I MAKE this prediction with slightly tinted glasses, but I really can see England going through the whole of 2013 unbeaten in Test cricket, despite the prospect of back-to-back Ashes series.
It would be a fantastic achievement, but it’s one well within their grasp. Aside from Australia, England also face New Zealand home and away, and I just don’t see them losing any of those matches.
Clearly England and South Africa are the two top Test sides anywhere right now, and that doesn’t look like changing for some time. The Proteas are No1 in the world and I don’t expect them to lose that this year.
Ashes series are no longer the fearsome prospect of old for England. Alastair Cook’s men are the better team and look certain to start both series as favourites.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of England’s development over the next 12 months will be how Ashley Giles fares in his new role in charge of the one-day and Twenty20 teams. I know Ashley well from our associations with Warwickshire. He is meticulous in his approach and I expect him to bring organisation, discipline and calm to the set-up.
He is a very good man under pressure – he stayed cool to hit the winning runs in the 2005 Ashes Test at Trent Bridge – and he will look for that quality from his team.
He worked hard at his fielding while a player, and I see him placing emphasis on that with England, as well as prizing consistency. Warwickshire won the County Championship last year because they had fewer bad days than anyone else; I expect his England to be the same.
While England’s Test results have been good for some time, their one-day form has been inconsistent, especially away from home.
Eoin Morgan is among the best one-day players in the world, as he showed in the most recent Twenty20 outing in India, and Ashley needs to build his team around him, Cook, Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Graeme Swann. The other places are up for grabs.
Finally I must say it was terribly sad to lose two of the game’s finest men over the Christmas period, Tony Greig and Christopher Martin-Jenkins. I knew both great men and they will be remembered fondly.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer who captained and acted as chairman of Warwickshire.