentality: I was a Middlesex player who was released to play for England and when my Middlesex duties finished, I was straight back to Middlesex. There was still a feeling that it was 11 blokes who got together every fortnight to play a Test match for England, there wasn't a real team vibe.

"But the introduction of central contracts meant all of a sudden there was a 'Team England' and you now have a core of players whose focus is primarily England - England is their job. It's the England team that largely controls what they do, and they save their best for England, which wasn't always possible before."

Adds Alec Stewart, who led England between 1998-99: "What they [the selectors] do now is they don't just look at who's had a good week or a good fortnight in county cricket, they pinpoint players with ability and character - and character was something that perhaps wasn't considered previously.

"The selectors now look at the make-up of the individual - how he reacts under pressure, how he reacts to being in the limelight, or how they believe he'll react, and make a judgement call based on that."

A winning structure

Stewart tells a quite startling story of how, when he first played for England in 1990, the team's fitness coach donated his time for free. Fast-forward 21 years and there is barely enough space on the Lord's balcony to accommodate the retinue of support staff. Batting, bowling and fielding coaches, analysts, a statistician, a masseur - fast-forward another 21 years and they might even have a jester.

"Players of my era take exception to people saying we were unprofessional," says Stewart. "In my time with the team it was a professional set-up and the will to be successful was always there. But because we didn't have the finances we couldn't always do what we wanted to do.

Stewart and Fraser toast an historic England win in Barbados in 1994 (Photo: Getty)

"Because of the structure that's now in place, there doesn't look to be a fitter, more athletic side in world cricket, they pride themselves on attention to detail. I'd play a Test match, finish it on a Monday, play a Benson and Hedges game for Surrey on Tuesday, play a three-day game through to Friday, a Sunday League game - and then turn up for another Test match."

There are those who argue having the best cricket team in the world is not much good if a great swath of the country is unable to watch them in action. But without the money from Sky which has allowed a winning system to be put in place, England would not be the best cricket team in the world - which sounds rather like a Chinese riddle.

Continuity of selection

It was batsmen Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Hick who became most synonymous with England's skittish selection policy in the 1990s, the lavishly-talented duo dropped more times between them than a dewy cricket ball. But even reliable performers such as Fraser were not immune.

"It was a pretty selfish existence in my day because every player felt if he had a couple of bad games he was going to get the axe," says Fraser. "There is greater security now, and security allows players to relax slightly into the position they're in and enjoy what they're doing, rather than feeling they're under huge pressure."

"There were one-cap wonders all over the counties," says Stewart, "and people were being picked and dropped 10-12 times. For the sake of continuity, for the individual and for the team, that can't be good.

"Stuart Broad is an example of where the selectors had the strength of their conviction. People wanted him dropped before the series against India, but [coach] Andy Flower and [captain] Andrew Strauss know what they want and they stuck with Broad's quality."

Strong leadership

Former England paceman Devon Malcolm recently told me he became so demoralised during the Test series in South Africa in 1995-96 that he came very close to packing his bags in the middle of the night and heading home. His raw bowling action having been tinkered with, his heart having being publicly questioned by the abrasive Raymond Illingworth, the mercurial Malcolm was emblematic of an often confused and fractious era.

"Nasser [Hussain] gave everybody a kick up the backside and brought a reality check," says Fraser. "He was hard on people, he ruled with an iron fist. But he brought some toughness into the England side and his ruthless desire to achieve and improve was well backed up by Duncan Fletcher behind the scenes. He was an excellent coach and helped create a more attention-to-detail ethos that had been absent a bit.

England celebrate the victory at Edgbaston that secured them top spot (Photo: PA)

"Then you had Michael Vaughan, who still had a push, push, push mentality but was slightly more iron fist in a velvet glove. And now you've got a very well-organised, well-drilled outfit and very high expectations from Strauss and Flower, who are two fine men at the helm. It's much more self-reliant, with players making responsibility.

"Strauss and Flower are both no-nonsense characters, they don't suffer fools and it's all about the team. There was a little period when England almost became an England players' PLC, they seemed more interested in promoting themselves and maximising their off-field image. Now, they're all focused on winning games of cricket for England."

Fraser did not mention any names but it is easy to fill in the gaps: with Andrew Flintoff retired and Kevin Pietersen brought to heel, this current England side is very much a team moulded in Strauss and Flower's image.

The decline of others?

Given India's woeful performances in the current series, it almost beggars belief they arrived in England ranked the world's pre-eminent Test team. However, it should be remembered they were woefully undercooked and have since been shorn of their most potent attacking weapon, seamer Zaheer Khan, who limped out of the first Test at Lord's and has not played since.

In addition, this is a thuggish England outfit and the merciless nature of their victories in the first three Tests has been reminiscent of the West Indies in their 1980s pomp and recent Australian juggernauts.

"I'd much rather say how good England are than talk about the fall of others," says Stewart. "England are a very, very strong outfit and they've battered some of these other sides. England are ruthless, when they're on top they rub the opposition's nose in it, and show me a great side that isn't ruthless."

"India are a good side but they've been poor in this series, you can't hide from that," says Fraser. "But England have played some pretty brutal cricket, they've gone after India and they've got to them, it's been ruthless in its execution.

"There is real strength in depth in the pace attack - Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Tremlett, Tim Bresnan, Steven Finn, Graham Onions - and that's of great encouragement, because bowlers win you matches.

"Unless you've got a Shane Warne or a Muttiah Muralitharan you're going to be reliant on pace bowlers and England have got more than their fair share of them. And they're all of a pretty good age - English cricket will be strong for a few years to come."

The argument as to how good this England team is will rage. In terms of bona fide greats, it falls short of Len Hutton's all-conquering side, which contained the likes of Peter May, Fred Trueman, Denis Compton and Jim Laker and went unbeaten in 14 series between 1951 and 1958.

But, unlike Vaughan's Ashes-regaining side of 2005, the 2011 vintage contains no real weak links. It is a team of all talents - and it could well become England's greatest of all time.

As well as my blogs, you can follow me when I'm out and about - or on the sofa - at http://twitter.com/bendirs1 

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    England deserve to be #1, and it's good to see some credit bestowed on the likes of Nasser and Fletcher. They were a really poor side in the late 90s, and there has been amazing improvement. At least the poor decisions made in the recent past (Moores, and whoever decided KP was 'captaincy material'!?!) were quickly nipped in the bud and the team moved on.

    But before they are labelled 'dominant' or 'greatest ever' etc, I think they at least need to have a recent winning record vs South Africa. The most recent home and away series was one draw and one win to SA. Next year should be interesting.

  • Comment number 2.

    One element which is sometimes underplayed is the fact that England have ten players capable of scoring a century. Moreover, whenever two or three of the top batsmen go out early, you can trust the others combined to get a couple of hundred runs - at least. After all, England were 128/8 during the second test, and still won it comfortably.

    That safety in numbers enables a calmness for the batting - as England are unlikely to be in a losing position - whilst creating a competitive environment for bowlers who want to be in one of four (or really, one in three given Swann's spin supremacy) bowling places.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    With the series wrapped up, it will be interesting to see if England go for a five-man attack in the final test.
    With Tremlett back from injury, but Trott still injured, it would be understandable if England replaced Bopara with Tremlett, with tougher future bowling conditions in mind.
    However, I can understand why England have resisted calls to pick five bowlers over the last year, because fielding a side with 10 batsmen realistically capable of making at least 50 each innings must have a demoralising effect on the opposition.
    I feel there have been times over the past year or so, with England say 280-3, when sides have thought "even if we get Bell and Trott out, we've still got to get Prior, Bresnan, Broad and Swann" - mentally, part of them gives up at the thought of the challenge ahead.
    I'm sure it had a similar effect on much weaker England sides of the past, when they were up against the Australians or South Africans, say, who had numbers eight, nine and ten who could bat.

  • Comment number 5.

    @ rfoj35.

    If you're so sick of hearing about it, I ask you this. Why are you reading an article about it on the BBC website in the early hours of the morning?

    England are a well drilled, extremely talented team and well deserving of that number 1 spot. Long may it continue.

  • Comment number 6.

    To rfoj35, there are many, many things that don't interest me but strangely enough, I've never thought to let the world know which things they are via the forum of an internet message board.
    Let me know if it's fun. If so, I might google "Glee" or "The Only Way is Essex" and find some way of letting my fellow man know that I'm not particularly concerned about either of them.

  • Comment number 7.

    So good to have an English cricket team to be proud of. I think they've captured the public's admiration much more than the 2004-05 team. While they showed promise fore ven greater things injuries and players being let off the leash too far prevented it from happening. Andy Flower and his team must take huge credit for changing that. Now the players know what's expected of them, don't overstep the line, and if we do have injuries the strength and depth of the squad enables us to cope with it. And I also think the players in this team come across as much more approachable to the public, there's really no arrogance there, they're just a bunch of normal blokes, even mates, who work hard and happen to be incredibly good at their job.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think the main reason this team is so good is due to the confidence and team ethics instilled by Flower. I think between himseld and strauss they have really got the players believing they are the best team in the world, long before it was confirmed.

    The bowling attack is second to none and the moment. I just hope they manage to find a way of getting decent bounce and movement when they play on some of the less seam-friendly pitches.

    also, i don't see England as a team with a 4 bowler attack, its more like a 6 man team of all rounders with pietersen and trott also being able to bang in the odd decent over or two and change things up. but when you see the number 9 banging in scores of 50+ it must destroy the confidence of the bowlers for the next innings or match!

  • Comment number 9.

    One of the better things to happen to England was the retirement of Flintoff. It allowed us to move on from the uncertainty and unreliability that having him around caused. On his day, he was the best player in the world. But the last 3-4 years were tainted by injury and ill-discipline. From that we went to the straight six batsmen four bowler route, which has clearly worked.

    The reaction to the 2005 win, which in hindsight was incredibly fortunate, set us back years and that once in a blue moon result was a bit of a red-herring for what was admittedly a decent England side, but nowhere near the machine that it is now.

    Fletcher was good for England, but he's not in Andy Flower's sphere of quality. That much is evident as he's now the coach of India. I know that sounds glib but I feel we mustn't forget the way we failed under Fletcher the way we haven't under Flower.

    England right now have quality all through it. An opening batsmen partnerhsip which is one of the heaviest scoring of all time, even though the pair have far from great averages. We've stumbled on Trott who until very recently was averaging the second best of all time in Test cricket. Then we've got an expansive middle order who can both score runs quickly but also play the waiting game. The only slight doubt is Morgan who is new to the team but even he offers something very different at six in terms of creativity and will come into his own in non-English conditions I feel. Then we have the best wicket keeper-batsmen going at the moment in Test cricket followed by bowling all-rounders, all of which have the ability to be the star bowler of the show. The runs that the tail offers is also incredibly important for this team in terms of its ability to change games and be the difference in close ones. To cap it off we've got the most reliable spinner in the world.

    Like you allude to Ben, it's not the world's greatest eleven, but the team cohesive is magnificent. They seem to be the most thoroughly drilled and prepared team out there, working to team plans and knowing what to do and when. They're not perfect, yet, as we saw in Perth, but this series is going to do a lot for the confidence and the fear factor. Throw into the mix a calm captaincy of Strauss with his conspicuous leadership skills and the team is set. Set to go out onto the field of play and deliver.

    The test now will be to stay there, of course, we know that. But also to win series' against sides like India, Sri Lanka and South Africa away from home. Although we drew%2

  • Comment number 10.

    One of the better things to happen to England was the retirement of Flintoff. It allowed us to move on from the uncertainty and unreliability that having him around caused. On his day, he was the best player in the world. But the last 3-4 years were tainted by injury and ill-discipline. From that we went to the straight six batsmen four bowler route, which has clearly worked.

    The reaction to the 2005 win, which in hindsight was incredibly fortunate, set us back years and that once in a blue moon result was a bit of a red-herring for what was admittedly a decent England side, but nowhere near the machine that it is now.

    Fletcher was good for England, but he's not in Andy Flower's sphere of quality. That much is evident as he's now the coach of India. I know that sounds glib but I feel we mustn't forget the way we failed under Fletcher the way we haven't under Flower.

    England right now have quality all through it. An opening batsmen partnerhsip which is one of the heaviest scoring of all time, even though the pair have far from great averages. We've stumbled on Trott who until very recently was averaging the second best of all time in Test cricket. Then we've got an expansive middle order who can both score runs quickly but also play the waiting game. The only slight doubt is Morgan who is new to the team but even he offers something very different at six in terms of creativity and will come into his own in non-English conditions I feel. Then we have the best wicket keeper-batsmen going at the moment in Test cricket followed by bowling all-rounders, all of which have the ability to be the star bowler of the show. The runs that the tail offers is also incredibly important for this team in terms of its ability to change games and be the difference in close ones. To cap it off we've got the most reliable spinner in the world.

    Like you allude to Ben, it's not the world's greatest eleven, but the team cohesive is magnificent. They seem to be the most thoroughly drilled and prepared team out there, working to team plans and knowing what to do and when. They're not perfect, yet, as we saw in Perth, but this series is going to do a lot for the confidence and the fear factor. Throw into the mix a calm captaincy of Strauss with his conspicuous leadership skills and the team is set. Set to go out onto the field of play and deliver.

    The test now will be to stay there, of course, we know that. But also to win series' against sides like India, Sri Lanka and South Africa away from home. Although we dr

  • Comment number 11.

    One of the better things to happen to England was the retirement of Flintoff. It allowed us to move on from the uncertainty and unreliability that having him around caused. On his day, he was the best player in the world. But the last 3-4 years were tainted by injury and ill-discipline. From that we went to the straight six batsmen four bowler route, which has clearly worked.

    The reaction to the 2005 win, which in hindsight was incredibly fortunate, set us back years and that once in a blue moon result was a bit of a red-herring for what was admittedly a decent England side, but nowhere near the machine that it is now.

    Fletcher was good for England, but he's not in Andy Flower's sphere of quality. That much is evident as he's now the coach of India. I know that sounds glib but I feel we mustn't forget the way we failed under Fletcher the way we haven't under Flower.

    England right now have quality all through it. An opening batsmen partnerhsip which is one of the heaviest scoring of all time, even though the pair have far from great averages. We've stumbled on Trott who until very recently was averaging the second best of all time in Test cricket. Then we've got an expansive middle order who can both score runs quickly but also play the waiting game. The only slight doubt is Morgan who is new to the team but even he offers something very different at six in terms of creativity and will come into his own in non-English conditions I feel. Then we have the best wicket keeper-batsmen going at the moment in Test cricket followed by bowling all-rounders, all of which have the ability to be the star bowler of the show. The runs that the tail offers is also incredibly important for this team in terms of its ability to change games and be the difference in close ones. To cap it off we've got the most reliable spinner in the world.

    Like you allude to Ben, it's not the world's greatest eleven, but the team cohesive is magnificent. They seem to be the most thoroughly drilled and prepared team out there, working to team plans and knowing what to do and when. They're not perfect, yet, as we saw in Perth, but this series is going to do a lot for the confidence and the fear factor. Throw into the mix a calm captaincy of Strauss with his conspicuous leadership skills and the team is set. Set to go out onto the field of play and deliver.

    The test now will be to stay there, of course, we know that. But also to win series' against sides like India, Sri Lanka and South Africa away from home. Although we drew with

  • Comment number 12.

    One of the better things to happen to England was the retirement of Flintoff. It allowed us to move on from the uncertainty and unreliability that having him around caused. On his day, he was the best player in the world. But the last 3-4 years were tainted by injury and ill-discipline. From that we went to the straight six batsmen four bowler route, which has clearly worked.

    The reaction to the 2005 win, which in hindsight was incredibly fortunate, set us back years and that once in a blue moon result was a bit of a red-herring for what was admittedly a decent England side, but nowhere near the machine that it is now.

    Fletcher was good for England, but he's not in Andy Flower's sphere of quality. That much is evident as he's now the coach of India. I know that sounds glib but I feel we mustn't forget the way we failed under Fletcher the way we haven't under Flower.

    England right now have quality all through it. An opening batsmen partnerhsip which is one of the heaviest scoring of all time, even though the pair have far from great averages. We've stumbled on Trott who until very recently was averaging the second best of all time in Test cricket. Then we've got an expansive middle order who can both score runs quickly but also play the waiting game. The only slight doubt is Morgan who is new to the team but even he offers something very different at six in terms of creativity and will come into his own in non-English conditions I feel. Then we have the best wicket keeper-batsmen going at the moment in Test cricket followed by bowling all-rounders, all of which have the ability to be the star bowler of the show. The runs that the tail offers is also incredibly important for this team in terms of its ability to change games and be the difference in close ones. To cap it off we've got the most reliable spinner in the world.

    Like you allude to Ben, it's not the world's greatest eleven, but the team cohesive is magnificent. They seem to be the most thoroughly drilled and prepared team out there, working to team plans and knowing what to do and when. They're not perfect, yet, as we saw in Perth, but this series is going to do a lot for the confidence and the fear factor. Throw into the mix a calm captaincy of Strauss with his conspicuous leadership skills and the team is set. Set to go out onto the field of play and deliver.

    The test now will be to stay there, of course, we know that. But also to win series' against sides like India, Sri Lanka and South Africa away from home. Although we drew wi

  • Comment number 13.

    One of the better things to happen to England was the retirement of Flintoff. It allowed us to move on from the uncertainty and unreliability that having him around caused. On his day, he was the best player in the world. But the last 3-4 years were tainted by injury and ill-discipline. From that we went to the straight six batsmen four bowler route, which has clearly worked.

    The reaction to the 2005 win, which in hindsight was incredibly fortunate, set us back years and that once in a blue moon result was a bit of a red-herring for what was admittedly a decent England side, but nowhere near the machine that it is now.

    Fletcher was good for England, but he's not in Andy Flower's sphere of quality. That much is evident as he's now the coach of India. I know that sounds glib but I feel we mustn't forget the way we failed under Fletcher the way we haven't under Flower.

    England right now have quality all through it. An opening batsmen partnerhsip which is one of the heaviest scoring of all time, even though the pair have far from great averages. We've stumbled on Trott who until very recently was averaging the second best of all time in Test cricket. Then we've got an expansive middle order who can both score runs quickly but also play the waiting game. The only slight doubt is Morgan who is new to the team but even he offers something very different at six in terms of creativity and will come into his own in non-English conditions I feel. Then we have the best wicket keeper-batsmen going at the moment in Test cricket followed by bowling all-rounders, all of which have the ability to be the star bowler of the show. The runs that the tail offers is also incredibly important for this team in terms of its ability to change games and be the difference in close ones. To cap it off we've got the most reliable spinner in the world.

    Like you allude to Ben, it's not the world's greatest eleven, but the team cohesive is magnificent. They seem to be the most thoroughly drilled and prepared team out there, working to team plans and knowing what to do and when. They're not perfect, yet, as we saw in Perth, but this series is going to do a lot for the confidence and the fear factor. Throw into the mix a calm captaincy of Strauss with his conspicuous leadership skills and the team is set. Set to go out onto the field of play and deliver.

    The test now will be to stay there, of course, we know that. But also to win series' against sides like India, Sri Lanka and South Africa away from home. Although we drew

  • Comment number 14.

    I first started watching test cricket in 1985 in the Ashes series and there's been a few lows since then to say the least, but I'm really enjoying this England generation. Great to see we're not just reliant on one player to score runs or take wickets.

    Couple of points :
    1. I thought England would have gone with another bowler to replace Trott as Prior, Bresnan and Broad have been scoring plenty of runs. Bopara didn't really add anything to the line up. Will be interesting to see if they continue with the same tactic.
    2. Keep hearing that we haven't got an all-rounder yet Prior is a quality keeper who scores very quick runs and then we've got Bresnan who is an accomplished batsmen and Broad who scored over 100 runs and took 8 wickets in the 2nd test - what more do people want?

  • Comment number 15.

    Good piece and pretty much lays it out; central contracts have stopped the revolving door policy of old and ensured a focused core of England players (still think rugby should be thinking along same lines ....). Also 100% correct about moving from the star individual to the team. Despite his brilliance, I am still haunted by the shots of FF in the players' area during the Ashes series in Aus looking like a lost figure - Strauss should have been captain then, although maybe by missing out I guess he avoided being in charge and could watch and learn how not to do it.

  • Comment number 16.

    Interesting that the common opinion is that central contracts stopped the revolving door and got some long term strategic building to take place in the English game.

    Maybe its time to try this in football? Many of their weaknesses seem to stem from a team of 11 looking like theyve just met each other...

  • Comment number 17.

    This article casually avoids one obvious factor in England's improvement:

    Strauss, Pietersen, Trott, Prior, Dernbach - do I need to state the obvious..?!

    Add Eoin Morgan to the list and you have half the team who are bonafide non-Englishmen. Undoubtedly the decision to aggressively promote the better African/Irish players above the English is a huge reason for England's rise up the rankings. It's essentially drawing from 2 (or 3) talent pools.
    I'm not dismissing the other points made in the article and I believe that cricket worldwide is better when England are competitive, but come on...this article should be honest and acknowledge the African contribution.

  • Comment number 18.

    how did england become top dogs?? by recuiting outside its pool of players, you are quite correct #13 absolute disgrace the worst of all is Morgan,, lovely lad great great talent but should never have an England shirt on. It does two things, takes a place of an english player and takes a irish player away from them.
    to talk about the development of ENglich cricket since central contracts you should be talking about the development of the qualification rules which favours england more than most due to the nature of fregn players comming oevr here, How many of thelen hutton side where born in africa and ireland?? By the way looking at the stats on that huttton team ,,not all that really,
    So world champions??? commonwealth champions actually.. the countries that dont bother, USA, China, Russia, Brazil,, need we go on... this is not such a big deal and with only half the team English .. really catch a grip!!

  • Comment number 19.

    I am an avid cricket fan and unfortunately at present an Ausi. I must admit the resurgence of the England team has been stark. During the build up to Ashes series I used to think it a given the Ausi’s would win the series. Now looking at this current England side I can’t see any way we, or anyone else for that matter, can beat them.

    I think the point previously made is that England have no weakness is very accurate. Throw into that the fact they have some true world class talents in KP, Strauss, Cook and Swann makes them a very complete side and a very deserving raking of 1 in the world.

  • Comment number 20.

    A fantastic team who are deserve the accolades, the fact that bar the the SA series draw they have won every series for almost 2 years shows how good they are,

    Regarding nationalities, Strauss has lived in england since he was 6, Prior has lived in the UK since he was 11 and has an english father and pieterson has an english mother. I cant defend trott and morgan so easily, but at least get the facts straight before anyone harps on about the team and where they come from

  • Comment number 21.

    myislandhome,

    Strauss is very English- have you ever heard him speak?? Even if he was born in South Africa he's played cricket in England his whole life and risen through the English cricket system- he's an English cricketer.
    KP's half English so just as eligible for England as South Africa though I do accept he went quite far into the South African system before changing.
    Prior is also half English and has played cricket in England all his life so therefore more eligible for England than South Africa.
    Dernbach has never played test cricket for England.

  • Comment number 22.

    karlwbrown,

    I assume you're from Australia- just have a look at your rugby union team before coming on here and clutching at straws..

  • Comment number 23.

    @ rfoj35

    I wouldn't worry to much about this gentleman's post. Every time he makes a post on the BBC site it's some angry/petulant/whinny comment. (just click his hyperlink). He's kind enough to explain why in one of them though. He's Scottish.

    This post will probably get taken down. Shame really, after all it is 100% factual.

    England being the number 1 Test nation in the world is a huge deal. Long may it continue. As soon as we beat the S. Africans it'll be undisputed.

  • Comment number 24.

    so bored of these idiotic arguments about where players are born. being born somewhere does not necessarily mean that you feel part of that country. there are many complexities surrounding the notion of nationality, it is childish to try to reduce it to birth place.

    I wasn't born in england, but I am most definitely english, so I know how someone like strauss would feel if he heard these comments, he would think they were ludicrous and narrow minded.

  • Comment number 25.

    rl #21

    You forgot a couple...

    Trott - played in the U19 South African team
    Morgan - played in the 2007 Ireland World Cup team

    My comments are not sour grapes or an attempt to detract from the achievements of this team, but I think that an article that supposes to catalogue all the factors that have improved English cricket must surely make mention of the numerous foreign-born players in the squad. Put it this way (for e.g), of the 474 runs made in the first innings against India at Lords, 365 of them were made by players not born in England.

    And let's be frank, KP's 3 lions tattoo is pretty hilarious...

  • Comment number 26.

    "fast-forward another 21 years and they might even have a jester"

    But we already have one - Swanny!

  • Comment number 27.

    #25 myislandhome,

    As was said in the post above mine, Trott and Morgan aren't defended as easily- though you didn't mention them in your first post.
    But Trott obviously has some English ancestry and I can understand a player as good as Morgan wanting to play test cricket..

  • Comment number 28.

    and what does birthplace have to do with anything? there's more to nationality than where you were born.

  • Comment number 29.

    Not everyone can be 100% English by blood and born in this country. See above for Strauss/KP/Prior.

    Trott has an English father, therefore is half-English and has been British since birth.

    Morgan is an odd one - ECB regulations say we can pick any British or Irish citizen - I presume this is to do with some British law. Personally, I wouldn't have allow Irish players and nor would I allow people to switch teams like Morgan and Nannes have.

    But... Morgan is good enough, eligible and he wants to play for us. And he's a product of the county system too, having been developed by Middlesex.

    Dernbach has no English blood but has been here since he was 11-14 (seen both ages in different sources). He has British citizenship and came through the Surrey Cricket Academy and is therefore a product of the English system (he didn't even play cricket in South Africa).

    As for the comment about this being the reason for our #1 status - check the team's history, players of multiple nationalities have been representing England since Test cricket started. It's not new and it's mostly because of the Commonwealth - English citizens have left for other countries, married and had kids, and then came back here with their half-English children.

  • Comment number 30.

    Surely the point about Morgan is that as an Irish player he would only be able to play limited overs cricket. Its hardly fair on the player who understandably wants to test himself at the highest level. The era where players simply accepted whatever situation they found themselves in is long gone.

  • Comment number 31.

    For all those complaining or debating about the number of foreign born English cricketers. I would invite you to look at the full list below, so that you can see this is not a new thing and is simply a product of being a former Empire with a large number of now commonwealth countries having strong ties to England

    AUSTRALIA: Billy Murdoch, John Ferris, Sammy Woods, Albert Trott, ‘Gubby’ Allen, Adam Hollioake, Ben Hollioake, Jason Gallian, Tim Ambrose.

    SOUTH AFRICA: Basil D’Oliviera, Tony Greig, Ian Greig, Allan Lamb, Chris Smith, Robin Smith, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Ian Trott.

    WEST INDIES: Lord Harris, Pelham Warner, Roland Butcher, Norman Cowans, Wilf Slack, Gladstone Small, Phillip DeFreitas, Devon Malcolm, Chris Lewis, Neil Williams, Joseph Benjamin.

    NEW ZEALAND: Andy Caddick.

    INDIA: K.S. Ranjitsinhji (‘Ranji’), Edward Wynyard, Richard Young, Neville Tufnell, Douglas Jardine, K.S. Duleepsinhji (‘Duleep’), Nawab of Pataudi, Sr., Errol Holmes, Norman Mitchell-Innes, George Emmett, Colin Cowdrey, John Jameson, Bob Woolmer, Robin Jackman, Nasser Hussain, Minal Patel.

    PAKISTAN: Usman Afzaal, Owais Shah.

    ZIMBABWE (formerly Rhodesia): Graeme Hick, Paul Parker.

    KENYA: Derek Pringle.

    ZAMBIA: Phil Edmonds, Neil Radford.

    GERMANY: Donald Carr, Paul Terry.

    ITALY: Ted Dexter.

    PERU: Freddie Brown.

    HONG KONG: Dermot Reeve.

    PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Geraint Jones.

    DENMARK: Amjad Khan.

    For example see how many decent England players have India as their place of birth - Emmett, Jardine, Cowdrey, Woolmer, Hussain

    I see nobody claiming these players as Indian rather than English.

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm glad the country of origin dullards are knocking about, drooling idiocy always bears repetition. Some facts; the England cricket team has always featured players born outside England, go to cricinfo and look up JJ Ferris in their database for a start. Other nations have always been happy to pick non-native born players, whilst on cricinfo look up Clarrie Grimmett, Kepler Wessels, Qasim Omar, John Traicos and Imran Tahir to name only a few. Other sports give not a hoot about where a player is born, Aussies were rightly delighted to cheer the awesome Kostya Tszyu, Steve Bachop played internationals for Samoa and New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland football team is constantly full of British born players. Finally people from all over the world come to England to pursue opportunities their countries of birth cannot offer, I realise there are a depressing number of little Englanders who despise this cultural exchange but I am happy my country is one that allows so many to follow their dreams and I am happy that the finest cricket team in the world represents the nation.

  • Comment number 33.

    1. Morgan should not be playing Test cricket for England. He should be playing Test cricket for Ireland. Why isn't he? Because the BCCI doesn't want to give up its voting bloc. He's available for England, wants to play for England and England deem him good enough; why wouldn't they pick him? The point is he shouldn't have needed to swap; blame India not England for Morgan's nationality switch.

    2. If a person has a British passport, he is eligible to play for England. Trott had a British passport before coming to the UK and Prior, Strauss & KP all have English parents. This idea that England should discriminate on country of birth rather than on legal domicile is bizarre; it wouldn't be tolerated in any other walk of life, but bigotry is somehow acceptable when it comes to criticising England's sporting teams...

  • Comment number 34.

    Ahhh, the old nationality chestnut.

    I keep trotting (no pun intended) this one out, but I'll do it again to make the point.

    My brother was born in NZ to English parents, and lived there until he was 10. Try and tell him he's a Kiwi.

    Ryan Giggs was born in Wales (Welsh parents), but moved to England as a boy and even played for England schoolboys (because he went to school in England). Try and tell him he's not Welsh.

    Due to my 10 years in NZ, I have dual nationality and could (however unlikely) play for either country, but would always choose England.

    Where was the massive uproar when that lad Patel re-qualified to play for NZ a few years back (no previous family or residential connections)? Oh, NZ weren't beating everyone so it's OK?

    Andrew Symonds was born in England to WI/Scandinavian parents, adopted by an English couple who then moved to Oz. Not born in Oz, no previous Oz connections through lineage. Surely he's not an Aussie, and the Aussies have been cheating by poaching a player.

    That's the thing, players who qualify (or spend the time to qualify) for two or more countries are able to make a choice, and some of these have chosen to play for England.

    Anyway, all of the current team, with the exception of Morgan (who is able to return the Ireland later in his career if he wishes) have at least one English parent, or were born in England.

    What more do you fools want?

  • Comment number 35.

    I'm fortunate enough to have lived through the 50's and well remember what a great side England had even going into the early 60's, and this current series bears a similar resemblance to the 1957 series against the touring West Indian side.

    The 1957 West Indian side was probably the most powerful to land on these shores outside of their great sides in the 70's & 80's. It certainly had a better batting line up than this current vaunted Indian side with the 3 W's , Kanhai and a very young Gary Sobers, two exceptional spinners in Ramadin and Valentine plus an express pace man in Gilchrist. Having skittled England out for a low score in their first innings at the first test at Egbaston they then posted a large first innings total. England then posted a mammoth second innings total with Peter May making 285, (which Alister Cook has now surpassed) and Cowdrey making 154. England then went on to very nearly win the test, but this match completely knocked the belief and stuffing out of the West Indians to which they never recoved, and England went on to comprehensivly win the series 3-0. The 1957 series in a very similar way was as brutal a demolition job as what the current England side have done against India.

    Today the test sides are difficult to compare due to pitches, body protection and the way the teams prepare and are structured, but England and India are two teams that are on the top of their game and quite honestly the Indians have been outplayed and are totally demoralised, I expect England not only winning the series 4-0, but winning the last test by an innings.

    My only disappointment these days of central contracts is that we don't see the current test side playing in county cricket, we can all see the reason for it but for a test player to play for his registered county on the odd occasion would be good, I know we see them probably at the beginning of a season and possibly between series, but for the young to see them would be benifical.

  • Comment number 36.

    All this tosh about the England team having foreigners...we have always had a fair smattering of foreign cricket players, even when we were not so good. It reminds me when Liverpool were top dogs in the football league people would say the same because they had Irish, Welsh and Scottish players. Forgetting of course, that these three nations could not produce a decent and consistent team in world football.

  • Comment number 37.

    To quote Daniel O’ Connell (who did not qualify to play test match cricket for England on the basis that he died 30 - 40 years prior to the first test match) “being born in a stable does not make a man a horse”.
    It’s a dull argument. I’m personally proud that that a Muslim born in Madras went on to become captain of England. I think that this is a positive reflection of our society and country which isn’t dominated by narrow minded individuals who judge people by their place of birth rather than their actions.

    Right, can we spend more time celebrating what a fine team England are. I have been following England for 30 years now. During that time you viewed every situation and asked yourself the question “how are we going to mess this up ?” You now watch England with a slightly unnerving calm as there is almost an inevitability about their play. Teams may be able to live with them for a time but they eventually succumb. Is this what it’s like to be an Australian ? (Minus the mullet haircuts and flies).

  • Comment number 38.

    I find it frustrating that England's achievement is constantly tarnished with the observation that this is an undercooked Indian team who have suffered injuries. This is a typical English mentality, even Aggers was bemoaning Cook's inability to accelerate towards the end of his 294. Staggering.

    Yes, India have suffered injury but so have England and we have barely blinked. To be the best team in the world you need depth and better preperation. I hear talk of this England team needing to perform away from home on dead, dust bowl wickets (3-1 thrashing in Australia anyone?). For India to have consolidated their number one spot they would have to do the same and perform on tour in unfamiliar conditions. The current score line in this series suggests they have failed in this.

  • Comment number 39.

    I've thoroughly enjoyed this series, it's really caught the publics imagination. It was great to see queues from both sides and great support for both sides, and it set me thinking. As India brought loads of fans with them, and I guess most of them would have been born here, it does seem a little strange that they supported India (their country of heritage) as opposed to England (their country of birth), it would be interesting to hear from someone in that position. I thought India in particular played the game in the right spirit, and in these days of rioting/looting what a pleasure to see both sets of fans just enjoying themselves.
    When you consider that football has to have a "respect the ref" rule, cricket just gets on with it, same as rugby, indeed footballers could learn a lot from cricket/rugby.....i.e RESPECT EACH OTHER...stop your diving and trying to get people sent off.

  • Comment number 40.

    Congrats to the English team and it's fans. It's been a very long time since something like this has happened to them. Now for the English commentators and critics, they are getting far ahead of themselves. Some claim England to be number one in tests for years to come, and Andy flower is already talking about winning 2015 world cup. You have to remember one important thing. This is India's first series loss in a long time and Dhoni's first loss ever as captain. It's one of those freakish series where everything went wrong from the first day till the last and England have outplayed them in their conditions, using India's woes and disadvantages. But I still wonder if Eng could hold on to that number one position for long. India will come back and South Africa is too good a team to keep Eng number 1 for long. It's going to be a hard fight for sure.Aus are never out of contention and so are SL. I find many people saying England is better than SL since they recently beat them in England. Again SL were beaten in ENGLAND. Wonder how England will fare outside England, where it gets really tough. And why do people always term WI and AUS as number 1 and not India which had been the second longest reigning number 1 after Aus and ahead of SA? India did not and still do not have a great bowling line up and despite that they had been Number 1 for so long haven't they? Now that is really special compared to WI and AUS of the past where everything and every department was perfect. Just focus on one series at a time. I find English fans often claiming Eng to be number 1 after one series victory and stomping them down hard when they loose one. Same with Indian fans. Many Indian players are termed as villains now after this loss. It's all too sad. Despite winning or losing people should support their teams. Things change pretty quickly. Take India for example. T20 WC win, Test cricket number 1, Asia cup winners, then the World Cup. They had all that and now they are dropping down fast and hard. The same could happen to every team in the world so don't raise expectations, get crushed later and start blaming the team. Things happen and victories and losses are common. Love and support your team all the time. And don't add pressure on Strauss and the others by expecting them to win everything they play. They might get thrashed in the very next series they play and drop down to three. So be ready to even face that. It's just a possibility. On a different note, I am really impressed by the lower order of England, best in the world right now. I think it was those three bowlers, Anderson, Broad and Bresnan who have got these three victories both with ball and bat. Enjoy while it lasts, but don't get disappointed if things go down again. Wish you English fans all the best

  • Comment number 41.

    #33
    Ireland don't play test macth cricket because they don't have a first class structure in place which would support the development of a test match team. Thus they cannont play competitive cricket at this level.

    Associates performing admirably at worlds cups is excellent to watch but in no way is it a marker for success in the longer format of the game and look at bangladesh who after 10 years of test cricket cannot beat Zimbabwe who havent played test matches for 5 years and struggle against a lot of associate sides in 3 day games.

    Ireland are the best associate nation and can compete regularaly with the big guns in the shorter form of the game but test matches are very different and thats why Morgan has to play for England if he wants to be a test match cricketer and to "blame" anyone is pointless.

    As for this nationality debate - it only seems to be an issue when England are winning, nobody battered on about Hick being born in Zimbabwe when we were at the bottom of the world rankings!

  • Comment number 42.

    Prashant: A 'freakish series'? You have lost by 200+, 300+ and an Innings and 200+ runs in 3 consecutive games. You had us 128-8 and still lost by 300+ runs.

    Wake up man.

    Stop making excuses and except that your team were not ready, and as a result you lost your top bowler. For the world's best team to loose one player and then be unable to win a game indicate a false position. You play and beat the lowest ranked teams in succession, which elevated you to the top of the rankings. You have played a top ranked team and been hammered.

    The best batting line up in the world? Failed to pass 300 in 6 consecutive innings. 2 tons in 3 matches, both from one player.

    NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

    Your team was cocky and complacent, and have paid the price.

    You only got a win here last time because the weather saved you. You were not that lucky this time.

    The first stage of solving a problem is admitting you have a problem.

  • Comment number 43.

    @6 LMAO
    @3 Like wasting time do you?

    come on England! First bit of good news we've had in a long time. Next up, tricky series in SA that will really prove if this team is number one.

  • Comment number 44.

    Congratulations England!

    As someone who advocated (on 606) the picking of Swann, Bresnan, Trott but also the dropping of Broad and Anderson over the past 2 or 3 years - what do I know?

    I think England can remain at number 1 for a few years, but should really consider a change and go for 5 bowlers.

    If all of the top 5 are fit then Prior at 6 and Bresnan, Broad and Swann offering regular contributions makes more sense to me, particularly as I do not see Bopara as test class. Morgan would be the next man in line.

    My next tip for England is Chris Woakes, when he fills out and matures a little he could slot in nicely.

  • Comment number 45.

    India have been blown away. Critics say that this is just indicative of the fall in standards, but the reality is England have developed a fearsome bowling attack who can deliver in all conditions. It also has strength in depth. Perhaps more test playing nations can learn from England and prepare conditions to favour the bowler more, rather than have them run up for 30 overs in a match for a spirited 1-95. Bowlers win you test matches, it's criminal how little they are given to work with.

    As for the batting, England's tail has made several match turning contributions in the last couple of years, taking advantage of tired bowling or just counter attacking with quick runs. When the batsmen have failed, the tail have responded and given England something to fight for. Magnificent, stuff you only dreamed England were capable of 10 years ago.

  • Comment number 46.

    @ P_RichardStroker - re: Comment 32

    Completely outstanding comment. This is precisely the point. The fact that we have people from different backgrounds as stakeholders in British society is entirely reflective of a cultural flexibility of which we should be fiercly proud.

    I happen to be married to an American. Our children are likely to be brought up in England, but it is incredibly important to my wife, and to her family, that they are taught about, and grow to understand both thier English and American heritages. If they choose America over England in work, love or life then that will be thier choice, and they will have EVERY RIGHT TO DO SO. English accents or not.

  • Comment number 47.

    Congratulations to all in English cricket who have turned around an undisciplined bunch of egotists into a ruthless cricketing machine in 10 years - an enormous achievement.

    What happened to to the infamous 'English Batting Collapse'? They were famed for getting themselves in promising positions in tests, then snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with a determination quite the equal of the way they now press home any advantage they get.

    It's quite disappointing really. While I'm full of admiration of the current England team, they don't have me sitting on the edge of my seat the way they used to, wondering when it will all go wrong and all be thrown away. I sit there relaxed, confident that it won't go wrong, and waiting for another almost-inevitable victory - and that's the biggest change in English cricket that I can remember.

  • Comment number 48.

    They do have to like cricket though.

  • Comment number 49.

    @ rfoj35

    Please keep your inanely obtuse and somewhat depressing comments to yourself. I'm proud to support the England Cricket team and long may their success continue.

  • Comment number 50.

    the plain fact is, we're the best there is.
    the next test is to become dominant, in the manner of australia and west indies. to do that, we need to beat sa, india and sri lanka.

  • Comment number 51.

    @ Cougarforest – I like your self-deprecation.
    However a component of England’s rise to #1 is maintaining the correct balance of 6 batsmen. The 5 batsmen vs 6 batsmen argument is answered by recent history. No team has been consistently successful playing only 5 specialist batsmen + a wicket keeper. If you are fortunate enough to have a decent bowler amongst your 6 specialist batsmen then great (eg Kallis, Imran Khan or Sobers). What you can’t do successfully is try to muddle through with only 5 batsmen plus bowlers who can bat a bit. The great 80s90s West Indies team – 6 batsmen, the great 90s00s Australian team – 6 batsmen.

  • Comment number 52.

    Oh dear, that old nationality thing. You might just as well whinge that a player born in Kent, who's parents moved to Yorkshire when he was 10 has no right to play for Yorkshire. And in another sport, Martin Johnson, probably England's greatest lock, 2003 World Cup winner and now England manager, played for New Zealand under-21s in 1990. Anyone want to whinge about that? The fact is, every sport, in every country, has an element of participants who weren't born in the country they play(ed) for. Let's get off this particular merry-go-round and move on, 'cause it ain't going anywhere.

    I am in awe of this England side. I sat up all night listening to 5 Live Extra, every night, to hear England put Australia so convincingly to the sword. Who didn't relish reading the reaction, particularly the Aussies', next day? I never thought to see/hear the like of it again. Watching this side of thoroughly professional, decent blokes play as they have brings a joy to my 61 years that's impossible to quantify.

    Duncan Fletcher and Andrew Strauss are proud of what's been achieved and rightly so.

  • Comment number 53.

    Whoops, sorry, wrong coach. I meant Andy Flower, of course.

    Silly old bugger, I am.

  • Comment number 54.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 55.

    @ rfoj35

    Apart from Football, name one team sport that is played to a high professional level by more than a handful of countries.

    The number of countries playing Test cricket is irrelevant - either celebrate a remarkable performance or ignore it if you aren't interested.

  • Comment number 56.

    This is what I want to hear when I'm too old to wipe my own bum;

    "Ahhhh - remember the great sides; the West Indies of the 70s, the Aussies of the 90s and England of the 10s"

    Now that would be great wouldn't it?

  • Comment number 57.

    Incredible achievement. The players and Andy Flower should all be really proud of what they have achieved. It was a pleasure to be there on Saturday. As soon as Dravid was out in the fourth over of the day everyone was sure that it would be over that day, with most even predicting before tea. In the past even in a dominant position you'd still expect England to at best hobble over the line. Not with this team however.

    Yes India have lost Khan and Harbajan - both really big losses for them. England however have lost Tremlett and Trott. Bresnan fitted seamlessly in place of Tremlett and without Trott - currently one of the worlds best batsman the team scored 710-7. To be the best side you need much more than just the best 11 players.


    http://iradar666.blogspot.com/2011/08/best-team-in-world.html


    @#37

    "It’s a dull argument. I’m personally proud that that a Muslim born in Madras went on to become captain of England. I think that this is a positive reflection of our society and country which isn’t dominated by narrow minded individuals who judge people by their place of birth rather than their actions."

    I couldn't agree more!

  • Comment number 58.

    3 things -
    No 3 - If you do not enjoy Cricket then (a) why are you reading this and (b) what makes you think that those of us who do enjoy it care about your banale drivel?

    On a more cricket-related theme, this side does remind me of the rampant Australia sides that could turn a poor situation into a winning one. Surely, the chief attribute or any 'world-class' sporting team or individual?

    The way England turned 128/8 into a competitive total contrasts starkly with how India dealt with a similar situation

    Lastly, I read with great amusement the inevitable nonsense about players being 'English', especially from Australians. Anyone remember that 'great' Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds, who was born in Birmingham? Besides, at some point in it's history, a large contingent of the Australian team would have been, at the very least, half English or Irish! As per New Zealanders (albeit half Scottish) and South Africans (okay, probably a fair sprinkling of Dutch, but don't mention that to them!).

    The Australian International Footballers Mark Bosnich and Mark Viduka, are obviously Australians, right? Wrong, they are Croatians.

  • Comment number 59.

    @37 & 57 - Too right - Nas would punch the lights out of anyone who suggested he wasn't English through and through. Thing about England is that we have always been culturally mixed - noone can claim to be pure anything and if they do they are lying. We all choose our identity - just like we choose the way we express ourselves to the outside world through our clothes, hair etc.

  • Comment number 60.

    AJP, don't forget AC/DC! True aussies they are, born in Scotland!

  • Comment number 61.

    England have made incredible improvements since the West Indies defeat and Strausses bad captaincy decisions there.They deserve to be number one but it seems they've played at least 16 games more than anyone else other than India, but even so they I believe could challenge anyone now and beat pretty well all of them, the South Africa series wiull prove the point though they need to be prepared for a lot of on field abuse, but they will win the series.Australia are rebuilding and in a couple of years will be a real force again but by then England will be so much stronger than they are even now, and could be one of crickets great all time test teams.one Day and 20-20 are all right but Test cricket is where it really counts,where tryly great teams are proved.

  • Comment number 62.

    Oh, and another thing - just how good are India really? Who did they beat on their way to the number one spot? How many of those victories were in India? Did they thrash the Aussies in Oz? Have this Indian side ever had any team 3 down for one run?

    I think that the pundits have been rather generous to the Indian batsmen, who cannot seem to cope with anything other than flat, slow, low bounce pitches.

    All the commentary I have read from Indians obsesses on just how poor their side has been. No credit, whatsoever, to the English team who made them look like the average side they undoubtedly are - with the obvious exception of Rahul Dravid, who is both a gentleman and genius batsman who is always overshadowed by his over-hyped team mates.

    So, come on India, show some grace in defeat and admit that your Number One ranking was probably more a flattering statistical anomaly than a true reflection of your cricketing prowess.

  • Comment number 63.

    An interesting article and I have no issue with either the quality of the team or that they deserve the no 1 ranking. However, they can only be the best team in the world if the current England side is its best team. Assuming Trott returns for Bopara that leaves the question of the no 6 slot. The current team would be strengthened by having Prior at 6 and a genuine all rounder at 7, with Morgan dropped. This will be especially important on Indian type wickets where having 5 real bowlers is essential. I have said it before and will say it again - the only real all rounder in English cricket is Chris Woakes. A test quality bowler and batsman not far short of Morgan. I am astonished that England selectors in the Jurassic 70s had the foresight to select Botham as a teenager but are too timid to select the best all rounder since Botham when he is already 22 with 4 highly successful seasons behind him. What do young players need to do to get selected? The selectors will have failed and risk our new found position in world cricket unless they adopt the approach of the old Aussie selectors - the best play, reputations mean nothing and if good players are dropped then thats fine as long as the replacement is better.

  • Comment number 64.

    @AJP 62- Yeah India beat aus in aus, they drew SA 1-1 in SA, they beat WI in WI, they drew with SL in Sl, beat Pakistan in Pakistan (before Pak was banned from hosting games), beat NZ in Nz and pretty much beat every team at home. So they did deserve the No.1 spot, and they did it with a poor seam attack, but good spinners and batsmen. england have beaten only Aus in aus and bang in bang, and won the rest at home. Agree England team is awesome now, but still India's rise to top is more justified than England's rise to the top, but I do know that England are going to win more in the coming months.

  • Comment number 65.

    For how long will people persist in arguing that England need to have a 5th bowler? One would think that the proof of the pudding is there for all to see: Currently no.1 in the world, and beating decent teams by decent margins on a regular basis. With four frontline bowlers. I'm afraid that the 5th bowler argument goes the same way as the argument that so many people seem to make about Strauss being too negative.

    Oh, and whilst I hate the idea of getting dragged into the nationality debate, there are so many blinkered people out there that it is hard not to. They are eligible, they choose to play for England, they play for England. That's it. Like so many others, its something about our country that makes me proud.

    In reality, people have made up their minds and they aren't going to change them. Sad, but there you go.

  • Comment number 66.

    All this rubbish about England's success being down to the recruitment of players from outside their country is a load of old tosh, all countries do it.

  • Comment number 67.

    64: India beat Aus in Aus?

    I think this England team is the best in the world at the moment but the obvious decline of other countires has been a major influence. As you say India did deserve to be number 1 but in this series a few of them have looked ragged (age catching up in some cases?) and some injury concerns about their main wicket taker.

  • Comment number 68.

    Prashant, you say India drew with SA in SA, well so did England

  • Comment number 69.

    @#64 - India have never won a Test series in Aus: they lost the last one 2-1 and have only won 5 Tests out of 36 there. They've never won a series in SA, either - although granted that they had no opportunity to play them until after apartheid. The only away series victory while No.1 was in the Windies. That doesn't mean they weren't no.1 - statistics don't lie, they just have limitations.

    That said, I guess there are only two teams in the modern era that you'd have backed to beat all-comers home and away - the Windies in the 1980s and the Aussies from around 1996-2004. At other times, whoever is no.1 is going to have weaknesses. I'm personally not convinced England could win in India now, mainly because the four-bowler strategy - which IMO is crucial to England's rise - doesn't look nearly as viable on slow pitches and without a reverse-swing specialist. But I'm completely convinced that India couldn't win a series in England; in fact on recent evidence they probably couldn't if you let them have an extra innings in each game.

  • Comment number 70.

    Deep-heat; I did not say England needed a 5th bowler to win in all matches. I said that the team would be made stronger by bringing in Woakes as a genuine 5th bowler who is almost as good with the bat as Morgan. I did say that a 5th bowler is essential in Indian conditions, given both the nature of the tracks and the heat. Anyone who has had experience of such conditions will agree with that limited proposition for the necessity of a 5th bowler.

  • Comment number 71.

    Wonderful effort by the English team! I'm Norwegian and started supporting England in cricket back in the mid-nineties - so the current achievement is all the more satisfying given the not-exactly-impressive state of the team back then.

    I am also glad to see all the sensible replies to the place-of-birth-ers. Surely that old argument should have been buried years and years ago and I am glad to see that for most people it has.

    Way to go England! The reality is however that they still need to show their mettle against South Africa (who I personally rank somewhat higher than India) and do a good showing in the sub-continent. That will be very interesting series - given how tough the all-conquering Australian team found it in India it will be exciting indeed! A good occasion for Cook to get his triple-hundred? :)

  • Comment number 72.

    Prashant, India did not reach the top of the rankings by beating quality teams away from India. Your recent record away from India is as follows (most recent test series first).
    England – Lost 3 – 0 (currently), Won 1 - 0
    Australia – Lost 2 – 1, Drew 1 – 1
    Sri Lanka – Drew 1 – 1, Lost 2 – 1
    South Africa – Drew 1 – 1, Lost 2 – 1
    New Zealand – Won 1 – 0, Won 1 – 0
    Pakistan – Lost 1 – 0, Won 2 – 1
    West Indies – Won 1 – 0, Won 1 – 0

  • Comment number 73.

    Fantastic effort by England, great all round team performance.

    Just like to comment about Eoin Morgan playing for England, look at it from his point of view, Ireland will never get full test status, he wants to be the best that he can be and cannot do that playing for Ireland, so the only thing he can do is play for England, like I am sure if a great talent comes put of Holland he will end up playing cricket for South Africa.

    i do think though England are number 1 due to the decline in the other side round the world, england have got better and everyone else prolly bar SA have got worse.

  • Comment number 74.

    Aussies are always banging on about a few people born overseas playing for England, yet they still like to claim that AC/DC are an aussie band. They've a promising young cricketer called Khawaja who was born in Pakistan and looks the natural replacement for Punter.

    Actually Morgan is the one I don't feel so bad about - he's a great talent that test cricket would've been robbed of simply due to where he was born. Good luck to him.

  • Comment number 75.

    Aaaah, the old "England aren't actually England" row, I thought it might rear its head. It would be disingenuous of me if I said I'm entirely comfortable with the amount of South Africans in the English system. However, this clearly doesn't apply to Strauss (English parents, moved to England when he was six) or Prior (English dad, moved to England when he was 11).

    That said, the likes of Pietersen and Trott are a different matter entirely. They're both South Africans, shaped by the South African system who probably would have been playing for South Africa if the South African system hadn't let them through their fingers and if English cricket wasn't a far more lucrative option. The same could be said for Craig Kieswetter, who, like Trott, played for South Africa at U19 level. It's not a case of xenophobia, it's just a case of what's the point in international sport if you're allowed to turn out for whoever it happens to be most convenient?

    What those who claim to be entirely comfortable with born and raised South Africans turning out for the England team have to ask themselves is this: how many South Africans is too many South Africans? You might be comfortable with two or three, but what if five or six of the side were born and raised in South Africa? Would you be comfortable with that, too? Not sure I would.

  • Comment number 76.

    If we're using greatness as a measure then surely the 2005 Ashes winning team was great, to beat an Australia team that had so many legends of the game, a team that would go on to record 16 consecutive test victories, including thrashing England 5-0?

    If we accept that England were great in 2005, surely we must conclude that the current team is just as good, if not better?

    It is very easy to blame this on a decline in world cricket, but when the India team has a batting line up consisting of some truly remarkable players it is hard to believe.

  • Comment number 77.

    Here's a summary of all the test series results between england and india since 1990:

    1990: India in England : England win 1-0
    1993: England in India : India win 3-0
    1996: India in England : England win 1-0
    2001: England in India : India win 1-0
    2002: India in England : Series drawn 1-1
    2005: England in India : Series drawn 1-1
    2007: India in England : India win 1-0
    2008: England in India : India won 1-0
    2011: India in England : England 3(4)-0

    To summarise, this is the first time England have beaten India in a test series since 1996! One-sided test series like this one usually happen when either team is in a major transitionary phase, of which India certainly is: Firstly, it is coming of a massive world cup win, which is compounded by the fact it was done on home turf with unprecedented home expectation - perhaps only football in south america might come close to the same level of home expectation. In 1993, India thrashed england at home - england were in a massive transitionary phase - moving on from the passage of eras from botham/gower and the likes..

    India's transitionary phase is similar to england's of 1993, albeit it is a better one to be in as far as india is concerned. There is unprecedented public and commercial interest in the sport - much of world cricket owes a lot to india for the tremendous interest that this commercialisation has offered world cricket. World rankings have been in existence since the 70s yet only since India made the quest for that title sometime ago have every other team wanted to dethrone them. This can only mean a world of good for cricket, which until a decade ago was a dying sport. Whereas a couple of decades ago, there was only public interest in the sport, today this interest is backed up by money that has never before seen in international cricket.

    The likes of Freddie Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen are happy to be at peak fitness at the start of an ipl season to ensure raking in a million dollars for not even putting up a single match-winning performance. But such is the passion of a die-hard fan base in india that they are willling to see supposed big names just the once. Neither freddie nor kp has played more than two matches in three seasons - you can either view them as opportunistic mercenaries or benificiaries of a well-informed indian fan base for global cricketing names.

    The big commercial success of the sport in india and a national passion will ensure a new crop of players will come to the fore.

  • Comment number 78.

    India would have put up more of a fight in this series (and quite frankly it would have been a more interesting series) if they had had more warm up matches. 1 3 day game in Taunton (lovely as it is down there) does not count as adequate preparation for a test series against one of the best sides in the world in foregin conditions. This is exacerbated by the fact that many of the side did not tour the west indies to play the three tests there and as such were seriously undercooked in terms of first class cricket.

    That being said I still feel England would have won the series, but perhaps India would have scored 300 at least once in 6 innings!

  • Comment number 79.

    @rfoj35 "Wow so England are number one out of the massive number of ten countries that play test cricket."

    As opposed to baseball, whose "World Series" since its inception has featured teams from, er, two countries.

  • Comment number 80.

    Yawn. Whilst the volume of drivel around players' countries of births was to be expected, even I was surprised at the depths of banality these commentators have managed to plumb.

    Until such time as it becomes a rule that only players born in the country they wish to represent are allowed to play for said country then there are absolutely no grounds for debate nor comment, and certainly no justification in trying to detract from the achievements of this fantastic England team.

    Is this the best England team ever? Not yet, but it certainly could be...

  • Comment number 81.

    somewhatlong: 2008, India were staring down the barrel of a 200 run defeat, and were saved by the weather. Should have been 1-1.

    So there is no expectation heaped on any England team playing in England (or anywhere to be honest)? Did you see the build up to the last Football World cup?

    So the whole of cricket owes it's success to India? No-one was bothered about being ranked #1 in the world until India were?

    Are you serious?

    Have you been reading too much BCCI propaganda?

    England's rise is down to terrific management, a solid team spirit and work ethic coupled with a talented squad, and the commercial backing (rightly or wrongly) of the Sky money.

  • Comment number 82.

    A lot of the improvement is from identifying who is test standard before they play.

    In the 90s, players like Giddins /Mullally/Ormond were asked to step up and face a rampant Aust team. Now, players go through a Lions squad and several stages to make sure they are ready (except for Pattinson!).

    The difference is you shouldn't have players who aren't test standard slipping through the net like the 90s

  • Comment number 83.

    Has anyone retro-fitted the current ICC ranking system to see what the current side would need to achieve to become the best england side?

  • Comment number 84.

    Re: Player origins

    I have to agree with Ben Dirs on this one. I have no problem with the likes of Strauss, Prior and even Dernbach all playing for England. They have been brought up playing cricket in England. Eoin Morgan is a slightly different matter, however i still feel he should be allowed to play for England as Ireland don't compete at test level. Perhaps he could still play ODI cricket for Ireland though? might be a a bit of a problem with timing of games etc though?

    The issue i have is with the likes of Trott, Pietersen and Kieswetter representing England. these are players who are all South African Born and raised (all be it with some for of Endlish heritage). They would all be playing for South Africa if they had been selected but SA cricket considered them both not good enough to play test cricket (looking back it's probably one of the worst calls ever and i think there may have been some racial quota stuff involved too?)

    I don't see how you can just jump ship after representing a country at age group level just so you can have a go at test cricket. That would be like Christiano Ronaldo (if hypothetically he had a Spanish parent etc) deciding he wanted to play for Spain so he could win the World Cup?

    Also im not just saying it is England that do it, Imran Tahir is a good example in South Africa at the minute.

    This is happening in Rugby and Football alot just now too. I just think that if people keep playing for contries that would not be their 1st choice the whole concept of international sport becomes obsolete? no?

    This said though even if Trott and Pietersen wern't playing England would still be a brilliant side, 700 runs without No.3 shows that. Not sure about Bopara at Test Level but James Taylor coming through is going to score loads of Test Runs!

  • Comment number 85.

    If a team can't be bothered to even field properly then they don't deserve to be number one. Good riddance to India - They're bad for cricket in almost every way imo. I'd rather Saffers,Windies, SL,NZ or even Aus? dunno about that one, be number one than India. I respect Dravid, top guy, but the rest of 'em I wouldn't give time of day. The SRT worship thing is ridiculous, he just grazed at third man throughout the Cook innnings whilst bowlers were fielding in the covers. That can't be right imo. I suspected that he (and Sehwag) would struggle to even buy a run in English conditions, and I'm glad I was right.

  • Comment number 86.

    Oh dear ... you lot are nearly as bad as the football forums!!

    Passion - lovely to see, from the fans of the game. I am having great difficulty adjusting to this new idea that you can listen (in my case - can't afford SKY sports - and I have to say the TMS team are excellent!!) to a game and not haveto sit waiting for the great disaster to befall the English Team. It has taken a few years of hard work and some major slip ups but they have got there... a well oiled unit who play for each other as much as themselves.
    I said a couple of years ago that we had the bowling set up sorted - there are 4 or 5 fine bowlers waiting in the wings, playing for the Lions chomping to get their chance in the side, this keeps the current choices on their toes, no place in guaranteed - and over the last 12 months we have seen the same situation develop with the batsmen. This also helps with the inevitable injuries you always have someone equally good to come in as a replacement.

    I can see the arguments that are raging on here as far as playing away from home - the bowlers really struggled in the WC (as did most teams TBF) but I believe at that time our batsmen were not strong enough and possibly a couple of wrong choices were made there - different game to a test, but we also got walloped by the Aussies in the 1 day games - not sure how much of that was the resurgent Brett Lee!

    Only time will tell if they are a truly great side for the moment all we can do is soak up the feeling - as my father said to me on Saturday - I wonder if this is how it feels to be Australian!!

    I feel for India also - yes some of their players are coming to the end of their careers - and I have so looked forward to seeing the sublime batting display they can produce - not to be so far, but I hope against hope that Sehwag has a better time at the Oval and he can stay in the middle with Sachin to aid him get his 100 - even as an English fan that would just top my summer off perfectly (to the person who said that Dravid was the only sublime player they have COMPLETE TOSH you don't know what you are talking about - that batting line up would quite rightly make most nations quake in their boots!!)

  • Comment number 87.

    dcb2, Pietersen has an english mother, an english wife, an english child, yet he is still a south african? He came to this country 11 years ago

    Trott made his debut for Warwickshire 9 years ago, and was called up to represent England 2 years ago.

  • Comment number 88.

    @HMMurdoch: Think you have completely misread my point about the levels of expectation heaped on England in any other sport. I meant to say india were coming from a successfully defending the expectation of a home crowd of a near billion - see the viewership figures for the india england tied game - was apparently the largest tv viewership figures for any live sporting event..not sure if england - even at football - can match that level of expectation. In England it seems quite a massive expectation because the media is dominated by a lot of english patriotism prior to most international events featuring england. What burden would you rather carry ? A 20-30 million (if that) english cricket expectations or a billion sub continental expectations. Having pulled that off, India were bound to slack off - add to that a change of coaches.

    The whole of the world unfortunately, whether you like it or not HMMurdoch owes much to India's role in commercialising the game and providing a global fan-base. The average indian is much more aware of the global cricketer than is the average englishman of the india cricketer - english commentators' pronunciation of indian players itself is a simple starting case in point..Tuffers still calls 'Kumble' (as in bumble, tumble etc) - for a man who has achieved much more as a world class spinner than tuffers ever has...Before england beat australia in australia, it was india who set the tone in 2003 that aus were indeed beatable in australia. England are yet to beat india in india. Did you see the success of the cricket world cup in india to ask the question of what india has offered to world cricket ? World cricket like all other sports needs finances and public interest, both of which india has provided in abundance. Whether you like it or not their clout in world cricket comes not because cricket boards across the world are too polite to disagree with the BCCI but because should BCCI withdraw interest in world cricket, it would take away the global interest levels in the game drastically. I can understand coming from a country of such a glorious colonial past, it must be disappointing not to have a major clout in something so huge globally, but unfortunately the rise of the indian middle class, and that country's economy is akin to the US not accepting their financial debt to china or the likes of david cameron denying of social unrest in london!

  • Comment number 89.

    Look, the rules are there, England are not breaking them. Lets put the Strauss Prior thing to bed straight away, Yes they were born in SA, so what, they lived most of their childhood early adult life over here.

    As for Trott and Pieterson, they have made their lives over here, they live here, contribute to society, it's one of the reasons this country is great. It allows people to do that.

    Lets look at an example, a couple (one english one aussie) are living in singapore, they have a son, who grows up to be a brilliant cricketer (rugby player, footballer whatever). Should he only ever be allowed to play for Singapore because that was where he was born. If the couple move back to England or Australia, should be be denied to play for either? Its nonsense, the world is a truely global place, people live everywhere, from all sort of backgrounds, no reason why sport should not reflect this.

  • Comment number 90.

    at last something to be proud of, the english sport i would say are underachievers but this england team looks very good, it could dominate for the next 3 years at least, they are a well rounded team the top the middle amd the tail end is very strong england have the best top 5 batsman arguable though but they are very consistent and high scores, strauss could be the weak link sometimes and peiterson but strauss, cook, trott, peiterson and bell are the best five batsman in the world as well, and the middle orders is also to broad, prior, swann they all could bat, but one thing might stop england dominating is that the away games lets say how they play at india sri-lanka and s.africa their toughest game but good luck to england, but special tribute to cook who is on the same wave length of scoring runs as the great sachin

  • Comment number 91.

    @Precio

    I think you have missed my point, that is that both Pietersen and Trott wanted to play cricket for SA. The only reson they don't is because they wern't considered good enough. Yes this was a bad call by SA cricket and possibly a little harsh on KP and Trott but thats life, it's not allways fair.

    I just don't like the "oh well SA said no i'll go try my luck with England" it just makes a mockery of International sport to me?

  • Comment number 92.

    (to the person who said that Dravid was the only sublime player they have COMPLETE TOSH you don't know what you are talking about

    ^^^^ by samson.

    Don't know if you're referring to me. I know laxman, srt and others are fine batsman - but they weren't setting a good example in the field imo. Just uninterested. Why the shortage of top fast bowlers? They've even set up an academy but they're all roobish. ZK and K Dev are about the only indian fast bowlers that deserve the title "very very good" imo, but even they're not great. Top 50 indian test wicket takers of all time the best average is 28.7!!! Shockingly bad - if that is totally down to flat boring wickets in india where they play half their games damaging their average then does that mean we can reduce the inflated averages of some of their batsmen by an equivalent margin?

    Lara beats SRT hands down imo.

  • Comment number 93.

    #91, so what about the point that these two have English ancestry, English families and have lived here for a decade?

  • Comment number 94.

    So if the BCCI withdrew from world cricket, the world would loose interest in cricket? Surely that would only effect the Indian market. There are 9 other test playing nations, would they also loose interest if India dropped out?

    They 'slacked off'? What are you on man? They are the #1 test side in the world and they slacked off? They then do not deserve the rank. They did not slack off, they failed to prepare. They put the IPL first, and half the team didn't play in the WI tour. They came under cooked and were soundly thrashed by the better team.

    All The BCCI have done is try to bully other nations into their way of thinking. The IPL has destroyed their test team and the technique of future prospects, and they are the only board to object to DRS for LBW. Is that to try and protect their much vaunted batting line up?

    You, and a large number of Indian supporters need to open you eyes and see what the BCCI is doing to your test team.

  • Comment number 95.

    dcb2, I do get your point. But I think in retrospect, Pieterson is very happy with his choice. I doubt he would swap back if given the chance, he has said many times that he feels that this is his home now, and as someone pointed out he has an English wife, english child etc.

    Yes, his reasons coming in the first place may not sit quite right, but it happened and no rules have been broken.

    I think the problem is far worse in Rugby to be honest, where people play League for one country then can play union for another,that doesnt feel right to me.
    But as for pieterson and Trott, I regard them as English now and have every right to play for us.

  • Comment number 96.

    @Kapnag

    Yes but the only reason they have lived here for a decade is that they wanted to try to play for England after SA turned them down. There is no way that Trott or KP would ever have considered England if SA had picked them. Anyone who thinks KP or Trott would have turned down SA saying the felt they were English and wanted to represent England is deluded!

  • Comment number 97.

    Lara beats SRT hands down imo
    -

    Agreed - it's not even a debate, and wasn't when Lara was still playing. Not only did he score big runs, he scored them when Windies need them most, on any pitch. Could take any bowling attack apart, the likes of Shane warne say he's the hardest player he ever bowled to

  • Comment number 98.

    Yes but the only reason they have lived here for a decade is that they wanted to try to play for England after SA turned them down. There is no way that Trott or KP would ever have considered England if SA had picked them. Anyone who thinks KP or Trott would have turned down SA saying the felt they were English and wanted to represent England is deluded!

    ===


    So trott moved here, then 7 years later plays for England - that's some premonition he had that one day he'd be selected for England, surely if all he was interested in was international cricket he would have stuck at it in South Africa. In that time he gets married and has a child in this country. Same as KP. All you want to do is sweep this under the carpet.

    So how does all that not give them the right to call themselves English?? The only argument against that you seem to present is a hypothetical one. Take sport out of it, if you spend 10 years living in a country, raise a new family there, why wouldn't you adopt that nation for your nationality?

  • Comment number 99.

    dcb2 - I think the point is that the quota system in place left them struggling to get game time for the provinces they represented let alone at full international level. They decided therefore to utilise there herriteges to achieve their ambitions and in both cases they have proven cricket south africa very wrong for letting them go! Would they have stayed in SA if they had been given international recognition - its a mute point by all accounts!

  • Comment number 100.

    Kapnag
    Shane Warne has stated that the best batsmen he has ever bowled to are
    1) Sachin
    2) Clear daylight
    3) Lara
    He also stated that John Crawley was the best batsmen in England, so he could talk complete tosh at times.

 

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