KEEPING LORD'S WORLD CLASS
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England’s superb start to the series with India has showcased the depth of their squad with a number of players pressing for a place in what may soon be the world's number one Test side.
With Andrew Strauss' side currently 2-0 up in the four match series a draw in the third Test will be enough to see them top the ICC Test rankings.
Futhermore, star turns from individual players have seen them move up the ICC’s player rankings too.
After thumping victories in the opening Tests – by 196 runs at Lord’s and a record-breaking 319 runs at Trent Bridge – England have the momentum in the four match series.
Outstanding performances from Stuart Broad, Ian Bell and Tim Bresnan in particular have also helped them rise to career-best individual positions.
They have also created one of the most welcome of selection dilemmas ahead of the third Test at Edgbaston.
Strength in depth
England’s strength in depth has been the most telling factor in their dominance in Test cricket over last 18-months. Bresnan, the bullish 26-year-old Yorkshire all-rounder, provides the best example of this.
At Trent Bridge, for the second time in his short Test career, he stepped into the side and left a resounding imprint on the match with a brutal 90 followed by 5-48 as England rolled through India in the second innings.
His performance takes him to a career best 25th in the bowling rankings, but of more significance is his increasing value to the team – despite not being first-choice.
Bresnan has played eight Tests for England, and been on the winning side on each occasion. He leads the attack in the limited-overs formats and is set to be a permanent presence in the squad, even if he is left out in favour of a fit again Chris Tremlett for the third Test.
Bresnan's presence in the squad had many, including Stuart Broad, looking over their shoulder, concerned about their place in the side ahead of the series.
This may have played a part in Broad's man-of-the-match performance at Trent Bridge for a terrific all round performance which included a hat-trick.
He has rediscovered his touch in the most spectacular fashion, leaping into seventh place on the bowling list and third in the all-rounder ratings after 182 runs at 60.66 and 15 wickets at just 11.33.
England have discussed the deliberate evolution of a ‘bowling unit’ which can be rotated at will during hard Test series’ – a system which worked perfectly in Australia last winter.
The five men who played during the victorious Ashes campaign have all had an outing this summer, with Steven Finn falling from a first choice option in Brisbane last year to the second reserve this summer.
With Jonathan Trott suffering a shoulder injury at Trent Bridge, there will be a clamor for England to switch to a five man bowling attack at Edgbaston.
The depth of England’s batting at Trent Bridge with Bresnan and Broad coming in at eight and nine, makes it a tantalising option for the selectors.
This side’s success has been built on pragmatism though, typified by the employment of just four bowlers, creating a long batting line up with Matt Prior (who averages 45.10 in Tests) coming in at seven.
England are likely to shy away from a five man attack, despite the obvious appeal of fitting Bresnan, Broad, Tremlett and James Anderson into the side - alongside spinner Graeme Swann.
Strauss will remember all too well how overconfidence in their lower order resulted in a painful lesson against old foes Australia at Headingley in 2009. They were skittled for just 102 runs on day one.
Ravi Bopara will therefore be favourite to replace Trott if he is unfit - though James Taylor and James Hildreth may have something to say about that.
A four man attack has guided England to within touching distance of number one. Which four will be picked for the next Test should leave the England selectors with a pleasing poser.