Monday 27 February 2017

Top spot just the beginning as England look to build new empire

cricket

Stephen Brenkley

England will take the field at the Oval today for the first time as Test champions of the world.

It's a status bestowed simply by being top of the ICC rankings, which they confirmed by defeating India at Edgbaston last Saturday and going 3-0 up in the series.

It is not a tenure that will last forever but England's task now is to try to ensure that it is not all over quickly.

In the 1980s it looked as if the West Indies would continue to lord it over all they surveyed. Through the 1990s and well into the new millennium it was hard to imagine Australia being overthrown. But both were -- because all empires crumble.

First, therefore, England have to build an empire.

Before that, they have India to contend with in the final match of this symbolic series. How they go about their business will be an indication of their seriousness to avoid being nine-day wonders.

The indications are that England are deadly serious.

They recognise that the consistency demanded to reach first place has yet to be matched by victories in every corner of planet cricket.

WINNING

More than anything, that comes down to winning in the subcontinent -- in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and, above all, in India.

"The subcontinent is always the challenge," said captain Andrew Strauss.

"Even the great Australia sides struggled to win in India because the conditions are very foreign to what you're used to.

"That's the next challenge we've got, starting this winter and next winter as well, and that's what we'll be pushing ourselves for.

"The rankings reward your consistency so, whether you're home or away, it's how often you win Test matches and beat opposition teams."

The last time that cricket entered the English public's consciousness to such a degree was when they beat Australia in a series for the ages in 2005.

How quickly that seemed to be wasted, so that within a year they seemed back to square one. Strauss was there.

"That (2005) surprised us all," he said. "We played some amazing cricket, and then maybe we weren't quite as clear in our own minds what direction we wanted to go in from there.

"This is a gradual evolution and we're only part of the way there."

England seem to know where they are going and this time they might even know how to get there. (© Independent News Service)

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