Australia no longer the benchmark for England
ENGLAND head into this morning’s third Ashes test knowing victory will secure them the miniscule trophy.
The generations of England supporters reared on Ashes defeats will quite rightly celebrate the inevitable victory (even if it does not come in the third test) with much gusto.
But the poor showing so far from Australia should render the victory anhedonic. The Ashes remains the benchmark series in test cricket – the only one that is always played over five games.
But for the first time in my living memory Australia are no longer the benchmark side.
The two sides who lay claim to that title – South Africa and India – kick off their latest series at Centurion Park as the first day’s play ends in Perth later today.
But next summer, more than this winter, will show where England truly stand in the grand scheme of things when Sri Lanka and India visit British shores for a three and four test series respectively.
England claimed a very respectable draw in South Africa last winter, although admittedly they were outplayed in three of the four matches.
Were India, currently ranked at number one, to come away from South Africa with anything less than a draw, it would boost England’s claims of being the best.
Likewise a trouncing of Australia compares favourably with India’s recent two-test, home series with the Baggy Greens, as although Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men won both matches, they required a ninth wicket partnership of 81 between VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma to scrape home in the first test.
India’s strength is based around their batting, as expected from any side containing Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid, but the two era-dominating teams – West Indies in the 1980s and Australia in the 1990s and early 200s – were based around a strong bowling attack.
There are no dominant bowling attacks in world cricket right now. South Africa have the best opening pair with Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, but lack a quality third seamer or spinner.
This leaves the door wide open to all sides.
Thus, after five consecutive ODI series wins, it is not inconceivable that after the World Cup and the India series, England will sit top of the pile in all three formats.