Reaching No 1 is the easy bit, staying there is the hard part

England are on the brink of topping the world rankings but here are five goals they must achieve to stay there in the long term

England are not yet on top of the world and, quite rightly, Andrew Strauss will not talk about what comes next if or, more likely (on the basis of what happened at Lord's and Trent Bridge), when his men complete the job and dethrone India as the No 1 Test team.

But a benefit for those of us on the outside looking in is that we do not need to take one ball, one day or even one match at a time. So let us assume the best, work on the theory that Strauss and Co will win or at least share the last two Tests (at Edgbaston and The Oval) and try to analyse how England stay on top after being crowned in either Birmingham or south London.

1. Keep Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower as captain and coach

Strauss is going through a lean spell, which is a bit worrying. He has not made more than 32 in any of his eight Test innings, against Sri Lanka and India, so far this summer and his record shows only one century (against Australia in Brisbane) in the last couple of years. But there is a wonderfully calm air of authority about his captaincy and England would like to have him at the helm until at least after the 2013 Ashes defence on home soil.

No team can afford to carry a captain, though, so the sooner Strauss resumes normal run-scoring service, the better.

But if anyone needs reminding how quickly the wheels can come off when a trusted leader suddenly falls by the wayside, think back to 2006 and what happened once Michael Vaughan's fragile knee wrecked England's planning.

As for the coach, the worry is that family man Flower will tire of relentless travelling before his job is fully done. There is talk (but nothing concrete as yet) of letting him miss out on the occasional tour and this idea must not be allowed to evaporate. Flower is at the top of his game and England need to look after their most valued employee in order to keep him fresh and sharp for a few more years.

2. Win on the subcontinent

This has always been a lot easier said than done for English teams (and, to be fair, the great West Indies and Australian sides of the fairly recent past never found it a breeze, either). But to stay at No 1 for any length of time you need to be able triumph abroad as well as at home.

England's first trip after their great Ashes win of 2005 was to Pakistan, where they promptly lost. And while three Tests against these hugely unpredictable opponents early next year will be played in the United Arab Emirates (because of ongoing security issues in Pakistan), conditions are still more likely to favour the "home" side.

Next on the agenda, straight after the United Arab Emirates trip, is a two-Test tour of Sri Lanka, where England have lost their last couple of series and generally found the combination of blistering heat and pan-flat pitches hard to handle.

Winning in India is the biggest subcontinental challenge of all, though. England have been victorious in only one of their last 11 Tests in that country and have lost three of the last four series there. Turning the tables in India must be a big target, regardless of whether or not England are No 1 when they next visit for Tests, in late 2012.

3. Win the World Test Championship in 2013

The idea is that the top four teams in the Test rankings battle it out – with two semi-finals (presumably 1 v 4 and 2 v 3) followed by a (possibly timeless) showdown to produce a champion. This is just one of the ideas (along with such things as day-night play) to try to attract more interest, around the globe, in the oldest form of the international game.

Whether or not the scheme is short-lived, England are due to stage the first event in 2013, with the final certain to be at Lord's. So why not win the thing? It won't prove you are the best of the four contenders over the long haul (think of football play-offs for producing "injustices") but it could be a brilliant end to an Ashes summer for England.

4. Balance the team

England continue to do very nicely with only four front-line bowlers. The potential for cricketing disaster is obvious, of course, and has become a reality for India in both Tests so far this summer (Zaheer Khan's injury at Lord's and Harbhajan Singh's problems at Trent Bridge reducing them to an impotent three-man attack).

It is not the possibility of someone collapsing in a heap that will force England to change tactics, however, but the sight of a pitch absolutely demanding two spinners (and there could be several of those this winter).

Without Paul Collingwood, England cannot rely on two pacemen and two twirlymen so there will have to be five bowlers sooner or later. Fortunately, there is more than enough lower-order run-making ability (Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann) to put Matt Prior at No 6 and leave out a batsman. But who will be Swann's spin partner in Sri Lanka and possibly the UAE?

Monty Panesar seems the obvious choice. But in some ways he is yesterday's man so perhaps, for a team going forward, Hampshire's young left-armer Danny Briggs is the boy to look at. Or, if more of an all-rounder is required, Samit Patel.

5. Stop the shockers

Any team can lose, but when England have been bad in recent years they have been absolutely awful: Perth last winter (187 and 123 all out), The Oval last summer (from 194 for 3 to 222 all out during a four-wicket defeat by Pakistan) and Headingley 2009 (where Australia beat them by an innings and 80 runs) spring to mind.

Not one of those defeats was ultimately costly but performances like that are not the stuff of true champions – and both Flower and Strauss are determined to make sure they happen no more than once in a blue moon.

England stars on rise

Ian Bell's superb 159 at Trent Bridge takes him to fifth in the latest ICC batting rankings while Stuart Broad's heroics put him seventh among the bowlers.

England's highest-ranked Test bowlers:

2. J M Anderson

4. G P Swann

7. S C J Broad

10. C T Tremlett

18. S T Finn

England's highest-ranked Test batsmen:

4. I J L Trott

5. I R Bell

11. A N Cook

15. K P Pietersen

21. M J Prior

News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
people
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Today's Liverpool Echo back page
football
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
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

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?