England’s twin triumphs in the home contests against West Indies and Pakistan may have been along expected lines but the question now is can they make further progress in both the ICC Test rankings and the World Test Championship (WTC). Currently, they remain no 4 in the former behind Australia, New Zealand, and India but comfortably ahead of Sri Lanka, South Africa, Pakistan and West Indies. In the WTC they have climbed to the third position just behind Australia and again well ahead of the rest of the field. England was a bit unfortunate that rain ruined their chances of winning the final Test against Pakistan for otherwise they might well have made it to the No 2 spot behind leaders India.
The crucial point to note is that whereas England have been near-invincible at home – their last loss in a series involving three or more Tests was against South Africa in 2012 – they do not travel well. In the last few years, they have gone down in Australia, India, West Indies, New Zealand, and Pakistan and in the winter they will be touring India and Sri Lanka. The last time they toured India in 2016-17 they lost the five-match series 4-0 though they did win all three Tests in Sri Lanka a couple of years ago.
Even during the home season while they emerged victorious in both contests England faced anxious moments. They had to recover from the loss of the first Test to get the better of West Indies and were in a ticklish situation before overcoming Pakistan in the first Test. It must not be forgotten that both these teams are below England in the ICC Test rankings. The batting presented problems and it was only the bowling that helped cover up the deficiencies.
Be that as it may there were positives that England picked up which the team management will hope will stand them in good stead in the near future. Zak Crawley made giant strides while compiling his monumental 267 in the final Test and there is the promise of Ollie Pope blossoming out into a stroke playing batsman. Joe Root is such a classy player that he can shrug off his low scores and hit the big time anytime. It was good to see Jos Buttler’s batting not being affected by his below-par keeping and in Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes, they have capable all-rounders. But it is the fast bowling that is their strength and this impressive line-up has it in them to see England through in any conditions. That is also what England will be hoping for during their tougher away assignments in the winter.