Tests 1st, ODI 4th, T20 1st
Sri Lanka (A) – Tests drew 1-1 (2)
Pakistan (in UAE) – Tests lost 3-0 (3), ODI won 4-0 (4), T20 won 2-1 (3)
It can be hard to be objective about England when we’re so emotionally involved. Going into the tour of the United Arab Emirates we had high hopes that this England side would be able to do what few others had and actually peform in subcontinental conditions. By the end of the Test series against Pakistan we felt like we’d been through ten rounds with Amir Khan i.e. a little tired with some minor bruising to the shoulder and in need of a sit down.
England’s batting had been their strength throughout their run to the top of the Test rankings but it misfired horribly in the UAE. It was a collective failing as well, one of methodology more than application. England simply had no idea what to do against the turning ball. We saw grim unrelenting defence – such as the pitiful 72 all out in 36 overs in Abu Dhabi – as the batsmen simply curled up into the foetal position and awaited the inevitable. We also saw any number of ill-judged uses of the pad, as if DRS was a revolutionary concept that had never been seen before. In Sri Lanka sweeping became the fashionable method of getting out.
Indeed, the first Test in Sri Lanka suggested that England hadn’t learned from their mistakes but this wasn’t quite the case. Jonathan Trott’s fine second innings hundred seemed to inspire his side to believe that it was actually possible to play in those conditions and Pietersen took this a step further in that much-needed victory in Colombo.
England’s problems coming out of the winter are still very similar to those going in – Andrew Strauss can’t buy a run and the number six position is still up for grabs. Eoin Morgan had a nightmare tour of the UAE and lost his place to the horses-for-courses Samit Patel in Sri Lanka, who also looked out of his depth at Test level.
The shoddy batting still couldn’t mask a wonderful winter from a bowling point of view. England’s attack was almost exemplary throughout. Monty Panesar added a new (old) option to the attack, working well in tandem with Graeme Swann but it was the incumbent seamers who stole the show – Anderson, Broad and Bresnan are all top-drawer bowlers at (or very close to) their peaks, while Steve Finn is waiting in the wings. Chris Tremlett has sadly had his day and is unlikely to be seen again at international level.
Oddly enough, England’s limited overs cricket was excellent over this period. Pakistan were given a sound beating in the ODI series, led by two hundreds from Alastair Cook and two from Kevin Pietersen. ODI hundreds for England have been few and far between over the last few years, so to suddenly find four in a series suggests that the corner might just have been turned.
The bowling was also excellent, led by Steve Finn, the ever-improving Jade Dernbach and even Samit Patel. For the first time in roughly twenty years, England might actually have a decent ODI side.
And the T20 side? That’s already pretty good. The series win over Pakistan just emphasised this, with England looking a genuinely cohesive unit with clear ideas over roles and a strong belief, led by some superb bowling from Graeme Swann. England will go into the World T20 amongst the favourites, and with good reason.