England pass summer exams but there are tougher tests ahead

ENGLAND can be rightly satisfied with their summer exploits having fulfilled their lofty ambition of becoming the best Test side on the planet and hinting at a brighter future in the shorter format of the game.

The execution of the plans laid out by the captain and management was first class, but must be tempered by the fact England dominated underprepared opposition.

A couple of players stand out for their performances and none more so than Jonathan Trott. If you’d have told me the opinionated, slow learner I thought him to be when I first came across him at Warwickshire would one day go on to be the ICC Cricketer of the Year, I would never have believed you.

All credit to him though, he’s knuckled down and ironed out the flaws in his personality. Sometimes you get a newcomer to Test cricket who blazes a trail before a weakness rears its head. But Trott’s success has been uninterrupted for two years and he’s scored runs against everyone.

As much as it fills me with pride to see England lauding it over the rest in Test cricket, I expected them to beat India on home soil. With that in mind, the improvement they have made in the one-day arena this summer is just as satisfying.

It was clear after the World Cup that something needed to change, but I was fearful we’d be subjected to more of the same in terms of personnel and our approach.

Thankfully, my concerns thus far have been unfounded. but this positive assessment must, however, be taken in context. Much sterner tests lie ahead in the subcontinent this winter where England’s lack of a second spinning option concerns me.

Graeme Swann was almost a forgotten man this summer, but his workload will intensify against India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan and there’s nobody to share the workload.

Adil Rashid has dropped off the radar, Danny Briggs at Hampshire has struggled in a losing side this year, while Lancashire’s County Championship winning twirlers are too old. It’s the only black mark on an otherwise perfect summer.

HOW THEY RATED: ENGLAND’S MEN OF THE SUMMER

7 ANDREW STRAUSS
Lack of runs aside, it’s been another successful summer for the skipper. I’m confident he’ll come good with the bat again and in any case, there’s nobody staking a strong enough claim for his place.
9 ALASTAIR COOK
It’s got to the stage where once he’s in he’s almost guaranteed to score big. There were doubts as to his suitability for the role as one-day captain but the initial evidence suggests he was the right choice.

9 JONATHAN TROTT
The ICC cricketer of the year and deservedly so. His style might not be everyone’s cup of tea but the statistics don’t lie. His success has come over an extended period of time and he’s become irreplaceable.

8 KEVIN PIETERSEN
Answered his critics emphatically with a double hundred at Lord’s and deserves immense credit for the amount of hard work he put in to regain his fitness. Talk of his demise was premature in the extreme.

9 IAN BELL
England’s best and most watchable batsman. He’s sorted out the technical problems that dogged him through the early part of his career and has developed into one of the world’s best.

7 EOIN MORGAN
The new kid on the block remains England’s best one-day batsman but his place in the Test team is less secure. Vulnerable outside off-stump, as is the case with all left-handers, but worth persisting with.

8 MATT PRIOR
Provides the side with the balance it requires in the absence of a genuine all-rounder. Doesn’t feature in the one-day team these days, suggesting England are mindful of managing his workload.

7 STUART BROAD
Came good in the second half of the summer with wickets, bowling a fuller length, and runs at vital times. Suffered his third serious injury in less than a year which may be a concern to the management team.

7 CHRIS TREMLETT
Probably the most hostile of England’s pacemen who will start in the subcontinent ‘if’ fully fit. That, however, is looking an increasingly big if and you wonder whether he’s capable of playing a full Test series.

8 TIM BRESNAN
The opposite of Tremlett in that he can be relied upon, whatever the scenario, to be the workhorse of the side. Developed into a really serious cricketer capable of exposing the best batsmen in the world.

7 GRAEME SWANN
Won’t have enjoyed playing second fiddle to the fast bowlers this summer one bit. With tours to India, Sri Lanka and Dubai, where England face Pakistan this winter, he’ll know his time will come.

9 JAMES ANDERSON
The leader of the pack in both the long and short formats of the game. I really can’t remember the last time he bowled badly at home and for that reason is a captain’s dream. Genuine world class.

AND THE REST
I was genuinely excited by Jonny Bairstow’s one-day debut in Cardiff last week and he will certainly have a role to play this winter, as will Jade Dernbach. The South African-born bowler is a rough diamond but worth persisting with because of the variety he has at his disposal. Ravi Bopara must feel he’s forever set to play the bridesmaid after Eoin Morgan snatched a Test spot from under his nose, but his recent performances in the one-dayers hint at a brighter future for him. Craig Kieswetter on the other hand looks a bit of a one trick pony, while Samit Patel is nowhere near a second spinning option in my book.