Now that England are officially the best side in the world, how many of their players would get into a current world XI?
Here is a world XI, based primarily on form over the last two years.
Sehwag is a phenomenon. Though stats can’t illustrate his value to the side, his numbers since his recall at the end of 2007 – ten hundreds in 36 Tests, at an average of 57 and a strike-rate of 90 – showcase his penchant for wreaking havoc. He’s not so much a flat-track bully, as an all-track one.
It is odd to recall that, before his 110 at the Oval Test last year, Cook’s place in the side was the subject of relentless questioning. Since the start of the Ashes, he has scored 1470 runs at an average of 98, displaying his extraordinary powers of concentration, uber-phlegmatic temperament and a game that values effectiveness over aesthetics. And the “daddy hundreds” keep on coming.
Trott’s recent nomination for the ICC ‘People’s Choice Award’ was as bizarre as much of what the ICC does: by his nature, he simply doesn’t get crowds excited. He does, though, score runs. As with Mike Hussey, Trott’s long wait for his international debut enabled him to develop a consummate knowledge of the workings of his game, complemented by a temperament designed to building long innings. He has been an instant Test success – but one ten years in the making.
Tendulkar’s current travails can’t eradicate the memory of his consistent brilliance throughout his career and, specifically, since the start of 2010. During this time he has scored eight centuries, including two authoritative innings away to South Africa and Dale Steyn last winter, and displayed the ability to dominate a top-class attack many thought he had lost.
Even nearing 36, Kallis remains a remorseless run machine: indeed, in the last few years, without making himself more vulnerable, he has upped his strike-rate markedly, perhaps owing to the liberation Twenty20 has given him. His bowling is less regularly on display now, but he is still the consummate fourth seamer.
Bell’s early struggles in Test cricket feel like they belong to a different player, such has been his brilliance since regaining his place in 2009. He has always been aesthetically pleasing but he now has the confidence to trust in his ability, whoever the opposition. His 159 from number three in the second Test against India felt like the final confirmation of his transformation from “Sherminator” to England’s best batsman.
The days when it was de rigueur to mock Prior’s keeping have long since passed; under the tutelage of Bruce French his keeping has become wonderfully reliable. Then there is the batting: with an average of nigh-on 60, including four centuries – often under the sternest pressure – in his last 16 Tests, it is certainly legitimate to mention the ‘G-word’ wicket-keepers must loathe: Gilchrist.
The plight of spin around the world is currently a fairly miserable one, but Swann is doing his best to keep the flame burning. There is no doosra; but there is tremendous bowling intelligence, subtle variations of flight and drift and considerable turn. His control in the first innings is what enables England to play only four bowlers.
Stuart Broad will be able to claim this spot if he can continue his present form, but for now Morkel sneaks in. With his huge frame he is able to extract steepling bounce from any service; add in the ability to get movement and speeds touching 90mph and he is capable of devastation few can match, as testified by his 5-20 against India last winter.
Whatever the merits of England’s pace attack, it is Steyn who is rated the world’s number one bowler. And rightly so, for his combination of pace, prodigious late swing and a lethal bouncer mean he has the best strike rate of any bowler to have taken 100 Test wickets since the 19th century. As a spell of five wickets for three runs in a Test in India last year illustrated, reverse swing has no better practitioner today.
The self-proclaimed ‘leader’ of England’s bowling attack, Anderson’s brilliance with the Kookabura ball in Australia fully justified that billing. With a swinging ball, Anderson’s ability to move the ball both ways at will makes him lethal. But just as importantly, both his accuracy and subtlety have been transformed from his ragtag days of the mid-2000s, meaning he still threatens when the shine from the new ball has gone. And he might just be the finest fast bowling fielder of all time, too.
What do you think about this side? Do leave your comments below.
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