Yesterday morning, Minneapolis time, England won their first test match of the international summer, thanks to a calm and efficient run chase from Alistair Cook and Ian Bell. Watching them grind down the West Indies was neither fun or sexy, but it accomplished the ultimate goal: it put a check mark in the win column for England.
The combatants now move on to Trent Bridge, in Nottingham, where most pundits are forecasting a comprehensive English victory. Again. Just as they did before the Lord’s test, just as they did before the Sri Lanka series, and just as they did before the Pakistan series.
But I don’t see it happening. And sooner or later, cricket writers in England are going to have to come to grips with the fact that this is simply a good team, not a great team, despite their record of the last 18 months.
Most recently: they drew 1-1 with a weakened Sri Lankan side and were whitewashed by Pakistan in the UAE.
Sure, last summer they beat India 4-0, but I think it was pretty clear that the Indian players had given up after the defeat at Lord’s. Before that, England limped to a 1-0 series defeat of (again) Sri Lanka – thanks only to a tremendous collapse by their opponents in Cardiff.
And so since the end of the 2011 Ashes, England have played 13 tests, wnning seven, drawing two, and losing four. A winning percentage of .538 and a win/draw versus losing percentage of .692. Over that same period, they averaged 39.41 runs per wicket and 3.48 runs per over.
To compare, between January 1st 2000 and the end of the 2011 Ashes series, England played in 155 test matches, winning 70, drawing 41, and losing 44. A winning percentage of .451 and win/draw versus losing percentage of .716 – the latter only marginally better than the same stat since the 2011 Ashes. During the same time period, they averaged 35.95 runs per wicket and 3.25 runs per over.
And what does all of this tell us? That England have learned how to turn draws into wins.
Now that is nothing to sneeze at, teams that turn draws into wins are the teams that win championships, no matter the sport.
And it seems they have accomplished this by scoring a few more runs per over, and a few more runs per wicket.
Efficient run accumulation. Just ask the West Indies if a few more runs an innings makes a difference.
But that’s all that it is: efficient. Cook, Bell, Trott: all of them will remorselessly accumulate runs in an efficient manner. But at the end of the day, the team has no heart, no soul. And it will surely grate on the nerves of the saber-heads to read this: but it’s the heart and the soul that turns losses into wins, not just draws into wins, but losses into wins.
And that’s what England are lacking.
I do very little actually analyzation of play here on the site. But I have watched a great deal of England cricket over the years, and while this is a good team, it is by no means a great team. That is just my opinion, of course, but great teams pull a win out of the hat in the UAE, great teams don’t let the West Indies bully them at Lord’s, and great teams don’t have a captain that can’t score runs.
It might sound as if I am being overly critical here, and that is probably true, but you have to ask yourself: if the 2005 Ashes squad played the current squad, who would you back in a five test series?
The former, every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
If this current incarnation of England cricketers want to be considered great, if they want to be talked about a generation from now when old men gather to discuss the greatest squads of all time, then they need to go to India this fall and WIN. That will make them one of the greats.
My review of The Legend of Pradeep Mathew is finished and will be live on The SightScreen later tonight. Keep an eye out for it.
I will repost it here in the next few days, as well.