Nasser controls the popular vote

England captain plays down the traumas of his own form to emphasise the achievements of coach and team

This is a new England. It is an England where pride has replaced shame, where confidence has overtaken uncertainty, where hard work has done for the soft option. Mostly, of course, it is an England where winning has supplanted losing. After that, all the other stuff is easy.

This is a new England. It is an England where pride has replaced shame, where confidence has overtaken uncertainty, where hard work has done for the soft option. Mostly, of course, it is an England where winning has supplanted losing. After that, all the other stuff is easy.

Not that easy was what came to mind as England's triumphant summer was brought to its dramatic conclusion at The Oval and the massed ranks of cricket supporters, the like of whom it was feared had ceased to exist, thronged across the ground to acclaim their heroes. The team's captain, Nasser Hussain, sank to his knees and it was not ecstasy but pained relief which lined his suddenly tired face.

Hussain managed to drag himself up to the dressing-room and there he sat briefly in a corner and put his head in his hands. This was the moment for which he had waited, the biggest moment of his career, bigger than all his Test hundreds, bigger than his first international selection, all his recalls since, his elevation to the leadership. And the captain was depleted to the point of exhaustion. Maybe he was thinking about what was to come next - Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia - and realised, truly, that he ain't seen nothin' yet.

Not long afterwards he faced the Press, an ordeal which he has always handled well. He was no less obliging this time, though he curtailed questions on his own dreadful batting form, wishing to concentrate on his team. But he did not try to disguise his torment, why he had thought about nothing else for two months but how to beat West Indies for the first time in 31 years ("to be honest I hadn't realised it was that long") and that he must in some way divide his responsibilities better to ensure his batting does not continue to suffer.

His meagre haul of 148 runs in 13 Test innings is a run threatening to break undesirable records but it appears not to have affected the supporters' view of him. A poll has been running all week on the England and Wales Cricket Board web site which asks readers to nominate the man of the series against West Indies.

More than 60,000 votes have been cast. The opening bowlers, Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick have garnered a similar number of nominations, 5,082 to 6,172. Michael Atherton, his deeds in the Fifth Test still fresh, is second with 21,183 votes. But in first place lies Hussain with 21,221 crosses against his name.

There may be an element of sympathy here, but it is also a reflection of the electorate's thanks. Little more than a year ago, Hussain was booed as he stood on the balcony at The Oval and said, mysteriously, that he was proud of his team. The lot that had just surrendered to New Zealand.

But Hussain, the coach, Duncan Fletcher and the remodelled side have delivered this summer. They have won two Test series, sponsored by Cornhill for the last time, and the inaugural NatWest one-day triangular tournament. It has quickly imbued a deep mutual respect. In the aftermath of The Oval, Gough said that he had been surprised how they had gelled and added that Hussain "is by far the best captain I have played under". Hussain said that Fletcher "is easily the best coach I have been involved with".

Well-meant, possibly justifiable sentiments both, and at this point it was possible to believe that Fletcher might come in and talk of the greatest team he had ever coached. He is much too sensible for that. He heaped praise on his captain and then this calm man said how he, too, had been consumed by the job. He would be playing golf to relax, walk up the fairway to his next shot and by the time he had reached the ball have thought about selecting the right team.

Little more could have been asked of England this summer (Fletcher, still sensible, pointed to their batting) and it would be plain wrong to suggest that they have not made terrific advances and have renewed their self-belief and all the other things teams do when results go their way.

But to try to regain some perspective after the heart-warming scenes in south London it is sensible to consider not only what has gone but also what is to come. Any team wishing to go up the world rankings - and England's only way was up - might have chosen to play at home against Zimbabwe and West Indies.

The first tourists had never been to England before and can hardly have known what to expect in terms of climate, pitches and tradition. They duly froze at Lord's, blinded by all that history in the Long Room presumably, and their improvement at Trent Bridge was all too late.

The second tourists arrived having performed heroically in two taut home series and with a 31-year unbeaten run against England to protect. But they also came with a team weak in a multitude of areas and a record of not having won away for five years, indeed of having lost their last 10 away Test matches. They duly rectified the latter statistic first up at Edgbaston and England were in trouble.

It might have been 2-0 at Lord's and it was within two wickets of being so with England still needing nearly 30 runs. Then, none of the celebrations of the past week would have happened. The Oval would not have been packed on Monday, a new generation would not have found new heroes.

But once England started to perform they found West Indies' soft underbelly. The turning point, said Hussain, was when Caddick "decided to get out of bed at Lord's and bowl out the West Indies for 54". The NatWest Series was a diversion, not always a pleasing one, but winning it showed that England are again taking the one-day stuff as seriously as they should.

So, they go soon to Pakistan and in the new year to Sri Lanka. Next summer, Pakistan reciprocate with an early visit and are followed by the Australians. The euphoria of triumph should not cloud judgement. It is conceivable that England will not win one of these next 13 Tests.

Pakistan next May gives them their best opportunity but not only have they not been to Pakistan for 13 years, they have only ever won one Test there, and that was their first (of 18 in all) 38 years ago. Wasim Akram might have been indulging in gamesmanship when he played down England's chances on Friday but what a lawyer would give to be supported by such a stream of precedent.

England already recognise that the Sri Lankan leg will be tough - "Pakistan will be hard, Sri Lanka will be harder," said Gough - and Fletcher has confirmed that serious work will be undertaken on the playing of spin. It will need to be. The last time England faced Muttiah Muralitharan they might as well have played him in a strait jacket and lead boots and frequently gave the impression of doing so.

With this to come, talk of the Ashes was at best done reluctantly. But it is that, only that, by which the triumph and the euphoria of the last week can be measured. If Hussain can fall to his knees, drained next September and hoist a replica of the tiny urn above his head his team will genuinely have arrived. They will be New England all right.

Duncan Fletcher has an expression which he has picked up from the worldly Phil Tufnell. There is, he says, always a flip side. Celebrate this momentous summer certainly, but understand that within a year Fletcher and his boys may know the flip side better than they can have feared.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home