Stand Up If You’re Number 1 (A Cricket Post)

Posted: 22/08/2011 in Sport
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This post was prepared on Sunday whilst the 4th Test between England and India was still ongoing.

Cricket has always been my number 1 sport. In a country where Football (Soccer for those of you who are misguided), dominates the roost, I’ve always been more interested in Cricket. It started because of my granddad. Every summer without fail he would have the test match on BBC. From an England fan point of a view it was rarely enjoyable watching as winning was as rare to us as intelligence is to Jedward. Despite this I still found myself enthralled and not with the 1 day game or now the 20/20 game, but with test cricket, the 5 day game. To quite a few people a test match is boring “oh it’s on for 5 days how tedious”, but for me it was, and still is the pinnacle of cricket. To achieve on the test stage far outweighs any achievements in the shorter versions of the game.

I remember we would have a batting line up of Atherton, Stewart, Hick, Thorpe, and supported with a bowling attack of Cork, Gough, Malcolm and Tufnell. Whilst these guys were great to watch and Atherton could stay put longer than Stonehenge they rarely turned heads, rarely got the pulses racing and well to be honest, rarely won. The bottom was reached in 1999, when after a defeat at home to New Zealand, England found themselves at the very bottom of the test rankings. English cricket was deemed to be in disarray, fans would boo their own captain, and the England national team couldn’t had been a happy camp to be in.

They say responsibility in anything must come from the top, and luckily enough the ECB realised this and went to work. They ploughed money into the county game, into improving the coaches, into improving the England setup. Bringing in Duncan Fletcher was, dare I say the catalyst for what was to come. Fletcher insisted that the core England players be given central contracts (this means that the national board pays them and not their country clubs). This decision proved to be pivotal as it allowed players time to rest, it allowed the coaches to prepare them the best they could.

In 2004 the fruit of all the hard work was beginning to show on the field, or so we thought. 2004-2005 is now seen as the “false dawn” of England’s rise. After victory over the West Indies in 2004, England then went and defeated Australia in 2005, to reclaim the Ashes for the first time since 1987 if I remember correctly.

The 2005 Ashes series was amazing to watch, so much passion, so much tension. The first test was pretty much a one-sided show but the 2nd test will go down in history as one of the greatest tests of all time. It had everything, great batting, ferocious bowling, heroic displays (Freddie), and then the most tense finish I’ve ever witnessed in a test match. Australia came within 3 runs of winning the test match. THREE runs. One smack over the boundary and Australia would’ve been 2-0 up and it would’ve been pretty safe to say that the series would’ve been over, but it wasn’t to be and England won to level the series 1-1 and eventually went on to win the Ashes by 2-1.

So I can hear you all saying “well this sounds good so how can this be a “false dawn?””. The answer to that is quite simple. The England team basically imploded on itself. Michael Vaughan was injured so Andrew Flintoff captained England for the Ashes in Australia. The result? We got thumped 5-0 (A whitewash). Shortly after Michael Vaughan stepped down as captain and then the coach, Duncan Fletcher left. In came Peter Moores as coach and Kevin Pietersen as captain, needless to say that didn’t see eye to eye and England continued to spiral down, resulting in a 51 all out score in the West Indies.

Two strong figures were needed to grabbed England by the scruff of the neck and pull them up, and two strong figures they got in the form of Andy Flower (coach) and Andrew Strauss (captain). If there was any justice in the world you would be able to look up the phrase “calmness personified” and there would be a picture of Strauss. Flower and Strauss managed to turn England from a divided team, into a united front. When we regained the Ashes in 2009, people didn’t get carried away like they did in 2005. They kept their feet firmly on the ground and this was rewarded during the Ashes tour of 2009/2010. What happened was that England not only defeated Australia in their own back yard but absolutely demolished them. A 3-1 victory involving THREE innings defeats including an amazing score line of 517/1. There has been a series victory against Sri Lanka in 2011 and England are on the verge of what will hopefully be a 4-0 thrashing of the former number 1 side (India).

The future is bright for the England national team and hopefully we can stay at the top for the foreseeable future (South Africa might have something to say about that). After a long time of being thrashed by anyone who could hold a cricket bat or throw a cricket ball, it’s a nice place to be.

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