As the dust
settles on England's ascent to the top of the Test ladder, it could easily be
forgotten that just two and a half years ago the team were squabbling amongst
disagreement between then captain Kevin Pietersen and coach Peter Moores saw
England begin 2009 without direction, floundering in sixth position in the world
captaincy was handed to Andrew Strauss, and batting coach Andy Flower was
appointed stand-in coach for the upcoming tour of West Indies.
England get from where they were then to where they are today? Cow Corner looks
at 10 key moments in their progress:
1: West Indies bowl England out for 51 in
Jamaica, February 2009
first game as captain England had played three up and down days against
West Indies, conceding a manageable 74-run deficit. West Indies did not need to
bat again, slicing through the England line-up like a knife through butter. After 33.2 overs, 10 wickets had fallen as
England folded for 51 against a side languishing near the foot of the world
They said: "It was a horrible day to watch, and now
we've got to start planning our way forward." Andy Flower
The importance: Could it get any worse? England's results over
recent seasons had been erratic, but this was a low. The status quo could not
continue - leaders had to be listened to.
2: England survive extraordinary finale in
Cardiff, July 2009
arrived for the Ashes in 2009 weaker than they had been in Australia two years
prior, but still favourites against a fragile England side. And they played
like it for 14 and a half sessions out of 15, too. Having dismissed England
for 435, they responded by posting a remarkable 674 for six declared, and left
England staring at another innings defeat. When Paul Collingwood's rearguard
was ended, England were 233 for nine, and Monty Panesar and James Anderson were
left to negotiate 11.3 overs to save a draw. Somehow, they did it.
They said: "You can take a lot from performances like that. As
captain, I was very happy with the fight we showed in the latter half of that
day and that is a huge attribute to have as a side - probably more important
than any other attribute you have." Andrew Strauss
importance: England lacked
inspiration, but they had discovered fight. Defeat could have signalled another
desperate summer - but the hosts lived to fight another day in the Ashes.
3: Getting selections right - Jonathan Trott
makes debut in final Test of Ashes, August 2009
needed a batsman for the most important Test they had played in four years. Having
nudged ahead, they had just come off a three-day, innings and 180
runs walloping at Headingley to see the series levelled again. Ravi Bopara could have been
retained, but his confidence was shot. Hard as it is to believe now, Mark
Ramprakash was seriously discussed as a one-off replacement. Trott was picked -
not everyone's first choice. He scored 41 and 119 as England wrapped up the win
They said: "Obviously the selectors showed huge faith in me
and I'm pleased to be able to reward them. I definitely felt I was in good form
still and if the chance came I would hopefully grab it with both hands. I got
the chance. I was gutted to get out for 41 in the first innings."
The importance: Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower, backed by the
selection panel, have got more selections right than wrong during their tenure,
but none, surely, was more crucial than picking Jonathan Trott for the Ashes
4: Competing with the best - as a team, Ashes
You could point
to a handful of moments where individuals shone for England in the Ashes, but
the numbers pointed to a team display doing the business. Six of the top seven
runscorers in the series were Australians - as were the top three wicket
takers. Australia took 12 more wickets in the series than England did, but
still ended up on the wrong end of the scoreline.
They said: "I am very proud of what we've
achieved but things move on very quickly. There is no room for complacency, we
are number five in the world and there is a big gap between us and number
four." Andy Flower
The importance: In a team perceived as lacking star
names, with Kevin Pietersen injured for most of the series and Andrew Flintoff
playing despite considerable injury difficulties, there were enough moments of
magic and tenacity from other players at the right times to get results.
5: Coping with the retirement of Flintoff,
have been reduced to playing on one leg at times, and his batting form may have
deserted him, but at the time of his retirement in 2009 he remained a lynchpin
of the side. While the experts debated whether he was a true great of the game,
nobody doubted that his ability to balance the side and allow five
bowlers to be picked would be missed. And yet, in a fighting draw against one of the world's
top Test sides, South Africa, over four Tests, England proved they had lost none
of their resilience along with their talisman.
They said: "We'll miss Fred. It must be soul-destroying to keep
having to undergo rehab all the time." Andrew Strauss
The importance: Flintoff could no longer be relied upon - and
England didn't. The decision to play four bowlers was taken and persisted with,
and to many observers, securing 1-1 a draw against a formidable South Africa
team away was a more impressive achievement than winning back the Ashes.
6: England win the T20 World Cup, March 2010
nation that gave cricket to the world, it was a little embarrassing that they
were the only major nation not to have won a 50- or 20-over international
tournament. With only a handful of their players competing in the IPL, they
were not amongst the favourites in the Caribbean,
but managed it in clinical fashion.
They said: "There's a lot of
confidence in the side; you can see the belief that we've got going out on the
pitch. The power that we've got, the thought processes the bowlers are using,
the fielding, everything seems to be stronger." Paul Collingwood
The importance: Not Test cricket, but the triumph bred
winners - Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad and others learned what it was like to
produce under pressure, and see a campaign through to a successful end. And
they did it without Strauss as captain.
7: The development of a pace bowling 'squad',
Anderson and Stuart Broad had been developing quietly into England's opening
bowlers of choice, but the ageing Ryan Sidebottom had struggled with injuries
for the best part of a year, and the promising Graham Onions was also to suffer
a knock which put him out for the 2010 season. Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn went
to Bangladesh as Anderson was given a rest. Both showed enough to stay in the
frame for England, and with the emergence of Chris Tremlett in the year,
England suddenly had an embarrassment of riches from which to pick.
They said: "We
have a very busy 12 months ahead of us and we are going to have to rest players
at various times. In certain situations it is possible that we will have to
rest some players either for emotional reasons such as stress, and sometimes it
will be for strength and conditioning reasons. With our schedule it will be
hard to fit enough strength and conditioning in." Andy Flower
The importance: A deep bowling attack means England have
been able to cope better with the inevitable injuries have befallen the team -
but also allowed a degree of rotation to keep the bowlers' workloads manageable
and prevent fatigue.
8: Keeping the faith - England persist with
players who might have been dropped, 2010-11
is not only about picking the right new faces - it is about knowing when to
hold on to the old ones. The often
abysmal England of the 1990s changed players as often as it changed
socks. At the other end of the scale, Duncan Fletcher and Michael Vaughan drew
criticism for taking players into the 2006/7 Ashes who had long since passed
their prime. If Flower and Cook had followed popular opinion, run-machine
Alastair Cook would not have started the 2010-11 Ashes (1470 runs at 98 since
then), and Stuart Broad would have been axed for the India series (in which he
is averaging more than 60 with the bat and under 12 with the ball).
They said: "I don't have concerns. It's one
game, two innings. I think he's going to do well." Andy Flower after Cook
failed in a warm-up game ahead of the 2010/11 Ashes.
The importance: The art of selection is to walk a tightrope between stability and
complacency, between demanding performances and allowing for troughs in form.
9: Breaking the Ashes curse in Australia,
was deemed more important nor more difficult than winning the Ashes in
Australia, something England had failed to do - repeatedly, and disastrously -
for 24 years. To retain the urn by a 3-1 margin, including three quite enormous
victories at Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, saw standards set, reputations
enhanced, and legends born. For the first time, this England team were credible
contenders for the top ranking.
They said: "He [Flower] won't let us have an easy time. He
will demand that we get better and better. That will hold us in good stead. Whether
I can achieve again what I've achieved here, it would be amazing. I honestly
cannot believe what I've just done, and the team as well. I think we'll sit
here and enjoy today then worry about tomorrow, tomorrow." Alastair
The importance: So much of cricket is in the mind - and England had
finally slain their biggest demon, the Australians on their home patch. And the
team performance which had seen them win the urn in 2009 was supplemented by
some extraordinary individual displays 18 months later.
10: Crushing India, July-August 2011
fans were braced for a stiff test from India, who had been ranked as the
world's best side for almost two years. Their batting order has amassed more
runs than any other in history, and they had also lifted the World Cup on home
soil just three months before to boost their confidence. But despite glimmers
of fight, India have had their spirit broken by an England team that now bats
with confidence all the way to the tail, and poses question after probing
question with the ball. On current form, England are set to make India cede
their crown with a whitewash.
They said: "We used the goal to be No.1 as a
motivational tool but now we have achieved that what Strauss and I don't want
to do is just to hang on to No.1 status. That's not a very exciting way to go
about our business. We are going to have to reset our goals and I'd like to do
that not only with the captains but with the team. We've always had a goal of constant self-improvement
and that doesn't change just because our ranking points change." Andy
The importance: England
briefly had the world at their feet and the urn in their hands in 2005 - but a
series defeat in Pakistan later, they were on their way back towards
mediocrity. Strauss was ever-present at the time - he, like Flower, understands
the lesson that must be taken from that this time around. This series must not
be England's peak.