England can become number one Test side again

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Football News

England's recent away victory in the Test Series against South Africa is a huge achievement, and their first win overseas since winning in India in 2012.

Despite triumphing against AB De Villiers' men in their own country, Trevor Bayliss' team are only ranked fifth in the world behind Pakistan, South Africa, Australia and India, who have recently displaced the Proteas as the number one ranked Test side.

However, it is clearly evident England are a better team than their number five ranking suggests.


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Having won an Ashes series against a much-fancied Australia side in the summer of 2015 with a game to spare, England should be favoured against anyone in home conditions.

While England lost the three-match series in the UAE against Pakistan, the 2-0 scoreline definitely flattered Misbah-ul-Haq's players.

The win against South Africa showed England boast several individuals who can produce match-winning performances in hostile conditions.

Proteas captain De Villiers concurs England are the "team to beat" in the next year, as quoted by ESPN.

Dangerous bowling attack

Going forward, one area in which England have an embarrassment of riches is their bowling attack.

Although James Anderson did not have his most prolific series, he should be more successful in swing-friendly English conditions during summer clashes against Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Motivation should not be a problem for the 'Burnley Lara'. Having recently passed Shaun Pollock and Sir Richard Hadlee with his 433rd Test wicket, Anderson will be itching to edge closer to Kapil Dev and Courtney Walsh.

Additionally, England also boast one of the best bowlers in the world, Stuart Broad, although the man himself regards South African Dale Steyn as number one.

The Nottinghamshire paceman's 6-17 in Johannesburg was one of the best spells an England bowler has ever produced, and he played a huge part in clinching a series win.

Still only 29-years-old, Broad has an excellent chance of eventually becoming England's highest ever wicket-taker.

Another positive for Trevor Bayliss is the consistency of Middlesex's Steven Finn, who has come a long way since being described as "unselectable" during the disastrous 2013-14 Ashes series in Australia.

Moreover, it is clear strength in depth is also not a problem for England.

Despite Finn's promising form, Mark Wood should not be discounted going forward, though he will need to strengthen his case by taking plenty of wickets for Durham when the county cricket season starts in April.

With Ben Stokes also improving his bowling average during the last year, England have a catalogue of options when it comes to their seam attack.

Spin dilemma

However, things are not completely rosy for England as spin bowlers remain a concern for Alastair Cook in the long-term.

The selectors will get away with using Moeen Ali on his own in the summer, but during the winter series in India, two – possibly three – spinners will be necessary.

Adil Rashid seems to be regarded as the second choice to Ali, but still has a lot to prove due to his lacklustre performance in the UAE.

If a specialist spinner were to emerge on the county cricket scene this summer, it would be an unlikely bonus for England.

Although England have individual match-winners aplenty, there may still be places up for grabs.

On the batting front, there are plenty of positives to take out of the South Africa tour.

Joe Root exudes calm and confidence at the crease, while Ben Stokes' 258 in Cape Town was one of the most destructive innings ever by an England batsman.

Jonny Bairstow still needs to work on his wicket-keeping but seems to have secured his place at number seven after recording a series average of 71 runs.

However, question marks hang over the batting positions of two, three and five.

It is probable Alex Hales, Nick Compton and James Taylor will be given a chance in the Sri Lanka series to secure their places.

Though it must be said, all three looked very nervy and erratic in South Africa and are running out of time to prove the doubters wrong.

Michael Carberry, Gary Ballance and James Vince will also expect to contend for these spots in the summer.

Huge challenge in India

Ultimately, whether England can reach number one in the world will rest on the consistency of their world-class individuals such as Cook, Root, Stokes and Broad.

However, they also need to solve their middle order problems and, most importantly, find a successful partner for Cook by the time of the much-anticipated series in India at the end of the year.

With Virat Kohli's men showing signs of greatness themselves, it may prove to be too steep a challenge for Cook to lead his team to number one for the first time since 2012.

Yet one thing is for certain – it would be foolish to write them off.

Can England return to the number one ranking in Test cricket? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below!

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Joe Root
England cricket

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