The Evolution of the England Cricket team since 2003

As we approach the beginning of another summer of English cricket, here at TSZ we have decided to do a piece focusing on the trials and tribulations of the English cricket team. For many years England have been considered outdated when it came to their limited overs approach. Fresh off the back of an excellent T20 World Cup campaign and winter series in South Africa, this young squad have shown that this is an accusation, which can no longer be leveled at the team. An exciting crop, led by the excellent Eoin Morgan, has emerged, literally blasting England into a new exciting future.

Meanwhile, if we change focus to the test arena, England currently have the number 1 and number 5 ranked bowlers in the world (Stuart Broad and James Anderson), the number 2 ranked batsmen in the world (Joe Root) and arguably the best test opener in the world (Alastair Cook). With a new forward thinking coach in Trevor Bayliss, it would appear the future is bright for English cricket across all formats. But instead of looking forward, we at TSZ have decided to delve into the past and analyse the evolution of the England cricket team from 2003, through its many ups and downs, to present day. We have chosen this start date, as it is the point at which the new test ranking system was introduced.

Duncan Fletcher’s Reign

Duncan Fletcher took over the England cricket team in 1999 and oversaw many changes to the English set-up but non-more important than the introduction of centralized contracts in 2000. With Nasser Hussain installed as captain, results in the test arena generally improved - particularly at home, however consistent ODI success was still elusive. A grit and toughness was being instilled in the team with a nucleus of players consisting of Hussain, Graham Thorpe, Darren Gough and Ashley Giles being regularly selected. However, after yet another beating at the hands of Australia in the 2002-03 Ashes tour down under and a first round exit in the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup, Hussain stepped down as captain one test into the 2003 South Africa series. By the end of the series Alec Stewart had also announced his retirement from international cricket.

Michael Vaughan stepped into the role of captain, with England ranked 4th in the world test rankings and 7th in the world ODI rankings. Under his stewardship over the next two years the test team flourished. The side won 6 of the next 7 test series’ ahead of the 2005 Ashes series - a run that took them to the number 2 ranking in the world. The side particularly benefitted from a settled bowling attack, with Flintoff, Harmison, Simon Jones, Giles and Hoggard beautifully complementing one another. In addition to this Trescothick and Strauss had formed an excellent pairing at the top of the order and Vaughan was pillaging runs from wherever he was asked to bat.

With confidence high in the dressing room, England entered the 2005 Ashes looking to win the urn for the first time in 16 years. The biggest decision they faced prior to its start was who would make up the remainder of the middle order alongside Vaughan. With only two spots available, the young, brash talents of Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell were vying with the old stalwart of Graham Thorpe. It was Bell and Pietersen who got the nod and this proved to be an excellent decision. In what can possibly be described as the greatest Ashes series ever, England reclaimed the urn with a 2-1 victory. Justifying his selection, Pietersen was England’s leading run scorer in the series.

Following the 2005 Ashes win, much was expected of a side that had just beaten the number 1 ranked team in the world. However, over the next couple of years injuries to key players hampered the side’s progress. Jones, Vaughan and Giles all missed significant time and England didn’t win any of their next 3 test series against Pakistan, India or Sri Lanka. The severity of Vaughan’s injury meant Flintoff replaced him as captain however; even Flintoff couldn’t escape the injury curse, as his long-standing ankle problems started to flair up and he missed all of the 2006 home series to Pakistan. Andrew Strauss deputized as captain for this series as England secured a 3-0 victory. It was during this series that several exciting talents started to emerge, non-more so than a young opener named Alastair Cook. The spate of injuries also allowed the likes of Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell time to consolidate their places within the team.

Despite England’s lack of form the 2006–07 Ashes series down under was still keenly anticipated and expected to provide a level of competition comparable to the 2005 series. After all England were still the number 2 ranked side in the world and much of the squad that had tasted triumph in 2005 were still in place. What followed however, was a dark day in English cricket history. Even with Flintoff recovering to captain the side, England lost all five tests to concede the first Ashes whitewash in 86 years.

Unlike the test team, the ODI side struggled to gain any sort of consistency throughout Fletchers tenure as Head Coach. Despite reaching a peak ranking of 3rd in the summer of 2003 (off the back of a good home series win against Pakistan and a triangular series win against South Africa and Zimbabwe), they spent most of his reign around 7th in the world. There were the occasional highpoints, such as the side reaching the final of the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy and a first ODI away series victory since 1997 (against Australia and New Zealand in 2006/07). More often than not though, England was on the losing side of a series. From the Ashes in 2005, England won only 1 of their next 5 series (against Ireland) heading into the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy, a run which saw them nearly suffer the indignity of having to qualify for the tournament. Unsurprisingly England finished bottom of their group. Just a mere 6 months later the 2007 Cricket World Cup was held. Predictably England struggled, getting beat by most of the test playing nations they faced. Even victories against West Indies and Bangladesh were met with criticism over the style in which England were going about their business, with many commentators openly slating England’s approach to the one-day format. This poor performance, coupled to the Ashes whitewash that had preceded the 2007 World Cup, led to Fletchers resignation in April 2007.

During Fletcher's time as Head Coach, T20 cricket was very much in its infancy. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) first introduced the format at a professional level in 2003. Given its current popularity it is perhaps surprising to note that the game was never intended to be played internationally and was originally introduced to help boost crowd attendances at domestic level. However, the public was thrilled with the fast paced, hard-hitting entertainment on show and with interest gathering significant pace, England played their first T20 international before the start of the 2005 Ashes series against Australia, winning by 100 runs. It would be one of only 4 T20s played with Fletcher as Head Coach and the only one in which England recorded a victory.

Peter Moores' 1st Reign

Following Duncan Fletcher's resignation, Peter Moores was charged with improving England’s form. Vaughan was retained as captain of the test team and their partnership began well, with a 3-0 victory in the home series against the West Indies. Despite this strong start the team struggled to find consistency over the next year. Losses away to India and at home to Sri Lanka were coupled to victories home and away against New Zealand, a run which caused England to drop from 2nd to 5th in the test rankings. The erratic form was symptomatic of the captain’s, whose own form had deteriorated from the extremely high standards he had set himself. Finally, after a particularly poor run of scores in the home series against South Africa, Vaughan stepped down as captain with one test remaining. Kevin Pietersen, who scored a century in his first test as captain, replaced him. As hindsight tells us, this appointment would ultimately be the beginning of the end for Moores’ tenure. Shortly after Pietersens first full series as captain (a 1-0 defeat in India) the media reported he was vying for the removal of Moores as Head Coach, citing irreconcilable differences on how they believed the team should move forwards. With the situation at breaking point, Moores was relieved of his duties on 7th January 2009. In a surprise twist, Pietersen also resigned as captain, leaving England in search of both a new Head Coach and captain. Since Moores’ inception as Head Coach, England had slipped from the number 2 ranked test team in the world to 5th and failed to improve their rankings or performances in the shorter formats of the game.

On a more positive note, despite a fairly short period as England Head Coach, Moores should be credited with bringing through a number of English cricketers who would go on to (and still have) a massive impact on the English game. It was under Moores that James Anderson and Stuart Broad established themselves as England’s premier bowlers. He also handed Graeme Swann his debut in the 2008 test series against India and brought Matt Prior into the squad as England’s wicket keeper.

Following Moores’ appointment, Paul Collingwood replaced Vaughan at the helm for both the ODI and T20 sides. Future England test stars Alastair Cook and Matt Prior were also brought into the one-day team. T20s were taken more seriously, with specialist players such as Luke Wright and Dimitri Mascarenhas being selected. However, despite these changes the fortunes of the team, in either of the short formats, failed to improve. The side’s biggest problem was finding any sort of consistency. Despite excellent ODI series wins at home to India (in June 2007) and South Africa (in August 2008) and away to Sri Lanka (in October 2007), the side won only these 3 series (out of 7) during Moores’ tenure. More importantly, the style of England’s play failed to improve, with England still appearing to be behind the other test playing nations in this form of the game. This lack of progress was coupled to abject failure by the T20 side in the 2007 Twenty20 World Championship. England won only 1 of their 5 matches played (against Zimbabwe) and were knocked out at the Super 8 stage, finishing bottom of their group, with 0 points. By the end of his tenure Moores left the one-day side ranked 6th in the world and with only 5 wins out of the T20 games he was in charge of.

Andy Flower’s Reign

Needing a new Head Coach, the ECB turned to the former Zimbabwean wicket keeper Andy Flower, who took control on a temporary basis for the 2009 tour of West Indies, before the role was made permanent. In a shrewd move Andrew Strauss was given the captaincy and what followed was an excellent couple of years for English test cricket. After trading series wins against the West Indies, Australia was once again welcomed to British soil for the 2009 Ashes. On the back of a turbulent 12 months, expectations weren’t high heading into the series. England were still ranked 5th in the world and the Australians number 1. An unlikely draw in the first test was followed by a first English win in a Lord’s Ashes test since 1934. The 3rd test was also drawn and with Australia dismantling the side in the 4th test, the series was decided at the Oval. Thanks to some fine bowling by Broad and Swann, England took the win and with it a 2-1 series victory to regain the Ashes.

The 2009 Ashes series should also be noted for the test debut of Jonathon Trott and also the test retirement of Andrew Flintoff. The never-ending sequence of injuries sustained over the previous years had finally taken their toll on Flintoff and he announced on the 15th July 2009 his intention to retire form test cricket at the end of the 2009 Ashes. Trott himself was called up for the 4th test as an injury replacement, however he wouldn’t make his debut until the decisive 5th test at the Oval, where he went on to become only the 18th Englishman to make a test century on debut and the first to do so against Australia since Graham Thorpe in 1993. He would eventually lock down the troublesome number 3 slot and become integral to England’s rise to the top of the rankings.

Following their Ashes triumph it would be over 2 years until England tasted a test series defeat again. Benefitting from a settled side, home series victories followed against Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India. Sandwiched between these four successes was a first away Ashes win in 24 years. After this victory Paul Collingwood announced his retirement from test cricket. The ensuing summer England defeated India 4-0 in the 2011 home series and finally ascended to the top of the test rankings to become the world’s best test team. However, it would be a relatively short lived reign as test series defeats away to Pakistan and at home to South Africa in 2012 (their first home series defeat since 2008 against the same opposition), would see the team usurped at the top of the rankings by South Africa. In addition to losing the number 1 spot, the 2012 South African test series is also remembered for a number of other incidents, which occurred within the English camp. This most notably included Strauss’ retirement from cricket and Pietersen being accused of sending defamatory text messages about Strauss and Flower to the South African dressing room. As a result he was dropped for the 3rd and final test, with his position in the team to be discussed at a later date.

Following Strauss’ retirement his opening partner, Alastair Cook, replaced him at the helm. It was a position in which he was being groomed for a long time. His first test series was away in India. With Pietersen being reintegrated back into the squad, Cook led from the front in securing a first away series triumph in India since 1984/85. In particular the ten-wicket victory in the second test was lauded as one of England's greatest ever achievements. The tour also marked an impressive start to Cook’s reign as captain. During the series he broke a number of English records, including becoming England’s leading scorer of centuries (with twenty-three) after the Kolkata test and passing Mike Gatting as England’s leading run scorer in India. He also became the first ever captain to amass five centuries in his opening five tests as captain (3 against India, coupled to 2 against Bangladesh away in 2010, where he debuted as captain for the rested Strauss). The tour can also be noted for the test debut of Joe Root. This impressive start was compounded with a series draw away to New Zealand followed by a home series victory against the same opposition. Back to back Ashes series saw out the remainder of 2013. At home a 4th Ashes victory in 5 years meant England kept the urn over summer. However, in the following series down under, England was torn apart, suffering yet another 5-0 whitewash - their second in a decade. To compound the misery Swann retired from all cricket mid-series and Trott was flown home with a stress-related illness. This devastating loss also led to Andy Flower leaving his position of Head Coach and an inquest into what went wrong. The conclusions from this inquest led to the end of Kevin Pietersen’s international career, with rumors suggesting his position within the side had become untenable.

During Flower’s reign, England enjoyed rather more success in the shorter formats of the game than any of his predecessors. With Strauss taking over as captain of the one-day side, continuity was maintained between the test and one-day teams. As the test team ascended to the top of the rankings, England won 9 of their first 11 ODI series with Flower at the helm, with their 2 defeats coming at the hands of Australia. Sadly once again England struggled to match this form on the world stage. Although results did improve slightly, with England reaching the 2009 ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals and the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup quarterfinals, tournament victory still appeared a pipedream. Following the 2011 Cricket World Cup, England’s good form in the ODI series continued as they won 6 of the next 8 contested. It was a run that by August 2012 had taken them to the top of the ODI rankings – an incredible achievement for the side. A few months later, with England still at No. 1, Andy Flower was removed from his duties as Head Coach of England’s one-day and T20 squads. Flower had been expected to miss the tour of India in January 2013 so he could have a well-deserved break. Instead the board went a step further and relinquished him from his position as Head Coach of the one-day and T20 sides in order to make sure he remained fresh for the test team. Ashley Giles was chosen as his successor and took over on the 28th November 2012.

Giles suffered defeat on his inaugural series against India but things seemed to be back on track the following series, with victory away to New Zealand. By the time of the 2013 Champions Trophy, England had fallen to 3rd in the world but a lot of excitement surrounded the potential of the team and just how far they could go – particularly as the tournament was being held on home soil. England didn’t disappoint, reaching the final before getting beaten by India in a rain-affected match. Following the Champions Trophy, England lost back-to-back series against Australia and despite victory away to the West Indies in February 2014; Giles was asked to vacate his role upon the appointment of Peter Moores.

By the time of Flower’s appointment, the phenomenon of T20 cricket was starting to sweep the globe. The inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) had taken place in the summer of 2008 and with the game gaining in popularity, the rise of the T20 cricketer was occurring. Almost immediately following Flower’s appointment was the 2009 ICC World T20, which was held in England. Paul Collingwood was retained as captain but as is far too common for England, they failed to get beyond the Super 8s. Only 4 more T20 games were played between the end of the 2009 ICC World T20 and the 2010 ICC World T20 tournament in the West Indies. Since Flower’s inception as Head Coach, England’s form in both tests and ODIs had dramatically improved. Not to miss out on the party the T20 side also demonstrated the progress they had made and won the 2010 ICC Cricket World Cup – their first ever ICC World Championship. Shortly after this date Paul Collingwood announced his retirement (following the 2010/11 Ashes series) and Stuart Broad was appointed the new T20 captain. The first T20 international rankings shortly followed in October 2011, with England taking the top spot. England entered the 2012 ICC T20 World Championship as defending champions and world No. 2. They failed to match their previous success however, and didn’t progress beyond the Super 8 phase. The squad began to plummet down the rankings and, by the time of the next ICC T20 World Championship (March 2014 in Bangladesh), were ranked 8th in the world. During this tournament they lived up to that ranking and failed to get out of the opening group stages, a performance that also saw them get defeated by the Netherlands.

Peter Moores’ 2nd Reign

Peter Moores was once again chosen as the man to take over following Flower’s resignation from the test side. In addition to the test side, Moores also gained control of the ODI and T20 teams, as Ashley Giles was asked to vacate his role. England had fallen from their number 1 ranking back in 2012 to number 4 in the world. With Swann retired, Trott unavailable and Pietersen exiled, a much-changed England side was selected for Moores’ first home test series back in charge against Sri Lanka. The old heads of Cook, Bell, Broad and Anderson were joined by the youth of Root, Ballance, Ali and Stokes. England lost the home series against Sri Lanka 1-0, but bounced back with a 3-1 victory against India. Following this commitment to breeding younger players, after Matt Prior was forced from the English set-up following the 2nd test against India, Joss Buttler was called up as his replacement, making his test debut in the 3rd test at the Rose Bowl. After the final test match at home to India on the 15th August, England wouldn’t play in the test arena again until 13th April 2014.

Instead the one-day squad took centre-stage as England began their buildup to the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup. However, just like Moores’ previous time in charge, England failed to make any sort of impact on the short formats of the game. Alastair Cook was retained as captain but his position was being questioned at the top of the order; his pragmatic approach being at odds to the swash-buckling styles incorporated by other nations. With Moores losing each of his first three ODI series back in charge, drastic action was taken. Cook was dropped from the side and removed as captain of the one-day team. Morgan replaced him and hit a century in the opening match of the tri-series against Australia and India. In the end England finished as runners up after defeat by Australia in the final and there was some positivity surrounding the team as the World Cup approached. Once again though England failed on the big stage, beating only Scotland and Afghanistan as they crashed out at the group stage. This disastrous performance placed much pressure on Moores, with rumors persisting that his dismissal as Head Coach was imminent. These rumors only intensified following the resignation of the man who appointed him, Paul Downton. England drew their next test series (away to the West Indies) and upon the appointment of Andrew Strauss as Director of Cricket, Moores was asked to vacate his role. By the end of his reign England had lost all of the ODI series he was in charge of and failed to make a meaningful impact impact at the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup. Due to the brevity of his reign and the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, Moores was only in charge for two T20 matches, winning one against India and losing one against Sri Lanka.

An Exciting Future

Paul Farbrace replaced Moores on a temporary basis for the 2015 home series against New Zealand. Cook was retained as test captain as Farbrace kept the faith with the exciting crop of youngsters bred during Moores’ tenure. England drew the test series with New Zealand 1-1 and won the ODI series 3-2 – their first ODI series victory since 2014. However, perhaps the most important aspect taken away by the English side during this series was the unrelenting fearlessness the Kiwis played with. It became a style in which England would look to emulate over the following months.

After the home series with New Zealand, Australian Trevor Bayliss took over as England Head Coach on a permanent role. Bayliss was chosen due to his experience and prowess in the shorter forms of the game and was expected to address the issues England has had in these formats. His first task though was to navigate England past his native country in the 2015 Ashes. Having established himself as one of the world’s premier batsman in all formats, Root was named test vice captain. Buoyed by their experience against New Zealand, England played with an exciting and daring approach as the Ashes were regained with a 3-2 series victory. Victory in the Ashes was followed by a spirited loss in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) against Pakistan before a 2-1 away test series victory against number 1 ranked side South Africa rounded off 2015.

In the shorter formats England looked to build on the back of a successful one-day series against New Zealand. However, the side and their new coach were given a heavy dose of reality, being beaten 3-2 in their next ODI series against Australia. Still much optimism surrounded the team’s new aggressive approach and this faith was rewarded with a 3-1 victory against Pakistan in the UAE being followed by an exciting (but ultimately losing) series against South Africa. However, more than the results, it was the style of England’s play that was garnering so much excitement. Gone were the days of timid batting collapses built on the back of trying to keep wickets in hand. Hales and Roy had been given license to go for it at the top of the order. This coupled to the fluency of Root and Morgan, and the big hitting of Buttler and Stokes in the middle order, meant the team was capable of hurting opposition at any time and quickly. Jos Buttler, in particular, was starting to demonstrate how spectacularly devastating he could be in the shortened format of the game – smashing the fastest century ever by an Englishman (46 balls) in the 4th ODI against Pakistan.

The start of 2016 also brought with it the 2016 ICC T20 World Cup, hosted by India. Despite the usual struggles England have in the sub-continent and only possessing one player who had previously taken part in the IPL (Eoin Morgan), the side performed extremely well, making the final before being beaten by the West Indies and, in particular, the big hitting of Carlos Brathwaite, who smashed 4 sixes in a row off the final over to secure victory.

How England bounce back from such a devastating loss remains to be seen but one thing is for sure, how this young brash team continues to evolve over the next few years will be fascinating to watch.