x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Time to blossom under wily Flower

Not for the first time, Michael Atherton made a pertinent point during the flurry of interviews which followed England's coronation on Sunday evening.

Ian Bell has flattered to deceive during the last three Test matches and must improve his productivity levels in South Africa.
Ian Bell has flattered to deceive during the last three Test matches and must improve his productivity levels in South Africa.

Not for the first time, Michael Atherton made a pertinent point during the flurry of interviews which followed England's coronation on Sunday evening. The former England captain-turned-commentator put it to Ian Bell that this should be a starting point in the national team's development, rather than the zenith. It was steeped in relevance. When England won the urn back for the first time in 18 years four years previously, all the subsequent grand-standing and celebrification of the players proved entirely detrimental.

England were whitewashed in the return rubber and they remain no closer to winning a global one-day event. Simon Jones, one of the heroes of the 2005 triumph, said England could rightly be regarded as the best side in the world then. The validity of his claim was debatable, but it would be folly for any Englishman to even entertain the idea now. After their success, they lie fifth in the Test rankings, while Australia have tumbled to fourth.

Progress will be difficult. They are now shorn of Andrew Flintoff, while his big mate, Steve Harmison, looks close to following him. However, given the shrewd guidance of Andrew Strauss and the team director, Andy Flower, England could yet rise from these Ashes. The faster they mend their middle-order, the better. Australia's plight seems startling. When Shane Warne and the like were in their pomp, it seemed difficult to imagine a time when they would enjoy anything other than global domination.

Yet, despite the flowering of Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle in England, the Australian cupboard now looks increasingly bare. They could be good enough to reclaim the urn from England next winter, but may also be destined to slum it with the rank and file of the middle-strata of Test cricket society for a while yet. @Email:pradley@thenational.ae