Test ranking reflects England’s perfect 2011

ENGLAND started the year by winning the Ashes on Australian soil for the first time in 24 years and will end it staring down at the rest from the position of No1 in the international Test rankings.

It’s been a tremendous 12 months for captain Andrew Strauss and head coach Andy Flower, but both are sage enough to recognise getting England to the summit is only half of the challenge.

Whether this crop of players are capable of ensuring England remain the dominant force in the Test arena remains to be seen, but for now we should take the time to reflect on some magnificent individual performances.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEAR
As wonderful as it was to win the Ashes, it really came as no surprise considering the gulf in class between the two teams. Previous England sides may have been guilty of resting on their laurels after that success but the brand of cricket they exhibited in the summer, particularly against a side as talented as India, was breathtaking.

Getting to No1 was a goal that seemed pretty fanciful when Strauss assumed the captaincy, but to have achieved it, and in that style, deserves significant praise.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR
My natural inclination would be to select a bowler but England’s attack has shared the workload equally throughout the year. Strauss aside, the batsmen have all enjoyed purple patches at some stage, but Jonathan Trott has remained a model of consistency throughout, and in both the long and short formats of the game. In a team jam-packed with stylish stroke-makers, Trott (below) is the glue that holds that middle-order together.

INNINGS OF THE YEAR
There were any number of knocks I could have gone for but Matt Prior’s counter-attacking century at Lord’s against India really set the tone for the series. The match was delicately poised at that stage but Prior took the fight to the Indian seamers and put England firmly in control.

It was a typically selfless effort from one of England’s unsung heroes and for that reason I’d put it above Ian Bell’s ultra-stylish 159 against India at Trent Bridge, and Alastair Cook’s 294 against the same opponents up at Edgbaston.

BOWLING PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
Chris Tremlett’s spell in the first Test against Sri Lanka sticks in the mind. It was a match that seemed destined to end in a draw, but Tremlett knocked over four of the top six as the tourists were skittled for 82 on the final day.

It was a display of hostility that really put the Surrey seamer on the map, but for its significance, on a personal level, Stuart Broad’s performance in the second Test against India just pips it.

With his place in the side under scrutiny, Broad biffed 64 invaluable runs in a total of 221 and then took 6-46, including a stunning hat-trick which turned the match on its head.

Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer. An opening batsman, he captained Warwickshire in the late 80s and early 90s.