A newly developed sense of power

Steve Finn is almost as tall as Chris Tremlett. He wrenched lift and fire and pace out of Australian pitches for the first two Tests of last winter but had to be put back in his box because by the third Test he was evidently tired. He is, even now, only 21.-AP

The reasons for the sudden change of England cricket's status are many but — and this is surely right — it is in the main because they have lots of good players at the moment, writes Ted Corbett.

It appears that by the end of this summer England will be on top of the world rankings after beating India by a wide margin. But are they worthy of such an honour?

They are heading for a permanent place at the top of the ICC rankings, they are now the firmly established holders of the Ashes and they seem to be able to overcome misfortune or injuries which is in this era of too much cricket a vital component of a winning side.

Apart from Jonathon Trott, their batsmen cannot bowl but their bowlers can all bat. Don't exclude Jimmy Anderson. There is no better nightwatchman anywhere.

I think they are champions but then I am prejudiced — as some of you have written to tell me — and I am happy to listen to your point of view.

Yes, England have turned into an arrogant side but that is one of the consequences of success. It comes as a surprise that England are making demands, walking off the field when they think it should be lunch or tea, and questioning the umpires as if they were deadly enemies.

I like to see this newly developed sense of power because for almost the whole of the time I was close to England — one young captain asked me when I thought he should declare, I swear — they were diffident, quiet and, particularly compared with those brash Aussies, almost bashful.

Now they hold the Ashes, they have, at the time of writing just beaten India for the second time in two weeks and they are carrying on as if the world owed them a living. Oh, by the way, did I mention England were world title holders in the Twenty20 variety of cricket too.

Just in case anyone thought thatTwenty20 was only played in India.

The reasons for this sudden change of status are many but — and this is surely right — it is in the main because they have lots of good players at the moment.

England could for instance field almost a complete team of Test quality fast bowlers, including Anderson, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and the giant Chris Tremlett. Should end of season injuries cripple the team there are a number of younger quicks on the county circuit who can step into their place at any time.

There is for instance Steve Finn, almost as tall as Tremlett. He wrenched lift and fire and pace out of Australian pitches for the first two Tests of last winter but had to be put back in his box because by the third Test he was evidently tired. He is, even now, only 21.

There are two lads in the cold, northern fastness of Durham who could play for England tomorrow without disgracing themselves — Geoff Onions and Liam Plunkett — and I hear that in the same team is one Steve Harmison who appears to have regained his venom.

Eight fast bowlers of Test class is plenty but there are more: Chris Woakes of Warwickshire, Jade Dernbach of Surrey, and Ajmal Shezad from Yorkshire are all straining at the leash hoping to get their chance. Push in the veteran Glen Chappel of Lancashire and you have a Dirty Dozen ready to fire.

I am not exaggerating. England have rarely had such an array of fast bowling talent. Certainly not since the days of Fred Trueman, Frank Tyson, Alec Bedser, Brian Statham and Peter Loader.

Some of these fast bowlers were inspired as teenagers by the 2005 Ashes victory, one of the great sporting events in this country. For me it was a thrill a match as I dodged round corners to get into grounds already packed to the rafters, or saw grown men, carrying bottles of champagne and insisting that each passing lovely girl accept a drink even though — in one instance I saw on Vauxhall Road Bridge — she had to ask if she was being required to toast a football or a cricket team.

It was a great time to grow into a sporting environment, to form an ambition to be a Test bowler or to simply celebrate the great event of each moment.

The whole nation learnt how to cheer a team bearing their colours. I saw that stiff faced opening bat Marcus Trescothick beg the crowd at Old Trafford to keep cheering, saw Michael Vaughan turn from a sober Yorkshireman into a captain who dare take his men into the Prime Minister's front parlour and shake life into that august haven.

Heaven knows, I am old enough to be grandfather to most of that team and yet I too wept and cheered and called on the sporting gods to see justice was done.

From that celebration, by way of annihilation in Australia 18 months on and the departure of the architect of that team Duncan Fletcher, the present team has stretched itself, enhanced its performances and won back the Ashes and as I write laid the ground for championship.

There is more to come, says Andrew Strauss, the captain who can, so it seems, do without a deep understanding for which he offers high class man management.

In that journey England have become tougher — think Ian Bell, a mouse now learning to roar, or Kevin Pietersen, a rash lad now able to take thought, or the apprentice Anderson now a leader of the pack and, just possibly, the best fast bowler in the world.

I wonder how Duncan Fletcher, their first helpmate, felt as he saw the men he had set on their way turn into master technicians as they thrashed India.

His face will never betray an emotion but I imagine his main emotion was envy and that there are a few coaches round the globe who feel the same way.