Great cricketing year can lead to a golden era - Cricket - Sport - The Independent

Great cricketing year can lead to a golden era

England's long and glorious summer has finally come to an end. Stephen Brenkley in Kolkata looks back and sees good omens

Kolkata

England began and ended their year with victories. It is possible that the innings defeat of Australia in Sydney in January will be recalled down the ages more affectionately than the win by six wickets against India in a Twenty20 match in Kolkata on Saturday night. But the way things are going you never can tell.

Nobody can be quite sure that the epic deeds at the SCG when the oldest foe was swept away by methods that were as skilful as they were remorseless will not be airbrushed from history. T20 will be king of all it surveys and the events at Eden Gardens when a beaten team had the last word will be cast as an enduring monument to their renown.

Both, as it happens, were significant. The first match of 2011 confirmed a series as well as a rout, the last came as a merciful consolation, at the end of an unexpectedly depressing tour, which endorsed the team's standing. For the first time, England hold the Ashes, are ranked as the No 1 Test nation, are World Twenty20 champions and also the top rated Twenty20 side.

It is worth a parade but there would be rain on it in the form of the pesky one-day international charts, in which England have slipped to fifth and are jolly lucky that there are others who are worse in certain circumstances. If only there were only two forms of the game – but perhaps it is important to be careful what you wish for.

By any reckoning England have had a good year, and should be team of it when these things are announced. The 5-0 drubbing in the one-day series by India this month was deserved and untimely in this respect, but it should not diminish the previous deeds.

In all, five captains, all gently advised by a thoughtful, studious coach in Andy Flower, have propelled them to these heights: Andrew Strauss, whose team it still seems to be whoever is in charge, Alastair Cook, who is a work in progress if ever there were one, Stuart Broad, who barely had time to bed in, Eoin Morgan, who did the job with relish in the land of his birth and finally Graeme Swann, who looked the most natural and instinctive of the lot.

The squad – Swann's squad as it had by now become – left Kolkata for home early yesterday morning on a red eye flight, having beaten India by six wickets only eight hours earlier. India were 120 for 9, losing wickets carelessly to some splendid swing bowling and England knocked them off thanks to Kevin Pietersen's 53 from 39 balls.

They now have an unprecedented two months off in which they should dwell on their achievements and rest aching, weary limbs from the treadmill that international cricket has long since become. In January, it all starts again, with a virtually unbroken sequence of 30 months.

Next year, starting in the United Arab Emirates of all places, going on to Sri Lanka, coming home to England and thence departing for India, England will play 15 Test matches. They will also up the ante considerably on international Twenty20 matches because they have a title to defend, also in Sri Lanka, in September.

The year after that (pay attention at the back) they are playing in two Ashes series, home and away, as well as fulfilling various other limited overs obligations between times. The World Test championship, scheduled to be played in England in 2013, might have bitten the dust but it will only be replaced by the Champions Trophy.

If they are still the best Test team in the world at the end of that lot, they will also still hold the Ashes. It would mean an unaccustomed period of dominance for England. They have produced formidable teams in the past but they have tended to peter out, the most telling recent example, of course, being the team that won the 2005 Ashes. No combination of the 12 players who performed in that series appeared for England again.

Without taking anything for granted – and that has been done before as well – there is a different feeling about the manner in which the England of 2011 go about their business. In a fashion that would be the envy of the new World Series champions, the St Louis Cardinals, they appear to have all the bases covered. From one to seven in the batting with support on the way, from any number of seam bowlers with genuine knowledge of their craft, and with the world's best spinner, they are robust.

Fallibilities exist. The question of the second spinner must soon be answered, and will be when the squad for the tour of UAE is announced in a fortnight. In theory, Monty Panesar would complement Swann, turning the ball the other way as he does, and his 69 Championship wickets at 27.25 for Sussex this summer, easily more than any other spinner, represented something of a renaissance.

In certain conditions, England may feel it necessary to depart from what has become their tried and trusted balance of six batsmen, four bowlers and a wicketkeeper. If Matt Prior is the wicketkeeper, this could be comfortably accommodated but it would be helpful if the second spinner was more accomplished a batsman than Panesar.

This might open the selection door for Samit Patel, who is desperate for a bash at Test cricket, but his bowling at Test level could never be used for more than filler purposes. The younger brigade such as Scott Borthwick and Simon Kerrigan are far from ready.

Incidentally, although Patel began to look like a real international cricketer on the tour of India and could easily be judged on his batting alone, it would be a mistake to think that he is ever going to be Samit the Svelte. For Patel, the battle for fatness and fitness may never be truly over. And all the better for that, some might say.

England's fielding, in all forms of the game, has dropped off slightly but worryingly. They won six of their eight Test matches this year and, eventually, it was despite their catching. Throughout the year, they have missed Paul Collingwood wherever he fielded, and while that is not reason enough to send out an all-points bulletin demanding his recall, the others need to step up smartly. Slip fielding especially ain't easy, except when you are taking the chances.

But everywhere you look there is Test class, and what made Saturday's emphatic T20 win so alluring was that it was achieved by a young and athletic side with different traits. The running catch on the boundary taken by the 22-year-old Alex Hales, one of five players under the age of 23 to have played for England in India, was made to look deceptively simple. It would not have been taken by most of the side.

Whatever posterity goes on to say, the greatest act of the year was performed in the first week of January and whatever followed afterwards – even had it been World Cup triumph – could not eclipse it. Australia were beaten by an innings and 83 runs, having been overwhelmed only a week earlier at their other historic ground, Melbourne, by an innings and 157 runs.

This was England playing Test cricket at its most complete. In that match Alastair Cook made his third century of the series and went on to make another three during the course of the year, including a stately 294 at Edgbaston against India. Ian Bell made his first Ashes century and in August against India at The Oval played the most indelible innings of the year.

There is some competition – from the international player of the year, Jonathan Trott, from a resurgent Kevin Pietersen – but when the mind turns to cricket in the next month or two it will recall Bell's melodious batting on the second and third days.

The fast bowling has been uniformly excellent. Sydney apart, Chris Tremlett (remember him, he is up andrunning again) launched England to an improbable win in Cardiff against Sri Lanka with an superb spell on the final afternoon, Jimmy Anderson had the ball on a piece of elastic against India at Lord's, Stuart Broad rebuffed his mounting number of critics in resounding style with a hat-trick and six wickets at Trent Bridge, and Tim Bresnan was never found wanting in any form of the game.

All stirring stuff and capped off with the emergence of Steve Finn in the past two months. He is tall, fast, accurate, swings it and many batsmen in the course of the next eight years will feel as though they have been slipped aMickey after facing him.

Swann stands alone still. But a crucial time awaits him next year. In the UAE against Pakistan and in India in four Tests next autumn he has to live up to his billing all over again.

The loss in India this month and the face-saving victory were all overshadowed by another element which could not have been predicted. None of the six matches attracted capacity attendances, three had vast tracts of empty seats. And this in the powerhouse of the game. It was a warning about complacency, about overkill, about where the future lies.

For England for the moment, it lies in two months off. Toodle pip boys. Enjoy it while you can.

Golden summer: England's top performers

Tests: batting

Runs Ave. HS

IR Bell 835 119.28 235

AN Cook 738 73.80 294

KP Pietersen 695 77.22 202

 

ODI: batting

Runs Ave. HS

AN Cook 600 46.15 119

IJL Trott 518 43.16 98*

C Kieswetter 489 32.60 72*

 

T20: batting

Runs Ave. HS

KP Pietersen 127 42.33 53

C Kieswetter 102 25.50 58*

EJH Morgan 96 48.00 49

 

 

Tests: bowling

Wkts Ave. BBI

SCJ Broad 33 22.30 6-46

JM Anderson 28 26.53 5-65

GP Swann 25 32.48 6-106

 

ODI: bowling

Wkts Ave. BBI

TT Bresnan 19 37.84 3-43

GP Swann 18 27.88 3-18

JW Dernbach 16 41.56 3-30

 

T20: bowling

Wkts Ave. BBI

RS Bopara 8 9.75 4-10

JW Dernbach 7 15.00 4-22

SR Patel 5 22.00 2-22

Summer stats

Test matches

P W D L

7 5 2 0

Sri Lanka in England

26 May - 20 June

England win series 1-0 with two rain-affected Tests drawn

India in England

21 July - 22 August

England win four-Test series 4-0 with some superb and ruthless displays

 

One-day internationals

P W T L NR

15 6 1 7 1

Sri Lanka in England

28 June - 9 July

England win series 3-2 clinching thrilling decider at Old Trafford

India in England

3 September - 16 September

England beat a tired, bedraggled and injury-hit touring team 3-0. One rain-affected match is tied on Duckworth Lewis and one match is a no result.

England in India

14 October - 25 October

England fail to adapt to conditions and India win handsomely, 5-0

 

T20 internationals

P W D L

5 3 0 2

Sri Lanka in England: 25 June

Sri Lanka win by nine wickets

India in England: 31 August

England win by six wickets

West Indies in England

23 and 25 September

England and West Indies win one each

England in India: 29 October

England win by six wickets

Suggested Topics
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week