As we’re generally a grumpy and cantankerous lot here at TFT, we thought we’d do something to redress the balance. So here’s a blissfully optimistic article by guest writer Philip Brennan. I can sense the storm clouds dispersing already. Over to you Philip …
It has always been the fashion to expect the least of English cricket. And that certainly held true at the start of this summer, in the wake of a woeful World Cup and a drawn series against an inept West Indies. Then we went to Ireland, it rained, and Peter Moores was jettisoned in the flood.
At that stage, no one could’ve predicted the spectacular summer England were about to have. The enthralling 1-1 early season series against the trend setting New Zealanders galvanised the team. England embraced an attacking style of cricket and took the Aussies head on. We ended up Ashes winners, with a reinvigorated limited overs unit, and a test side that hasn’t lost a series since Sri Lanka’s somewhat lucky 1-0 snatch in early 2014.
England have been building slowly but surely and they’re discovering a winning formula. They seem to have the depth and class needed to become a number one test team as well as world cup winners. This might seem a little optimistic, but what’s wrong with that?
It’s easy to forget we have England’s highest test run scorer of all time in Alastair Cook, and our leading test wicket taker of all time in Jimmy Anderson. We also have Joe Root, who was briefly the number one batsman in the world (although he’s since slipped to a still highly credible third).
England have an unrivalled depth when it comes to batting, with a plethora of promising all-rounders. Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Liam Plunket, David Willey and Adil Rashid have all having occupied slots six, seven, eight, nine and ten at various times this summer.
We also have a host of youthful batsmen, something Australia would kill for right now. Root, Ballance, Bairstow, and Taylor, all average in the 40s and 50s in first class cricket. They have the hallmarks of potential world-class players. Root already is one.
No, we don’t have any left armers that are close to immediate test selection, but do we really need one? Anderson and Broad have shown they can elevate a team to number one status, albeit for that short time in 2011 under Strauss.
With a supporting cast like Steve Finn (second best strike rate of current bowlers behind Dale Steyn), Mark Wood who can bowl in the 90s and Moeen Ali, who’s not as part time as everyone thinks, England should be able to take 20 wickets on a regular basis.
A 23-point gulf currently exists between England and the number one test team in the world, South Africa. Come Christmas I expect us to compete well in South Africa and hopefully prove the optimists right. It won’t come easy but England can reach the top of the pile.
There are several areas England need to figure out, though the spin depart isn’t one, contrary to popular belief. Let me know when Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid stop taking wickets. They showed at Old Trafford vs Australia they have the ability to prosper together on turning tracks.
The opening slot is the other question mark. Alex Hales is the next man to step out of the county circuit and into the test team by weight of runs. He’s the most exciting player England have tried at the top of the order for some time, and if he can do a David Warner there’s no reason why Cook and Hales can’t be a partnership for the ages.
With all that sorted, England just have to figure out how to win away. Hopefully their more carefree attitude will help them to play better in the UAE than they did last time. At least they don’t have to contend with their old nemesis Saeed ‘Bent Arm’ Ajmal this time round.
With Eoin Morgan at the helm of the ODI and T20 teams for the foreseeable future, England could become a great limited overs unit as well. Luckily the next World Cup is in our back yard so we should have more than a fighting chance. England usually do well in home conditions, as we saw in the Champions Trophy back in 2004 and 2013.
Progress has definitely been made this summer. We scored 400 for the first time in the opening ODI of the summer, beat the World Cup runners up and nearly beat the holders too.
Our batting looked unrecognisable at times. It’s definitely our strongest suit. Roy looked impeccable against the fearsome pace attack of Cummins, Starc, Pattinson, and Coulter-Nile. He could be the spearhead of our team come 2019.
The bowling is improving and, if we can find a good death bowler, we’ll have a well-balanced attack capable of taking us to World Cup success. Here’s hoping Willey or Woakes can fulfil their promise.
Overseeing this all is the masterly Trevor Baylis. We don’t see much of him; we don’t hear much from him; but he seems like a man with simple, effective ideas. If anyone can guide Alastair Cook and Eoin Morgan to success, rather than dictating to them, it’s Bayliss.
Perhaps this is all wishful thinking. Maybe I’m getting carried away. But if England can conquer this winter’s challenges they could become world-beaters in a year or two. They might just be able to sustain their success this time too.