Is Alastair Cook the first captain to win a Test by almost 250 runs and still manage to be less popular than before the game?
That is the most pressing question to come out of a series which England managed to win comfortably and also piss almost everyone off at some point, an achievement they will presumably cherish warmly alongside memories of retaining the Ashes and making Peter Fulton look like a professional cricketer.
To sum up the argument in a nutshell: does winning justify whatever means used to get there? If it does, then England’s tactics were spot on. If you expect a degree of ruthlessness from the very best sides, their tactics were misguided to some degree. Ultimately, they won and won convincingly and nothing will dissuade them from the path which they perceive to be the best one; that is, the one which got them (briefly) to the pinnacle of the game. If anything, the post-match admission from both Alastair Cook and Andy Flower that Jonathan Trott may have been taking the piss somewhat with his epic third day rearguard is progress from a management team which usually provides little more than starvation rations to the media.
That particular argument will be done to death but for now, with England’s pre-Ashes Test commitments over with, the Australians are coming. A rag-tag, pathetic, mostly incompetent band of Australians, yes; but Australians nonetheless. The most glaring question is whether Nick Compton’s international career will survive long enough to face them. To succeed in the England side nowadays you need to be both dashingly handsome and one of the lads, or good enough to overcome the fact that neither of the former points hold; Compton, for all his astonishing looks, is neither a lad nor – on evidence thus far at least – quite good enough. That said, he has made twice as many centuries as Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow combined, with the added bonus of not being from Yorkshire thrown into the mix, so it could go either way.
As for New Zealand, this series represented the traditional six giant leaps back which seem to follow hot on the heels of any small steps forward. Beyond Ross Taylor, and brief snippets from Kane Williamson, the batting lapsed into South African tour levels of rubbish and displayed an almost comic ineptitude against the turning ball. If they had any Test cricket coming up there would be serious questions to be asked of the back-up bowling behind Trent Boult and Tim Southee, as well as an enormous one to be asked of the spinner position. But there aren’t, so there isn’t. Instead they have a whole host of one day games no one particularly cares about against England, before a real one in the Champions Trophy. In English conditions, with a month’s worth of cricket behind them and a group containing Sri Lanka and Australia as well as the hosts, they should fancy their chances of making a semi-final. Assuming Peter Fulton is nowhere near the squad; which, after some hasty googling, we can confirm he isn’t.