No1 spot in the Test world rankings beckons for England. That's all well and good, the real challenge is staying there

 
Chris Tremlett
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England v India: 3rd npower Test - Day Four
England beat India at Edgbaston in 2011 to reach top spot in Test world rankings (Source: Getty)

It's all very well getting to No1 in the world Test rankings but the true measure of a side worthy of that tag is to stay there for a long time.

That’s the challenge facing England should they hit the summit by the end of the summer. Such a feat will be achieved if Alastair Cook’s side win the fourth and final Investec Test at the Kia Oval, which starts on Thursday, to secure a 3-1 series victory, and India fail to seal victory in the final two Tests of their tour of the West Indies.

I was a member of the England side which worked its way to that coveted No1 slot in 2011. It was a massive achievement, especially considering where English cricket was in 2009 when the Test side had just been bowled out for 51 against the West Indies in Kingston.

Once Andy Flower was appointed permanently as team director and started turning things around, it became the mission of that group to reach No1 in the world. The momentum-shifting Ashes success later that year followed and along the way there was a first series win Down Under in 24 years.

Such accolades were quickly forgotten as all the focus and planning was on becoming No1 in the world, something which was achieved with victory by an innings against India at Edgbaston in August 2011.

Unfortunately, we didn’t play well enough once we’d made it to No1 to stay there. Pakistan wiped the floor with us during the winter and a series defeat against South Africa later in 2012 saw England knocked off their perch.

In English and Australian-type conditions that England side probably were the best in the world but there was some doubt with regard to the subcontinent teams as we hadn’t beaten the likes of India or Pakistan in their own backyard.

The same can be said of the current England crop. They haven’t yet come through a thorough test in spinning conditions – they lost to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates last autumn – and that will be pivotal to their chances of staying top of the pile should they get there.

Skipper Cook admitted as much yesterday and said that his side still have challenges to overcome and questions to answer.

The true sign of a No1 side is one that gets there and remains there for a long time. The benchmark is Australia in the early noughties, a team which from June 2003 until August 2009 occupied top spot.

Should this England side assume the status of the world’s best-ranked side, I can’t see any reason why they can’t stay there but big tests await; India this winter and Australia on their own turf.

Getting to No1 is a huge challenge and great achievement, but a greater challenge is staying put.

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