ENGLAND’S victory at Lord’s on Monday edged them closer to the No1 spot they covet and increased the comparisons with the celebrated team of 2005.
Michael Vaughan’s side evoke so many wonderful memories but they are defined by being a part of one of the greatest series of all-time, while this current crop led by Andrew Strauss (below left) and Andy Flower are on the verge of becoming a truly great team.
This isn’t an exercise in diminishing the accomplishments of Vaughan’s men, who ended a generation of Australian dominance in a manner that captivated the country, but more an attempt at highlighting how Flower has helped take England to a new level.
The team of 2005, perhaps, had a stronger opening combination with the attacking strength of Marcus Trescothick complimenting Strauss’s more watchful method.
Back then Kevin Pietersen was a slightly different player, too. He’s not quite the irresistible force of old but there are signs he is learning to adapt as he enters the next phase of his career and finds his role in a batting line-up enhanced by Matt Prior, the world’s premier wicketkeeper-batsman.
England’s ability to reverse swing the old ball was a key factor in them reclaiming the Ashes in 2005.
That attack boasted three express pace bowlers in Simon Jones, Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison, but what this current crop lack in aggression, they more than make up for in control.
Jimmy Anderson has developed into the best bowler in the world and Chris Tremlett has been a terrific find. Stuart Broad, meanwhile, finally appears to have learnt the value of bowling a fuller length.
The key difference in the two attacks, however, is the presence of a truly world class spinner in Graeme Swann. Ashley Giles was a useful cricketer but Swann is a different entity and, looking ahead, his performances in the subcontinent will largely determine whether England cement their place at the top of the Test ladder.
COACHES & CAPTAINCY
The team of 2005 contained some free spirits and harnessing those personalities into a well-drilled unit was coach Duncan Fletcher’s greatest feat.
Flower’s job has not been as tough, but he has had to cope with the extra strains the advent of Twenty20 cricket places on the modern player, while the UDRS referral system means cricket is already a different game to the one it was in 2005.
Vaughan (below right) is rightly regarded as one of the great England captains, who combined tactical astuteness with great leadership qualities.
Strauss, in my opinion, is more of an organiser and orchestrator, whose sensible and measured approach reflects his conservative attitude to captaincy.
He must learn to be ruthless when the time is right and be prepared to put the fate of the team ahead of personal milestones. It’s harsh, but I think fair, to criticise a captain currently in charge of the best team in the world.
Cricket, after all, is a sport of fine margins particularly when you are competing at the top end of the game, and that is where I envisage England being for the foreseeable future.