Deputy Sport Editor Sam Mitchinson looks back on the summer of cricket, commenting on what the England men's side learned from their tests after some key victories.
So, there we have it. After one of the most topsy-turvy and unexpected summers of cricket of all time, it’s finally winding down, with only a few games in the domestic calendar to go.
With two series wins and some valuable World Test Championship points gained, it seems fitting to describe England’s cricketing summer as a sporting success. While adverse weather conditions meant that some of the matches didn’t reach their full conclusion, the team learnt some invaluable lessons that both bode well, and raise other questions about the future ahead.
Firstly, don’t drop Stuart Broad. His passionate and gutsy interview following his non-selection for the first test against the West-Indies sent ripples through the cricketing community, and his performances following his recall were nothing short of sensational, being the leading wicket-taker in both the West Indies and Pakistan series. This all serves to solidify Broad’s position in the team, and demonstrates that he is invaluable to the side, at least at home.
How to manage the difference between home and away conditions poses a challenging question to answer, for an England side openly focused on the Ashes in winter 2021. Unlike England’s swing-based, cloudy conditions, Australian pitches will have significantly more pace, bounce, and zip. While Anderson, Broad and Woakes are masterful in England, their records in Australia leave much to be desired, and the selectors will undoubtedly be considering choosing a varied and more pace-based attack next year. Archer seems a certainty, with his entire career seemingly curated with the purpose of bouncing some hapless Aussie batsmen down under. The other spots seem less certain however, and future series will inevitably be a battle for selection in Australia.
Batting wise, perhaps one of the best stories of the summer has been the rise of Zak ‘Creepy’ Crawley, with his 267 run mega-innings the 10th highest score made by an Englishman in history. Not since Trott have England had a strong and stable number three, and Crawley’s assured nature, orthodox technique, and irresistible ability to plunder runs will make him an invaluable asset to the team for years to come. Buttler’s concurrent knock of 152 will also help to solidify his own place leading into the winter, and while his wicket keeping ability can still be called into question, his explosive batting and mental perseverance are increasingly hard to ignore.
Conversely, Joe Root’s batting has not had the resurrection of which we all dreamed. Joe’s ability to get himself out is unmatched in the game at the moment, and it has now been fifteen innings since he scored a century, which is a worrying trend for someone widely considered England’s best batsman and the current captain. While he’s obviously under no danger of being dropped, fans will want to see Root’s scores improve in upcoming tours.
While we didn’t technically get any County Championship action this year, its replacement – the Bob Willis Trophy, named after the late England great – was a more than adequate substitute. While the final ended, somewhat unsatisfyingly, as a draw, with Essex winning courtesy of a tie-breaker, the tournament as a whole provided a welcome return for the domestic game’s top players and prospects. 20 year old Tom Lammonby looks like the real deal, scoring three centuries in just six matches. His Somerset teammate Craig Overton also looks to be entering his prime, taking 30 wickets at 13.43 to claim the tournament’s MVP trophy. Sir Alistair Cook likewise demonstrated his eternal class, finishing as the tournament’s highest run scorer with 563 runs at an average of 56.30.