England becoming the team to beat

Shane Warne draws comparisons with Australian sides of old as England indicate they could become something 'special'.

    England captain Andrew Strauss can count on great strength in depth in his squad [GALLO/GETTY]

    Once a word used to deride England's cricketers, "predictable" is fast becoming a badge of honour for captain Andrew Strauss and his squad.
    Two crushing Test victories over India, the second coming in a rush of wickets at Trent Bridge on Monday, have put England on the brink of the top ranking in the five-day format of the game and talk of domination is in the air.

    While there have been many false dawns, the momentous 2005 Ashes win over Australia being one of them, the riches available to Strauss and manager Andy Flower suggest such an occurrence may not be mere talk.

    In fast bowlers James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Tremlett and off-spinner Graeme Swann, England have an attack full of potency while Tim Bresnan showed in taking five wickets to skittle India for 158 that Strauss has the kind of back-up options that are the envy of the world.

    What India would have done for a bowler of Bresnan's quality as they toiled on Sunday afternoon, with the game slipping away from them.

    Wicketkeeper Matt Prior has improved beyond measure with the gloves and his batting is now approaching the heights reached by great Australian Adam Gilchrist in the all-conquering sides captained by Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting.

    Although openers Strauss and Alastair Cook are struggling for runs, the batting order rarely collapses like a house of cards these days and the tailenders regularly score heavily.


    Bresnan and Broad contributed 209 runs to England's cause at Trent Bridge, a key factor in the 319-run victory which left the hosts 2-0 up and top-ranked India staring at a demoralising rout.
    After his cavalier early days Kevin Pietersen has emerged as a batsman who can dig in for the common cause while Ian Bell, with a Test average of 47, is world class.

    Comparisons with the swaggering Australian teams for whom victory was almost a pre-requisite are not misplaced, especially when considering the fringe players who have proved consistently that they can come in and feed off the confidence within the ranks.

    England have won seven of their last eight Test series.

    That should soon become eight from nine and although matching the domination of Australia, who between 2000 and 2008 lost just two series, is unlikely, they certainly look like the team to be measured against for the forseeable future.

    It is all a far cry from the days of slow scoring rates, rapid collapses, scatter-gun bowling and sloppy fielding which drew scorn from Down Under.

    Shane Warne, once the tormentor of England's batsman, sees many similarities with the Australian sides he played in. 

    "When Australia were on top and dominating world cricket, the things we wanted to do were score fast, take the game away from the opposition and intimidate the tail," the leg-spinner wrote in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday.

    "England are doing all those things and showing the qualities that will make them No. 1."

    Warne said there were no obvious weaknesses in England's squad and like Australia of old, someone would make runs or take wickets at the important moments.

    "England are not carrying anyone," he said. "When you become No.1 side in the world it is all about depth."

    Former England captain Nasser Hussain heaped praise on Strauss's team.

    "There is just no weak link," he said. "They are the best England team I have ever seen. They are an amazing set of players....I think England are now realising that they are embarking on what might become a very special journey."

    India have received one boost ahead of the third Test at Edgbaston next Wednesday.

    Virender Sehwag will join his teammates this week, boosting the tourists' hopes of fielding their regular openers for the remaining two Tests.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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