Ravenous run-scorers give England cutting edge

Andrew Strauss scores a century on his Test debut; Nasser Hussain retires after scoring a match-winning hundred at Lord's; Geraint Jones reaches three figures for the first time in only his third Test; Michael Vaughan becomes the eighth Englishman to score a century in each innings of a Test match; Robert Key posts the third highest score by an England player at Lord's; Andrew Flintoff smashes a career-best 167 at Edgbaston and Marcus Trescothick becomes the ninth English batsman to reach three figures twice in the same Test match.

These are just seven of the milestones reached by England's dynamic batting line-up during the summer of 2004. There are others too. Graham Thorpe helped to win the third Test against New Zealand with a brilliant century, Strauss scored another century at Lord's, this time against the West Indies, and Trescothick blasted the Kiwis for 132 at Headingley.

In all, eight players have scored 12 Test hundreds for England this summer. Not bad when you consider they have played only five of this season's seven scheduled Test matches.

Well, actually this achievement is far better than not bad - it is outstanding. It is a feat that has only been matched once by an England side in the 87 seasons of international cricket that have been played in this country. Denis Compton may have been the last England player to score four centuries in a summer - against South Africa in 1947 - but in 2002 four of England's current squad, along with Mark Butcher, Alec Stewart and John Crawley, filled their boots against Sri Lanka and India.

England's batting line-up of 2002 is in danger of losing another of its records to the present group of ravenous run-scorers in the coming weeks. Two years ago, Hussain's England scored 4,193 runs; this summer's greedy bunch of willow-wielders now have two Test matches in which to accumulate the 776 runs they need to pass this total.

With the Wisden Trophy retained and the knowledge gained that this West Indian bowling attack is weak and wayward - it has haemorrhaged over 500 runs in the first innings of six of its previous eight Test matches - England will expect to reach this landmark during next week's third Test at Old Trafford.

England's batting in Test cricket during the last 10 weeks has been wonderful to watch. As a group they have played with freedom and flair, and passed 440 on four occasions. They have also scored at a rate which has given their bowlers plenty of time to bowl the opposition out twice. In this period England's bowlers have taken most of the plaudits - runs help you to dominate and stay in Test matches but you have to take 20 wickets to win - but the batsmen have made this task much easier.

Several factors have allowed England's batsmen to score this quantity of runs. An increase in the number of Test matches played, the excellence of the pitches used and the quality of the opposition's bowling have all played a significant role. As have lightning-fast outfields, high-quality bats - where mis-hits go for six - and short boundaries. Each has ensured that batsmen get full value for their strokes.

But while England continue to win, these issues are unlikely to cause concern to any member of the side. The prize-money keeps adding up and Sunday's 256-run victory over the West Indies was the eighth in nine Tests this year.

Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, will have enjoyed sitting back in the comfort of the dressing-room watching his players dominate proceedings even if he is fully aware that life will not always be this straightforward.

Batting was far tougher in the Caribbean in March and April. Out there, runs were hard to come by, but England's batsmen showed they can battle it out on bowler-friendly surfaces. On occasions they walked off battered and bruised, but they dug in and, through the bravery and skill of Butcher, Hussain and Thorpe, posted competitive totals.

Injury and retirement mean that only Thorpe remains in the current side, but he and England's other experienced batsmen will be keeping the feet of Strauss and Key firmly on the ground. Good batsmen do not forget the difficult times - it is the reason why they ruthlessly exploit favourable conditions.

Strauss and Jones are yet to come up against the best in the world and we will know more about them in 12 months' time after they have played against South Africa and Australia.

But it is the fact that England's batting line-up now contains seven players who are capable of scoring Test hundreds which has given Fletcher the greatest pleasure. It is something he has always wanted, and this strength in depth gives England an excellent chance of recovering from a poor start.

What has been remarkable, though, is the way in which the batsmen have dove-tailed. In the game at Lord's against the West Indies, Strauss, Key and Vaughan scored centuries but Trescothick and Thorpe failed. Yet at Edgbaston the three who had been successful a week before perished early while Trescothick and Thorpe excelled.

The batsmen in the England team will not admit it but quietly, underneath the surface, they are competing against each other. Every cricketer playing in the international arena wants to be the star of the show and the one the television commentators turn to at the end of the day.

In some teams this can cause jealousy, which can lead to trouble. But under Vaughan's leadership every player appears to be enjoying his team-mates' success. Not only is this a healthy situation to be in, it is the sign of a good team.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
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

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup