No Ashes victory, but plenty of reasons for England to smile
For English cricket fans, it is hard to remember a more memorable summer than 2019. A scintillating World Cup victory on home soil, moments of outstanding individual brilliance from the likes of Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer and a very competitive Ashes series will all go down in the history books. The failure to regain the Ashes, admittedly against a better Australian team, slightly tarnishes what would have been a perfect summer results wise, but one should not underestimate the importance of this summer and play down England’s reasons to be optimistic going into the winter.
After the calamitous 2015 World Cup in Australia, Eoin Morgan’s side put four years of practice of an aggressive, ruthless style of cricket in to practice and managed to pull off a dramatic World Cup victory, captivating fans across the country, and inspiring a new generation of young cricketers. Whilst doing so they provided a major scoop for the ECB, who have previously expressed concerns about falling participation levels amongst youngsters in England and Wales. For Morgan and Bayliss, this victory felt like vindication for four years in which the team has undergone a revolutionary change in its gameplan, often provoking criticism in the red ball game for not being able to distinguish aggression from recklessness.
Nonetheless, the World Cup campaign had an air of everything coming together for England, and although luck played its role, like when the ball flew to the boundary off Ben Stokes’ bat from Martin Guptill’s throw in the final, nothing should be taken away from the brilliance of this team and what it has achieved.
With large swaths of the country still hysterical from the Word Cup victory at Lords, the first ball of the Ashes coming down at Edgbaston nearly caught everyone off guard.
England’s test team is very much a work in progress compared to its white ball teams, and this was evident as Australia did enough to take the Ashes back on the plane with them by the time the Oval Test had concluded. Much has been written about the genius of Steve Smith, but other key players such as Pat Cummins performed under pressure and proved too troublesome for Joe Root’s side, meaning Australia lifted the urn on English soil for the first time since 2001.
Yet amidst understandable disappointment, England have an array of positives to take from the series. In Jofra Archer, England now have a genuinely fast bowler who is capable of causing the very best batsman all kinds of issues, perhaps for the first time since Steve Harmison retired. Rory Burns looked solid at the top of the order against the best attack in the world, and surely has secured his spot there for a while. Sam Curran, although only playing in the last test, always seems to provide England with something different and exciting, and him being fit into the team will certainly give the selectors a headache, but must be done in order for this team to utilise its available options as best they can.
The team selection debate is something that will undoubtedly scratch a lot of heads over the coming 18 months and looms in the background despite the team’s success and popularity.
It is hard to imagine both Anderson and Broad running in to open the attack for England for much longer. Anderson, 38, in particular may not don the England shirt many more times, so for England cricket fans, its a time to savour the wonderful summer that we have had, feel inspired by some of the heroics we have seen and appreciate the ageing talent that has brought the team so much success. We should do this whilst looking forward to emerging youngsters such as Sam Curran and Ollie Pope take over more responsibility.
2019, despite no hallowed Ashes victory, will be for the youngsters of today what 2005 was to the current team, and what 1981 was for the previous generation.
Image: John Sutton via Creative Commons