By Lee Dover
Ever since they thrashed the Aussies and snatched the Ashes trophy in 2005, England’s cricket scene has been going from strength to strength between the stumps.
Don’t just take our word for it – the stats say it all. Top rated in the ICC Test Championship rankings, sitting atop the perch of the ICC Twenty20 Championship leaderboard and just one point away from leading the charge of the ICC ODI Championship.
England’s latest stamp of authority in the game came on Tuesday evening when Ravi Bopara led the way to deal Australia the first 4-0 one-day series defeat in their history.
Following this exceptional display, the focus once again shifts to the Test scene and whether Andy Flower can keep the phenomenal roll of the Three Lions going with victory over South Africa.
Paddy Power is offering odds of 13/8 that England will begin the series in style and win the first test, while an eye-catching 5/2 is the price for South Africa to pull off an upset at the Kia Oval next week.
Flower believes that England’s test players only need to look at the near-faultless display of their ODI buddies to give them hope for victory.
He explained: “Certainly our guys are more adept at home conditions, of course, like most countries. But I also think we have learned some lessons, and players have been good enough to continue their learning as individuals. It’s been really nice to see how some of them are developing.”
South African fast bowler Dale Steyn has looked to blow the wind out of England’s sails though, aiming a fierce strike towards some of the Three Lions’ best players.
He pondered to the Daily Mail: “[Kevin] Pietersen and [Jonathan] Trott are the ones, really, and they’re fantastic players but I’m not saying we’re missing out because, if I look at our team, I feel who would they knock out? I think they’d have a hard time getting into our team now. Seriously.”
Think England’s elite will take offence to these hard-hitting words? Then perhaps you will want to have a punt on Paddy Power’s 4/1 odds for Trott to be England’s top first innings runscorer.
Kevin Pietersen is also 4/1 to leave South Africa’s fielders in awe, rack up the top first innings run score and showing that there is plenty of fight left in the South African-born cricketer’s heart following his shock ODI retirement six weeks ago.
One thing is certain; this could be a Test series for the ages.