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India v England 2024

Series by series, have England been better under Stokes or Root?

Ben Stokes and Joe Root sit next to each other in Dharamshala
Yas Rana by Yas Rana
@Yas_Wisden 5 minute read

‘One win in 17’ is the stat that is used to contextualise every setback so far in the Stokes-McCullum era. Yes, not everything has gone to plan but remember, it’s so much better than before.

Initially there was a marked improvement in results under Stokes; the first 14 Tests of the new regime saw 12 victories. But the last two series – at home to Australia and away to India – have yielded practically identical results to what the previous regime achieved (a 2-2 draw and 3-1 defeat in a four-Test series.)

The ‘one win in 17’ comparison has never been entirely fair on Root’s tenure as captain, either. Two years into Stokes’ captaincy, England are yet to play three of the series that made up that run – a home series to India, an away Ashes tour and a trip to the Caribbean.

But at the halfway point in the Ashes cycle, still the tour that English cricket judges itself against, we can start to make firmer comparisons between this regime and what came before it.

New Zealand at home 2021 vs 2022

This is one of the easiest comparisons to make given the Black Caps toured England in consecutive summers. New Zealand won the 2021 series 1-0 with England, weakened by IPL absentees, memorably refusing to even entertain a sporting declaration from Kane Williamson on the final day at Lord’s before the tourists blew them away at Edgbaston.

In 2022, England won an entertaining series opener at Lord’s before essentially unveiling the manifesto for their new era at Trent Bridge, scoring 539 at more than four an over in the first innings and chasing 160 in the final session of the Test with ample time to spare. Jonny Bairstow, the chief source of destruction in Nottingham, repeated the trick in the following Test, completing a similarly sensational hundred to give England a 3-0 series win.

Verdict: An emphatic improvement under Stokes

South Africa at home in 2017 vs 2022

There was a five-year gap between South Africa tours and the Proteas arrived with a very different looking side; only three of the XI – Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj and Kagiso Rabada – that finished the 2017 tour were involved in the series opener at Lord’s.

The 2022 series was weird. England won it 2-1 after three extremely one-sided Tests where ball overwhelmingly dominated bat. In 2017, England won a four-match series 3-1 against a more experienced batting line-up than the one that arrived in 2022.

Verdict: A similar result, albeit against a side in transition

Pakistan in the UAE in 2015 vs Pakistan away in 2022

This is one of the hardest comparisons to make given the time span between overseas series against Pakistan as well as the fact the series in question occurred in different countries. Azhar Ali was the only Pakistan player involved in both series. England were winless from their six Tests against Pakistan in the UAE but went on to secure a 3-0 clean sweep in Pakistan in 2022.

A more interesting comparison is perhaps with Australia’s own tour of Pakistan in 2022. Australia were also victorious but only sealed the series in the third Test, securing a 1-0 win overall. Under Stokes, England were able to force results on a succession of especially flat pitches, though it should be remembered that Pakistan were well short of their best attack – Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah made one appearance between them.

Verdict: A genuinely historic result against a Pakistan side not at full strength

New Zealand away in 2023 vs 2019

New Zealand was, and to a degree still is, one of several countries where England have a truly dreadful recent record. From 2008 to 2023, England failed to win a single Test, let alone series, in New Zealand – a run that spanned three separate tours.

England really should have returned home with a 2-0 series win in 2023, failing to win having enforced the follow-on at Wellington. Still, though, England were close to a series win in New Zealand for the first time in 15 years, even if the Black Caps were already not quite the same side as the one that claimed the first World Test Championship title in 2021.

Verdict: A clear improvement on recent New Zealand tours

2023 Ashes vs 2019 Ashes

On paper, these look very similar. Both series were drawn 2-2, and in both series England had the better of a drawn Test that had a day washed out. But England felt more competitive in 2023. They let advantageous positions slip in both of their 2023 defeats whereas they were well and truly walloped at Old Trafford and Edgbaston in 2019.

Verdict: Same result but the sides looked more evenly matched

India away 2024 vs 2021

It was the 2021 tour of India that kicked off the one-in-seventeen run that ended Root’s captaincy. Both tours started with epic wins before quickly petering out. England were generally more competitive in 2024; they weren’t too far off the pace in Vizag and had moments in both Rajkot and Ranchi where they were close to running away from India, this too with an extremely inexperienced spin-bowling unit. It is true that India were missing several key first team players, but the absence of Harry Brook and Jack Leach surely had an impact on the series, too.

Verdict: More competitive in 2024 despite what the scoreline suggests

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