England’s rise to the top of the international test cricket rankings is certainly impressive, but their recent loss to South Africa is one that they will want to forget quickly. Strauss’s men have had indomitable form at home, but the series defeat to the world’s number two is hardly surprising because England took the elevator to the top floor instead of climbing the steep stairs to success.
India, West Indies and Pakistan were the three test series in the lead up to the face off with the Proteas, but only the series in the United Arab Emirates proved to be useful preparation.
India turned up injury ridden and looking like a forth string side. With hardly any of their star players and in conditions that were tough, Dhoni’s men were whitewashed by a rampant England, but that did not prepare the T20 world champions for a South African team that played some high quality cricket. The story was the same with the West Indies. The team from the Caribbean arrived without the menacing Gayle or the useful Bravo which immediately made the squad weaker, especially on English pitches.
And then England met their match against Pakistan. They travelled to the UAE and played on pitches that they had never experienced before. The result was a series whitewash exposing England’s flaws on flat wickets.
By the time the South Africa tests came England had played two easy contests and lost the one series that examined the weaknesses of Strauss’s side. Graeme Smith’s men demolished the former world number one although they did put up a fight in the final test.
If England are to do well in India they must learn some very tough lessons from the series with the Proteas. They can no longer be blinded by the grandeur of being the number one team. The flat, spinning wickets in the subcontinent will prove testing for England and their bowlers will need to be on top form to take wickets on the Indian surfaces.
A big factor looking forward is whether Kevin Pietersen will be available for selection after his recent fall out with the England Cricket Board. Pietersen is perhaps the best player on the subcontinent having played large periods of cricket in the Indian Premier League.
England’s rise to the top was by no means a minor feat, but it was aided by the poor opposition they faced. The loss to South Africa was certainly no surprise and perhaps was the much needed slap in the face England needed. Strauss must rally his troops for the upcoming tour, but it will not be an easy task against an Indian side that has just demolished New Zealand.