It may have all ended rather quickly at Centurion, with a batting collapse reminiscent of the mid-1990s, but make no mistake about it, English cricket is on the up.
A 2-1 victory over the number one Test team in their own backyard is an impressive achievement made even more admirable when the opposition is South Africa.
A notoriously hostile place to visit as a touring team, England had the series sewn up before they even reached the final Test.
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It might only be one series victory but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
With Sri Lanka and Pakistan touring this summer, there are several reasons why England can continue their journey towards the pinnacle of Test cricket.
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Ben Stokes is a man determined to single-handedly shatter Test cricket’s boring image.
Stokes, England’s box office draw, has cemented his place in the side as a genuine all-rounder.
Man of the series against South Africa, his 258-run haul in Cape Town was one of the most memorable innings in recent cricket history.
Capable of winning matches with both bat and ball, Stokes has given England a new dimension.
His ability to take wickets at key times has taken pressure off England’s other bowlers, whilst his attacking batting style means, no matter the score, opposition teams are reluctant to set attacking fields when he's at the crease.
A POTENT BOWLING ATTACK
English cricket fans look back at the 2005 Ashes series through rose-tinted glasses, reminiscing about the famous bowling attack consisting of Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Simon Jones and Andrew Flintoff.
Their current strike force, composing of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, the aforementioned Stokes and Steven Finn or Mark Wood, can be just as good.
As in 2005, each bowler has their own individual role and skill set.
Anderson is the most experienced of the group and England’s leading all-time wicket-taker.
Although he didn’t have his best series in South Africa, it would be foolish to suggest he is over the hill with two Test series in England coming up.
A prime example of swing bowling at pace, Anderson can still lead the line for the next few years, providing he stays injury-free.
Stuart Broad is England’s bowling talisman, capable of turning a match with one devastating spell. Remember Trent Bridge?
The perfect foil for his opening partner, Broad may well overtake Anderson as England’s leading wicket-taker in the next few years.
Ben Stokes, as mentioned above, fills the ‘Flintoff’ role.
Capable of bowling above 90 miles per hour he, like Broad, can turn a match out of nowhere.
Completing the attack is usually one of Mark Wood or Steven Finn, the newest members of the brigade.
Finn, who recently returned to the Test team after remodelling his action, has been a revelation.
Bowling with pace and hostility, he uses his 6'7" frame to deliver the ball from a steep angle, creating bounce many batsmen find difficult to cope with.
Tipped by former England captain Nasser Hussain to become one of the greats, Finn adds yet another dimension to the attack.
Wood is the least known figure in England’s attack, having only played eight Test matches to date.
However, he has impressed in his few outings and will unlikely be a passenger when his time comes again.
In Joe Root, England have a true world class player. One of, if not the, best batsmen in the world, Root provides a platform from which others can build on.
The Yorkshireman had a stellar year in 2015, scoring 2,131 runs across all formats before continuing his form into 2016.
Capable of adapting to any situation, Root provides England’s middle order with much-needed stability, allowing players such as Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow the freedom to come in and play their natural, attacking games.
However, this isn’t to say Root isn’t capable of playing a shot or two himself, having scored his 3,406 Test runs at a respectable strike-rate of 53.52.
At only 25-years-old, Root will be around for a while yet, and has been touted as a future England captain.
Spiky and not afraid of confrontation, he represents the new era of English cricket.
ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK
England coach Trevor Bayliss has instilled a new ethos into the team since his appointment, encouraging the team to attack whenever possible.
A dismal showing at the 2015 World Cup signalled a change in English cricket, with Andrew Strauss appointed as director of cricket and given the task of reversing the team’s fortunes.
An entertaining series with New Zealand and an Ashes victory on home soil were built around a structure encouraging players to bat and bowl freely.
Players brought up on Twenty20 cricket were allowed to play in whatever way they saw fit, which saw batsmen attacking rather than defending in precarious situations.
Ben Stokes’ innings in Cape Town demonstrated the potential success of this bold playing style as he bludgeoned 258 off just 168 balls.
Whilst this daring approach can lead to a swift demise, it’s enabled England to approach Test cricket with a different mindset, one that suits their young side.
With players like Stokes and Root yet to reach their prime and a bowling attack as good as any in world cricket, we may see England atop the Test cricket rankings again.
Can England return to the summit of Test cricket? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below!
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