Stephen Brenkley: World rankings are wrong, England are already No 1

Thanks to the astute leadership of Flower and Strauss, their dream should soon be officially realised

Nobody who watched England on Monday will forget it. Here were a team operating almost at the peak of their considerable powers. Here were a team who may well be the best on the planet. India, their opponents who they defeated by 196 runs in the first Test of four, continue to occupy the official No 1 place in the ICC rankings for now. The table cannot be updated until the conclusion of the series on 22 August, but the evidence from Lord's was overwhelmingly persuasive.

England functioned with a resilience and conviction that made them difficult to withstand. From the moment they lost the toss under heavy cloud cover, there were several periods in an engrossing match, which paraded Test cricket in all its glory, when they might have wilted.

But each time, in each of the four innings, they responded as champions do by finding a way, and their exhibition on the final day was relentless. The occasion was uplifted, if it needed it, by an exultant crowd which had turned up spontaneously, rather than having booked tickets months and months in advance.

Andy Flower, England's exemplary coach, who carries perspective and commonsense around with him along with the practice balls and bats, was having none of the best team in the world tag yesterday. "We don't feel we are No 1 in the world because we are not," he said. "We are No 3."

At present, officially, England are behind both India and South Africa, though officialdom is not always right and is often wrong. To overtake South Africa, England have to beat India by one clear match, to go top they must win by two.

Flower said: "When we are ranked No 1 we can say that we are, so there is a whole heap of work to do before that happens and we don't know the outcome of the series. We have only won one out of four matches and there is another vital game around the corner and we have to be on the top of our game to win it.

"India are a very fine side. They didn't get to the No 1 spot in the world by being poor and by not fighting back. We are ready for that fight and we will be ready for Friday. Talking rankings is pointless at the moment."

Pointless but inevitable, unfortunately for Flower. Some of his perspective may be required before the open-topped bus sets off from Trafalgar Square on the way to the Palace. India, as they were quick to mention, had little luck. They entered the match without their rampant opening batsman, Virender Sehwag, who is recovering from a shoulder operation.

During it, their best bowler, Zaheer Khan, hobbled off with a hamstring strain that may keep him out of the second Test beginning at Trent Bridge on Friday. Their batting order in the second innings needed revising after Gautam Gambhir, the other opener, was hit on an elbow, and Sachin Tendulkar, their continuing legend, was stricken by a virus.

In addition, the tourists had only one match in which to acclimatise. But they were hardly short of cricket, having completed a Test series of three matches in the West Indies on 10 July, in which eight of the Lord's team played. Primarily, make no mistake, India were beaten by an England team who are conscious of their goals and know what they have to do to attain them.

The four bowlers were outstanding, lending clarity to the idea of acting as a unit. The batting, too, was extraordinary. Having been inserted, England had tricky conditions to negotiate. Four studiously gritty innings – one by Kevin Pietersen was converted into a masterpiece – ensured they did so. In the second innings things might have gone badly wrong but Matt Prior and Stuart Broad secured control of the match.

People's Monday, when it all reached a perfect conclusion, was a triumph in every way. There are no discernible weaknesses in England's team. They now have the second, sixth, 15th and 17th ranked batsmen and the second, third, ninth, 11th and 18th ranked bowlers. Andrew Strauss may not be the most inventive captain but he allows strategies time to unfold and if there was a rankings table for captains, the eyes would need to keep going up to find him.

The mind went back almost 12 years to another match in London. Nobody who saw it will forget that either. On 24 August, 1999, England slunk to defeat by 83 runs against New Zealand at The Oval. It made them the worst team in the world. On the dressing room balcony afterwards, Nasser Hussain, who had taken over as captain just four matches earlier, said how proud he was of his team and was roundly booed. England have been through several cycles since then. They have lost, won, lost and won the Ashes, they have had excellent moments in foreign parts and excruciating ones. But that was the day it all started to change for English cricket, when Nasser and shortly afterwards the new coach, Duncan Fletcher, recognised that something much else was required.

From time to time, England have insisted on reinventing themselves. It was done voluntarily after the Ashes whitewash in 2007 and necessarily after the Kevin Pietersen-Peter Moores imbroglio of 2009. Finally they were convinced to turn to Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower.

Since then, England's progress has been inexorable. Seven series have been won, one drawn. India, now under Fletcher, may well respond as they did in South Africa late last year. Beaten by an innings in Centurion, they achieved an 87-run victory in Durban 10 days later and managed to draw the series.

Were England to become official No 1 there would still be other challenges – winning on the sub-continent, winning in South Africa. The feeling is that this England would be ready for them. But right now, at this moment in history, if you had to say who were the best team in the world, the ICC rankings would by no means be decisive. The answer would be England.

Brenkley's World XI

1. Alastair Cook (England)

Ashes hero who was man of a monumental series Down Under. In the form of his life before failures at Lord's.

2. Virender Sehwag (India)

Bludgeoner who scores at a ridiculous lick for Test cricket. Badly missed at headquarters.

3. Jonathan Trott (England)

England's run machine who has proved doubters wrong consistently since making magical Ashes debut in 2009.

4. Jacques Kallis (South Africa)

The stats don't lie and this man is simply one of the finest cricketers of all time.

5. Sachin Tendulkar (India)

The Little Master edges ahead of Ponting and Lara as pre-eminent batsman of his generation.

6. Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka)

Articulate artist who sheds the gloves and plays as a batsman only in this team.

7. M S Dhoni (India, capt)

Picked here for his often brutal batting – and his wicketkeeping – not his bowling.

8. Graeme Swann (England)

Likeable Jack-the-lad who happens to be the world's best spinner. The second-best bowler in the world...

9. Dale Steyn (South Africa)

... behind this fearsome flinger. The lightning-quick Steyn's strike rate is astonishing.

10. Chris Tremlett (England)

Gentle giant turned enforcer who left home to join Surrey and turned into a world beater Down Under.

11. Jimmy Anderson (England)

The Burnley boy is king of the swingers and officially now a man for all occasions.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor