In amongst a year of the unpredictable, England’s Test side quietly went about dismantling West Indies and Pakistan. With a packed 2021 schedule is it time for England to return to world number one for the first time in 10 years?
Ask any former international player what the ultimate tests are as a cricketer and they will say winning in India or Australia. England tour both in 2021 but unlike previous years they may have everything they need to defeat both.
Tours to India and Australia need a captain that can hold a side together and can pick them up after a defeat. Despite questions early on in his stint, Joe Root has shown he can fit that mould after the wins over West Indies and Pakistan.
Root returned from the birth of his second child to lead England to a 2-1 series victory versus West Indies, after Ben Stokes’ captaincy debut saw England lose by four wickets at Southampton.Embed from Getty Images
Root showed his leadership in England’s series with his timing of declarations and field settings showing growth in his ability to lead compared to his first Test as skipper in 2018. The one issue that not just Root but many England captains before him have had is how to balance this England squad full of experience and youth.
England have plenty of experience but with one eye on the future do Stuart Broad and James Anderson have it in them to give England one final hurrah in what could be their swansong on tour?
After being dropped, Broad came back with a vengeance and proved why he is still one of the best bowlers in the world recording his 500th Test wicket versus West Indies and finishing as top wicket-taker of the summer.
For long away tours to India and Australia you need experienced players that know how to operate in difficult conditions and England have two of the greatest to have played the game in Broad and Anderson.Embed from Getty Images
Anderson had started the summer slowly but in the last Test versus Pakistan showed the craft that has allowed him to have a successful 18-year long international career, the Lancashire bowler taking his 600th Test wicket, the first seam bowler ever to reach the landmark.
England have often toured to India and Australia with internationally inexperienced players in the hope they can work wonders at the first time of asking but this time around England’s youngsters have been blooded and are now settled in the side, with several standout performances coming from them in 2020.
Dominic Sibley produced a staunch knock of 120 off 372 balls in the second Test versus West Indies. This is something England have lacked since the retirement of Alastair Cook, a player who will grind out an innings to get them out of trouble, something that is needed in both countries.
Often that has fallen to Stokes, a player who thrives to attack not to block out an innings, so Sibley’s inclusion not only helps England at the top of the order but helps free up other players too. Kent batsman Zak Crawley was another that impressed as he broke numerous records on his way to 267 in the third Test versus Pakistan. His ability to change from defence to attack when England were well ahead of the game will be crucial with a change of tempo often needed on flat pitches which are common in both countries.Embed from Getty Images
With a diverse squad, England will now need to decide the key players that are needed for two very different conditions, India will need to see a focus towards spinners, Australia more so fast bowlers.
For the first time in a while, England will head to Australia with some of best fast bowling talent in the world in the form of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, their only qualm being the inexperience of Archer, who has struggled on similar pitches in New Zealand.
India will be a tougher test with spin bowling perhaps England’s only weakness with Dominic Bess being England’s frontline spinner. The Yorkshire off-spinner failing to convince fans despite his excellent comeback in South Africa.
With seemingly a perfect squad that is ready to take on all conditions and a battle-hardened captain leading them, England have the chance to become world number ones for the first time since 2010. Furthermore, with the world and cricket changing by the day, it could be time for the rare phenomenon of England dominating Test cricket once again.