The class of 2011: the long and short of it
Posted in England v India 2011
That England ended their 2011 schedule ranked top in two formats is a remarkable achievement for team director Andy Flower’s men.
Their one-day cricket, particularly overseas, may leave much to be desired but their exploits in the longest and shortest forms reached new heights this year.
Following the winter Ashes triumph, England saw off Sri Lanka at home before unexpectedly whitewashing India to usurp the tourists at the top of the International Cricket Council Test rankings.
The World Twenty20 champions began the year with a record-breaking eighth consecutive win, beating Australia who subsequently tied the rubber.
Sri Lanka were victorious in June’s one-off contest but victory over India during August and a shared series with West Indies in September ensured England were at the summit when the ICC unveiled its T20 table last week, a position they consolidated by beating India on Saturday.
England’s continued impressive T20 form is notable not least as they have had three captains this year. World T20 skipper Paul Collingwood led in Australia before he was replaced by Stuart Broad, who was in charge against Sri Lanka and India.
Injuries to Broad and his second in command, Eoin Morgan, left Graeme Swann at the helm but he delivered two wins from three.
England’s Test supremacy has been built on consistency of leadership and selection with Andrew Strauss approaching three years in charge.
Strauss retired from one-day internationals after the World Cup and Alastair Cook was named his successor on the same day Broad was promoted to the T20 role, giving England three appointed leaders for the first time.
Cook enjoyed summer success courtesy of a thrilling 3-2 defeat of Sri Lanka and a convincing 3-0 victory over India, who failed to beat England during their tour. However, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side were a different proposition at home where they whitewashed Cook’s team.
Cook’s end of year was at the opposite end of the spectrum to the start when his third century of the Ashes series took him to a stunning tally of 766 runs. He went from strength to strength with a career-best 294 versus India in the Edgbaston Test.
The opener’s rich form was rewarded with the ICC Test Cricketer of the Year crown and Jonathan Trott, consistent in Tests and ODIs, scooped Cricketer of the Year.
“It’s been a fantastic year for English cricket as a whole,” Cook reflected. “You go back to January, winning the Ashes, and then having such a good summer.”
The summer began with three Tests against Sri Lanka, unfairly maligned as merely an hors d'oeuvre before India’s visit.
As it was, only a frenzied 25 overs on the final afternoon of the opening game separated the sides. With a rain-ruined draw odds-on at Cardiff, the tourists capitulated to 82 all out in their second innings.
After a stalemate at Lord’s, rain was principally responsible for denying England victory in the Rose Bowl’s debut Test but Sri Lanka emerged with much credit from the series.
India failed to provide the stern opposition expected over four Tests, although England’s all-round brilliance left them little room for manouvre and the hosts were duly presented with the ICC Test mace immediately after the Kia Oval finale.
That and the glorious Ashes celebrations at Sydney in early January are the endearing memories of 12 months soured only by England’s one-day performances abroad.
A 6-1 reverse in Australia demonstrated the toll taken by the Test series and there was little chance to recover before the World Cup on the sub-continent.
Strauss’ side enjoyed fluctuating fortunes with a narrow win over the Netherlands, a thrilling tie against India, a shock defeat to Ireland, victory from an improbable position versus South Africa, a surprise loss to Bangladesh and a tense triumph against West Indies.
Those results earned them a tough quarter-final with co-hosts and eventual runners-up Sri Lanka, who were 10-wicket winners in Colombo. England’s return to Asia to face the new world champions proved equally chastening.
They are due to return to India next winter for matches in all formats. That follows away series with Pakistan (in the United Arab Emirates) and Sri Lanka ahead of the home visits of West Indies, Australia (for one-dayers only) and South Africa - plus the World T20 defence in Sri Lanka.
No doubt another exciting year in prospect for the world’s best in Tests and T20s.