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If you – like many other people out there – have become a little bit confused about the ICC Test Rankings and all the ifs and maybes, don’t worry…..the main takeout from the Sri Lanka-England drawn series is that England remain the #1 side in the world for the time being.
Whilst England can feel pretty good about their 8 wicket win in Colombo and the ease in which they chased down the modest target of 94; the reality of their achievement can be put down to the efforts of one man – Kevin Pietersen. Sure the resurgence of Graeme Swann (10-181 in the match) with the crucial wickets of Samaraweera and Jayawardene in Sri Lanka’s second innings made matters easier for England. But much in the way that Maheyla Jayawardene was in Galle, Kevin Pietersen was the difference between the two sides. His masterful knock of 151 off 165 balls in the first innings featuring 16 fours and 6 sixes made you wonder whether he was playing in a parallel universe let alone on a different pitch.
Man of the series rightfully went to Maheyla Jayawardene who scored 350 majestic runs at 87.5. Man-who-saved-England’s-blushes goes to Kevin Pietersen.
Had England not ended their hoodoo in the subcontinent, their reign as number one would have ended and they would have been labelled a flawed team. Instead, they have ended their run of four straight test defeats and exercised some demons in the process.
Barely two months ago, England were rudderless, tied in knots and eventually spun out only half way to their target of 145 in Abu Dhabi as a 3-0 whitewash and humiliation pursued. This time around – despite losing Strauss in the very first over – England through Alastair Cook were aggressive, proactive and sporting a game plan which meant the result was only going to go one way. In the process, the disdain with which Kevin Pietersen treated Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka’s bowling spearhead post Murali) indicates that the left arm spin voodoo is finally starting to wear off.
You can’t help but think that if there was a third test in the series – which should be a minimum requirement for any series – England would have banished their subcontinent blues once and for all. Besides the Pietersen heroics, England can take heart in the performance of two men who can take much credit for England’s number one status. Andrew Strauss contributed with the bat with a dogged 61 in the first innings to quash rumours of his place being in jeopardy. And Graeme Swann (16 wickets at 22) reminded everyone why he was considered the finest spinner in the world rising out of a form slump that had him visibly sweating.
Special mention has to go to Tim Bresnan who must be practicing some black magic of his own. He has now played in 11 Tests for England and been on the winning side in each and every single test. Though unspectacular in this return, his all-round impact on the side is starting to get beyond “lucky charm” status. To average 40 with the bat and 24 with the ball after 11 games is a start to a Test career as influential as South Africa’s Vernon Philander.
So what is next for England and their number one ranking?
Presuming England see to the West Indies at the start of the summer, the fate of the number one ranking will surely be decided by a straight shootout between the champion and the pretender to the throne as South Africa come to play a three Test match series.
That will just be epic…..
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