The Sydney Test is not a cricket blogger’s friend. 2010 has finished and we’re desperate to write a ‘review of the year’ art
icle. However, it’s almost impossible to reach any solid conclusions until the fifth test has been completed. Couldn’t they have moved the Ashes forward a week?
On one level the result at the SCG shouldn’t make too much difference to this review. England have made progress in all formats of the game during the last twelve months. We’ve won the T20 World Cup and retained the Ashes. The problem is, if we lose hideously at Sydney the impression will be that the team still has a long way to go.
Nevertheless we can still look back at the events of 2010 and assess how England have done thus far. Have we performed like a champion racehorse put out to stud, or have we sucked like Jimmy Krankie, aka Ricky Ponting, chewing a lollypop?
2010 began with a drawn series against the Cricketboks – a result we had mixed feelings about. On the positive side we didn’t lose. Defeat to South Africa at any sport is like having one’s Satsumas crushed by an iron sledgehammer. On the other hand, we probably deserved to lose.
Graham Onions had to block out the final over to secure draws at both Centurion and Cape Town. In between those draws, however, was a glorious victory at Durban by a gargantuan innings and 98 runs. Put that in your Vuvuzela and choke on it, Graeme Smith.
It was just a shame that the batsmen folded so meekly in the final test at the Wanderers, where dismal totals of 180 and 169 enabled the Cricketboks to square the series in emphatic style. At the end of the day, a 1-1 draw was a creditable result. However, it must not be forgotten that we’d won there in 2004/05.
Bangladesh …. twice (yawn)
As the team headed to Bangladesh for the first of two meaningless mini series against Tamin Iqbal, England’s inconsistency in South Africa made it questionable whether the team had made any progress.
The series away from home taught us little unfortunately – other than the fact that Bangladesh still aren’t any good – and the return series at the start of the English summer was even more irrelevant.
However, perhaps we shouldn’t be so dismissive. Those tests enabled Jonathan Trott to consolidate his place in the side after a difficult tour to South Africa. Thanks heavens for that! Otherwise we might have had Ravi Bopara batting at three in the Ashes – or some other random bloke who plays for Essex.
The middle of the summer was dominated by a sequence of tedious 50 over matches and a mini test series between Australia and Pakistan. The ECB should be applauded for enabling Pakistan to play ‘home’ matches in England. It’s just a shame that the Pakistan team was unable to show it’s appreciation by playing consistent and entertaining cricket on the pitch – and of course, avoiding controversy off it.
Whatever the eventual outcome of the investigations into Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif’s no-balls against England at Lords, the whole spot fixing scandal was surely the low point of the summer. It portrayed cricket in an awful light and cast doubt on the achievements of cricketers across the world. What a shame.
The England versus Pakistan test series was also largely forgettable. England steamrollered their opponents in three of the four test matches thanks to some typical English seamer-friendly pitches i.e. ones that make James Anderson unplayable.
At TFT we thought the only significance of these matches would be that they built up Jimmy’s confidence before the Ashes. Little did we know at the time that the Aussies were going to prepare an identical wicket at Melbourne. Thanks fellas! You might want to rethink that one in 2014.
The limited overs stuff
Retaining the Ashes is such a big deal that we’ve almost forgotten the other trophy we beat Australia to this year. I am of course referring to the T20 World Cup, when we gave them an absolute spanking in the final.
I’m not a great fan of T20, as I’m a bit of a traditionalist and I worry about its long term impact on test cricket, however I must admit that I found the tournament highly enjoyable – which I suppose is the point.
Beating Australia in that final also gave me immense pleasure, even if Ricky Ponting unfortunately wasn’t there to suffer it.
England have made amazing progress in limited overs cricket under Andy Flower. It was an absolute joy to see an athletic, enthusiastic and attacking England outfit. We were the best team in the tournament – including the best fielding side – and we thoroughly deserved to win.
Duncan Fletcher was an excellent (if a little conservative) England test coach, but his strategies for limited overs crickets were woollier than Bob Woolmer’s favourite woolly fleece. Having Andy Flower on board gives England the best of both worlds. We’re still a disciplined test team but also an innovative and positive one day team. Well done Andy!
We’ve written enough about the Ashes over the last few weeks – and I’m sure you’ll read a lot more about them once the fifth test gets under way. Let’s just say that whatever happens at the SCG we’ve had the wood over the Aussies in 2010.
Although Australia occasionally even the score by taking advantage of favourable conditions, their recent successes against us have been ephemeral. The new generation of England cricketers like Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann do not have mental scars against the Aussies. When they see Canary Yellow they become inspired rather than turning into chickens. Long may it continue.
New Year’s Resolutions – where can we improve?
England have had a great year, but there is still room for improvement – as Andy Flower likes to remind us with the regularity and predictability of Mitchell Johnson long hops.
The batting has been particularly erratic this year – we’ve scored 300+ just seven times in twenty attempts. However, things will look more positive if our batsmen finally show some consistency and string some back-to back performances together – starting at the SCG.
On a more positive note, the bowling has been excellent – confounding the view, espoused by myself and others, that we can only be effective with five bowlers. Results in 2010 suggest that if England can cobble together enough runs, the team usually wins.
The dream, of course, is that England can find another Andrew Flintoff i.e. somebody who can bat six or seven, take regular wickets, and enable us to play five bowlers without weakening the batting. If we can manage that, and Eoin Morgan fulfils his potential as a long-term replacement for Paul Collingwood, the future looks incredibly bright.
Unfortunately, however, genuine all-rounders are a rare commodity – as rare, in fact, as England teams winning or retaining the Ashes down under. The fact we’ve managed to do this without a Botham or a Flintoff shows what an excellent job Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower have done.
Our Ashes success also shows the value of having a world class spinner and a top class number three batsman. We found Graeme Swann in 2009. We found Jonathan Trott in 2010. Who will emerge in 2011? If it’s a genuine all-rounder, I’ll strip naked and run around the Oval outfield like Max Walker on speed.