This summer has been extraordinary. We are spoilt for choice as to what runner up for moment of the summer is. The World Cup final surely takes top spot no matter how many people staunchly cling onto the idea that a test match is the only form that really matters. Winning the World Cup helped this generation of England’s men’s players walk on previously untrodden turf. In the test matches, both the women’s and the men’s teams fell foul of both once in a generation and once in a lifetime players, but more on them later. Let’s take a look at what we learnt this summer.
Cricket is still capable of taking centre stage.
Nowhere else in sport do we get so many sub-plots running alongside the main story. In this case, the central plot of the blockbuster package is that a World Cup, Men’s Ashes and Women’s Ashes occurred in the same summer and all three managed to deliver in spectacle.
England were dominant in the World Cup, blips aside. In the immortal words of Ian Smith, England eventually came out as victors by “the barest of margins”.
Whilst the Ashes didn’t end with the urn returning home, there was no shortage of moments to fill highlight reels and history books alike. Ben Stokes’ individual performance to keep the Ashes series alive in the third Test will live long in the memory of anyone who witnessed it.
The result of the Women’s Ashes was very disappointing, but witnessing some of the performances put together by the Australians, in particular the imperious Ellyse Perry, was a pleasure.
One player can still effectively decide the outcome of a series.
I know you’re tired of hearing these “whinging poms” by now but please allow me one, maybe two last ‘what-ifs’. The first one is slightly pointless because there is no reason why it could have happened, but what if Steve Smith hadn’t played? Or at least “only” averaged 60 if he did play? He scored a third of the runs that Australia produced in this series. Mind boggling!
The second ‘what-if’: what if Jimmy Anderson had played? If we take just one of those what-ifs and apply them to this series, then an England win would appear very likely. In my opinion, if both factor in, it seems a dead certainty.
This just goes to highlight how extraordinary Smith has been this summer; unstoppable. No matter your opinions on the severity of his ban etc, we are witnessing the greatest batter of this era or potentially any era. Who knows, I wasn’t around in the 1930’s therefore I can’t pass judgement on the Don. This argument may prove to be as futile as the Messi-Ronaldo debate!
Jofra Archer is the real deal.
I can’t believe there were people out there with genuine doubts about this particular fact. It isn’t very often that England are in a position where they get to introduce someone for their debut, having already become one of the world’s premiere fast bowling talents. In his short England career thus far, he has been England’s leading wicket taker at a World Cup and secured an economy rate of under 5 runs per over. He also bowled the super over that led to England’s World Cup glory and taken two Ashes 6-fers in the space of four games. Not to mention the fact that he’s domed a selection of the world’s finest along the way. Box office.
English Cricket can have a very bright near future, if it wants to….
Rory Burns’ Ashes has proved that there is still room for the old school opener who is willing to just bat for days on end without doing anything daft, and with the absence of any clearly fatal technical flaw.
Dom Sibley absolutely has to be in the eleven that start against New Zealand. He clearly has the application and appetite for huge scores like Burns and a certain Knight of the realm before him.
For me, Joe Denly has shown the application and grit required at this level, even when messed about in the batting order. He has therefore earned himself his more suited number three position in the eleven.
Ollie Pope is destined to be one of the stars of English cricket so for me he has to bat in the middle order. He and Ben Stokes would form one heck of a partnership at numbers 5 and 6. I am not too bothered which way round the selectors deem them fit to play though.
With the squad announced, I think the only thing I was surprised about was the fact that I agreed with all of the selections. The only odd one for me was the omission of Ben Foakes who is the best keeper in men’s cricket at the moment. Although it must be said that the selectors decision was probably vindicated due to Foakes, who could be seen as the male Sarah Taylor, having been lacking in the runs this season in the championship.
My 11 to face New Zealand* :
The county championship is alive and kicking
This season there has been much doubt about the potential future of the county championship and its perceived troubles with producing test class players. This is all nonsense, you just have to look at the tests top division teams face against overseas players and Kolpak bowlers like Simon Harmer and Kyle Abbott to see this. Both of these bowlers, if they played test cricket would likely be in the top 10 world rankings, I have no doubt. Then you just have to look at the ending of this season, going down to the wire, shows you these players, young and experienced alike are very capable in the crunch moments.
Test cricket remains the pinnacle of international sport, and its breeding ground lives on!
By Michael Vince
Photo Credit: Alessandro Bogliari via Unsplash