With summer at its height and many sportsmen taking a well-earn rest we’re in the middle of half-year awards season, with fans and journalists debating who has impressed the most in the first six months of the year. Surprisngly when you look back at the past six months the one team has performed at a level above all others is none other than the English Cricket Team.
Eighteen months ago English cricket was in crisis, with Captain Kevin Pietersen and Head Coach Peter Moores both relieved of their positions after a failed attempt by Pietersen to remove Moores. The atmosphere surrounding the team was toxic with rumors of players not only being unhappy with the methods of the coaching staff but increasingly at odds with each other. Worse new captain Andrew Strauss and new coach Andy Flower got off to the worst possible start with England being bowled out for 51 in the second innings of their debut test match against the West Indies. Strauss would come in for deserved criticism for being overly cautious in the next four games and so failing to make the most of several opportunities to level the series.
A surprise victory against Australia in The Ashes and creditable series draw against South Africa did much to rehabilitate England, but this year they’ve performed at a far higher level. England has historically struggled to master the shorter-forms of the game, with the traditionalists in charge refusing to acknowledge the need to shape the team’s tactics to the particular challenges of One Day or Twenty20 cricket. This has repeatedly led England to making the quixotic decision to pick players on the basis that they are senior members of the Test Side, even though many times the very skills that make them essential over five days are at best irrelevant and at worst counter-productive in limited-overs cricket.
Thankfully today’s England setup is wiser, sending a team to the West Indies for the Twenty20 World Cup that had the right balance for cricket’s shortest form. Gone were both the Test side’s Captain Andre Strauss and its Vice-Captain Alastair Cook, with all-rounder Paul Collingwood leading a side that included limited-over specialists such as Eoin Morgan and Craig Kieswetter. After, a nervy start in the first round England found their rhythm and never looked back, comfortably defeating Pakistan, South Africa, Sir Lanka and Australia en route to winning their first-ever ICC trophy in style.
And England carried that momentum into One Day International game, with the returning Andrew Strauss leading from the front as they won the first three matches against Australia to secure an overwhelming series victory against the current ODI World Champions. When they allowed Bangladesh to come from behind and level the ODI series many jumped to the conclusion that the wheels were coming off the bandwagon, but England proved the doubters wrong by demolishing The Tigers in the next game to secure the 2-1 series victory.
Away from limited-overs cricket, England put Bangladesh to the sword in March, winning the Test Series with an aplomb that was especially impressive given the decision to rest key players. Led by acting Captain Alastair Cook, England never looked in trouble as they easily won both test matches, winning the first by 181 runs and the second by nine wickets.
In 2010 England have been dominant across all forms the game while always playing aggressive and attractive cricket. Having already won their first-ever ICC trophy and shown tremendous improvement in the fifty-overs game England are well postioned to build on the momentum in their summer home series against Bangladesh and Pakistan. And maybe, just maybe England are hitting the kind of form that will allow them to win their first Ashes series in Australia since 1987. Regardless of what happens in the second half of the year, there can be no disputing that England’s cricketers have impressed over the past six months.
Tags: Cricket, Other Sports