Winning and retaining the Ashes was priceless. But skipper Andrew Strauss has always said England’s ultimate goal was to become the World’s No.1 cricket team – and after yesterday’s First Test triumph against India this golden generation is deservedly in sight of their target.
Unlike England’s footballers who fell hopelessly short of world domination when their so-called golden generation hit its peak under Sven Goran Eriksson in 2006, our cricketers can already hold their heads high after a succession of glorious highs in recent years.
For Strauss’s swashbuckling band of heroes to mark this historic 2,000th Test – and the 100th between England and India – with an emphatic 196 run win at Lord’s was a spectacular achievement that ranks alongside any of the current era.
This was a victory just as big and impressive as those hammerings dished out to the Aussies at Melbourne and Sydney over the winter when England retained the Ashes for the first time in 24 years. In many people’s eyes a series win against India, whatever the score, will confirm Strauss’s team have achieved their goal.
But this England team has matured into a side that thrives on winning and setting new standards – and they will not be satisfied unless they win this 4 Test series by the required 2-match margin to officially be ranked as the world’s No.1 team. It would be the first time that England have earned the accolade of being the best team since the ICC rankings were launched in June 2003. And how they deserve it!
The beauty of this England side is that it is packed with matchwinners and the First Test against India was bristling with exceptional performances. On the final day Jimmy Anderson was the man inspired. For the Lancastrian to dismiss players of the calibre of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, for the sixth time in Test cricket, and Suresh Raina on the same day was a special effort from the leader of England’s attack, who finished with 5 for 65.
England’s four bowlers – Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Tremlett and Graeme Swann – were an irresistable force that kept up the pressure until India’s eventual mistakes left them comprehensively beaten, and Strauss declared it was a perfect performance against a formidable batting line-up.
“Over the two innings, it was as close to perfect bowling performance as it has been in the last two-three years which is saying a lot as we have bowled quite consistently well in this period,” insisted Strauss after England dismissed India for 286 and 261 in the two innings.
The skipper was rightly proud of every man in his team. But the ultimate accolade went to man of the match Kevin Pietersen, whose imperious double-century in the first innings set up England’s victory. “That was one of the greatest innings I’ve seen,” said Strauss. “He had to wait for the runs to come and he showed his class and his temperament as well.”
Class and temperament are two qualities running through the spine of this formidable England team. And how great will it be to see them claim the crown of undisputed world champions!