Triumphant England must retain their determination

England's coronation as the world's best Test team was accompanied by a pageantry that was atypical at best. As the inevitability of victory took its hold on the ever-lively Eric Hollies Stand, seven Mr Blobbys went skipping down the aisle, shortly before a troupe of thirty monkeys pursued an overgrown banana in a skit that might have been devised for Benny Hill.

Out in the middle, India's batsmen shared in the sense of the absurd, shedding six wickets before lunch to crush any prospect of a rearguard. But all throughout the process, England themselves remained deadly serious, as they closed in on a goal that has focussed the squad's mentality for the best part of two years.

In the end, the scenes were not dissimilar to those at the end of the Ashes, with 11 jubilant cricketers forming a bundle at the point where the decisive wicket had fallen, while two crestfallen batsmen slunk out of the picture stage-right, stunned by the magnitude of the defeat they'd just endured. But aside from confirming what we all already knew, that the Pataudi Trophy was returning to English hands for the first time since 1996, there was nothing especially remarkable about the moment itself. When victory becomes commonplace, as it truly has done for this team, you know you have got a special outfit on your hands.

"It's different," Andrew Strauss admitted, when asked to put into words what it means to be the best. "With an Ashes series there's so much emotion and rivalry between the countries, but this series is very much about measuring ourselves against the best in the world, and hopefully having the opportunity to overtake them. We're very proud of the way we've performed in the last three games - we've been very close to our best, so we are very satisfied with what we've achieved and delighted to have gone to No. 1 ourselves."

There's only so much that can be read into the achievement, however. As India have just demonstrated in a spectacular collapse of resolve, the descent from the summit can be quick and humiliating if you allow your standards to waver. With away series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka looming early next year, followed by a tasty home tussle against the impressive South Africa, England's credentials will soon be tested in no uncertain terms. "It can go away as quickly as it arrives," Strauss said. "You've got to keep looking forward, that's the nature of international sport."

Nevertheless, the speed of England's march to the summit of the world game has been remarkable, especially when you consider what a shambles they had been as recently as the spring of 2009. When Strauss and Andy Flower were pitched together as captain and coach in the wake of the Pietersen-Moores fiasco, their first match in charge resulted in the 51-all-out collapse at Sabina Park, a contest so calamitous it couldn't help but harden the resolve of a buffeted squad. Ian Bell was sent away to box on the beaches and toughen up his act; Steve Harmison and, in phases, Andrew Flintoff were stripped of their influence within a divided dressing-room. On a series of flat decks, the series proved to be unsalvageable, but the only way from that nadir has been up.
 

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