Every cricketing nation has its own little foibles and characteristics. Where England are concerned, one of the most frustrating for those English test match addicts who stay up all night to watch or listen to cricket from the other side of the globe is their team’s ability to throw away great opportunities from a position of strength. At least, it used to be.
Making a habit of winning
England has never lacked skilled players. The problem has been to get all, or even most, of them to perform consistently to the standard of which they are capable. They’ve always been capable of pulling off a spectacular run chase once in a while, for example. But in the last month, they’ve done it four times, whitewashing the world test champions and then pulling off England’s highest run chase in test history – and the ninth highest in the history of the game.
But even that only tells the half of it. Let’s be honest, there are few challenges in sport that are as stressful as a final day run chase. Typically, the wicket is worn, every run feels like it is worth 10 and the team is battle weary after four days play. Yet England chased down each target with an attitude that exuded complete belief, confidence and perhaps most important of all, joy. It was as if each player was able to channel their inner 12-year-old who had dreamed of exactly this scenario when playing in the backyard.
An eye on the Ashes
South Africa will be visiting England for a three-test series in the second half of the English summer. But with every respect to Dean Elgar’s men, every player will have at least half an eye on July 2023 and the Ashes.
England are approaching the game from an entirely new perspective this year under Ben Stokes and Brendan McCullum. So far, it has been a resounding success. Now even the brightest optimist will acknowledge that the “all out aggression” approach is sometimes going to backfire, but the effect on the overall odds for the 2023 Ashes has been profound.
Two months ago, most bookmakers had England at around 5-1 to win the Ashes. Now, if you take some time going through the sites on www.gambleonline.co/en-in/, you might still find one or two offering 3-1, but most are down to around 5-4.
Despite their summer of success, the make up of next year’s Ashes team is still far from certain. The new opening pair of Lees and Crawley finally came off in the run chase against India, but they need to prove they can do it consistently. In particular, Crawley must overcome the technical flaws that see him caught too often on the drive.
As for the bowling attack, there is no doubt that Anderson and Broad would relish one more chance against the oldest enemy. Anderson will be nudging 41 by then, but his fitness surpasses that of England’s other main candidates, so don’t be surprised to see him play some role, even if he doesn’t play in all five tests.