England on top of the cricket world

NORMAN DA COSTA, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:02 AM ET

TORONTO - Birmingham was hit by rioting and looting. And at Edgbaston, just two kilometres away from the centre of the city, India’s national cricket team got mugged by England. Not only were the visitors clobbered, they also lost their No.1 Test ranking to England, the country that introduced the sport to the world.

After one-sided victories in the first two Tests, England pulled off another emphatic win Saturday — this time by an innings and 242 runs with a day to spare. Alastair Cook’s career-best 294 helped England post a gigantic 710 for seven declared in reply to India’s 224. Then fast bowler James Anderson claimed four for 85 as India was bundled out for 244 in its second knock to give England a 3-0 lead in the four-match series.

“It’s been a goal of ours to reach the top of the rankings for a long time,’’ said England captain Andrew Strauss. “ It’s a great testament to everyone involved in the England setup and fills me with a lot of pride.”

India’s skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni stated the obvious. “We’ve not been up to the mark in this series and the margins of defeat have been getting bigger and bigger. There are areas we need to improve in the side ... but overall to play really good cricket you have to be consistent and that’s what England have done.”

This was the most-hyped Test series in maybe a decade or so but India with its star-studded millionaire players surrendered without so much as a fight. It comes as no surprise that immediately following the loss Saturday, India’s governing cricket body announced it will launch a probe on the capitulation of a team that was No.1 for 21 months. Enough said about India.

Let’s look at what went right for the all-conquering England squad.

First and foremost, England played as a team rather than individuals and there lay the difference. Take the pace attack of Anderson, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan. They attacked as a pack, never allowing the Indians to grab the initiative. And then Strauss, Cook, Eoin Morgan, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior treated the Indian bowling with utter contempt.

What happened to the great Indian spinners like Bishen Singh Bedi, Bagwat Chandrasekhar and Anil Kumble who terrorized the world with their guile? With the exception of Rahul Dravid, what happened to the other “great” batsmen? Opener Virender Sehwag rued his return from injury to Test cricket at Edgbaston by collecting “a king pair” — that’s two ducks in cricket lingo.

Fire in Babylon

Local fans will get the rare opportunity of taking in Stevan Riley’s Fire in Babylon, an 88-minute documentary on the dominance of the West Indies squad in the 1970s and 1980s. It is being screened for free at The Royal Theatre at 7 p.m. tonight. There is some outstanding footage of the Fearsome Four — Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Andy Roberts and Malcolm Marshall — who as the movie claims “brought the world to its knees and a nation to its feet” with their barrage of bouncers. No team ever dominated any sport as long as this particular group of West Indians that included the legendary all-rounder Garfield Sobers and batsman par excellence Viv Richards ... Canada opens a two-day match against the United States Monday.

Mendis magic

Ajantha Mendis spun his way into the record book with the almost unbelievable figures of 4-1-16-6 to lift Sri Lanka to a 2-0 sweep in the Twenty20 series against visiting Australia. Australia, needing 158 for a win, collapsed after compiling 71 without loss and Mendis’ outstanding accomplishment is likely to stay in the book for a long time ... In the first Twenty20 encounter it was the bat of skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan that whacked the Aussies. He scored an unbeaten 104 as Sri Lanka made 198 for three to propel the home team to a 35-run win ... Australia bounced back to win the first of five one-day internationals, thanks to a furious spell of fast bowling by Mitchell Johnson who captured six wickets for 31 runs to dismiss Sri Lanka for 191. Aussies reached 192 for three.

Zimbabwe a hit

It’s been a bitter-sweet return to Test cricket after a six-year absence. The country withdrew from Test cricket after bitter disputes between players and officials and rules regarding selection of black players in a sport dominated by whites.

On the field Zimbabwe thrashed Bangladesh in a one-off Test at Harare, but Zimbabwe Cricket announced things aren’t all that rosy with its bank account, this despite a hectic summer schedule. Zimbabwe will play one Test against Pakistan and New Zealand and several one-day and Twenty20 matches in the next five weeks. “It costs us around $1.1 million (U.S.) to host a tour,” Ozias Bvute, managing director of Zimbabwe Cricket told ESPNcricinfo. “We only earn about $200,000 from TV rights, although it will be slightly less against New Zealand, and about $150,000 from sponsorship.’’

Bvute added India and England are the only two countries that could inject much-needed cash into Zimbabwe’s coffers. But India has a hectic schedule and England will not tour Zimbabwe because of ongoing political problems concerning President Robert Mugabe.

Quick wickets

Michael Carberry stroked his way to a superb 300 for Hampshire but the English County match versus Yorkshire ended in a draw. Some fans will remember the name as he was capped for England but was then sidelined by injury. His South African partner Neil McKenzie hit 237 and the two put on 523 for the third wicket in a total of 599 for three, the third highest score ever recorded in county cricket. . . . Neil McCallum will call it a day to his international career with Scotland after today’s match against Hampshire to return to his job as a teacher.


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