With the current England side looking like it's going to be the best in the world in a couple of weeks, it's natural to wonder if it's the best England side in living memory. Of course, the biggest opposition to that claim is the victors of the greatest series - the class of 2005. Captained by Vaughan, inspired by Freddie at his best and packed with big names, the 2005 vintage battled and beat the best side in the world.
The 2011 lot are also playing the team who are at the summit of test cricket. However, unlike 2005, instead of scraping tight fought victories, they're destroying all before them and sauntering to big wins. This doesn't automatically make the 2011 team better than their 2005 contemporaries, as it's plainly obvious that the opposition in '05 of Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist, Ponting et al are on a slightly higher plain than the current touring Indian side.
However, for me, if the two best England sides of the 21st century were to meet, there'd only be one winner. As good as the 2005 team were, they managed to win the Ashes while carrying a few players. Ashley Giles, a man who's runs at Trent Bridge and the Oval make him a hero amongst men, was hardly the most threatening spinner of the ball. You don't get called the Wheely Bin for nothing. And the 2005 edition of Ian Bell is a far cry from the hardened run-machine currently seen, with a freckly rabbit-in-the-headlights a more apt description. In 2011, there simply isn't that. Everybody pulls their weight.
However, we won't know the true ability of the 2011 side for quite a while. Back in 2005, having won the Ashes, England had the world at their feet. However, a combination of taking their eyes off the ball, untimely injuries and the gradual aging of players meant the side drifted apart and world domination was not reached. As such, the 2005 side is seen as just a one-off - a side that was put together with winning the Ashes in mind, and ultimately they achieved their goal. The key for Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss is to create a legacy - a side that dominates world cricket for years to come.