TO PUT England’s long-awaited triumph in India yesterday in context: the last time they won there I was still playing. The length of time everyone in English cricket has waited for this moment says it all. It is a terrific achievement and, in recent memory, second only to winning the Ashes in 2005.
Ashes victories are all the more delicious because of the opposition, but this was better than the last series in Australia, when England crushed a poor side. What set 2005 apart was that England defeated greats such as Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. But if that is No1 in England’s greatest successes of modern times, then fighting back from the first-Test drubbing in Ahmedabad to win in India for the first time since 1985 is certainly No2.
And, more than just the winning, what is immensely satisfying is the transformative effect the series has had on the team.
It may not have been make or break exactly, but England went into the series having just lost to South Africa, with a new captain and amid off-field strife, so another setback would have left them in a sorry state.
Instead they have emerged far stronger, the skipper galvanised and the squad reinvigorated, and you’d expect them to beat New Zealand after Christmas and keep the Ashes next summer.
Cook has earned the respect of everyone in cricket, not only with his outstanding captain’s performances but also with his leadership and bold decision-making.
Newcomers excelled. Opener Nick Compton may not have made huge scores but, for a man making his Test debut in probably the most demanding conditions for a batsman, he did a very good job.
Not many pundits predicted Joe Root would come into a winning side for the final match, but he played with great confidence and is entitled to expect to keep that No6 spot for the trip to New Zealand.
Monty Panesar found the consistency that has often eluded him and announced himself as a credible rival to Graeme Swann when England play one spinner.
One of my favourite memories was Monty bowling Sachin Tendulkar in the second Test. It was typical of the way England handled India’s best player and a key moment in the balance of power shifting.
They’ve had wobbles in 2012 but England are still among the top two teams in the world, along with South Africa. Their aim for next year should be to put together a long unbeaten run.
Andy Lloyd is a former England cricketer. He has also been captain and chairman of Warwickshire.