The unforgettable summer: reporting on the 2019 cricket season
Barney Ronay, chief sports writer
My summer started in the chill of Durham in March, the earliest ever day of first class cricket in England, then finished in the dead heat of the Oval Ashes Test in mid-September. The dominant memory is looking down from the press box at Lord’s as the World Cup final reached its brain-mangling climax and seeing people writhing and leaping about at every ball – then turning back to the sober, jaded sporting press and seeing exactly the same contortions. Loved the sandwich tour of England, the Anglo-subcontinental World Cup crowds, the wild highs next to the comforting tedium of the drab days. The summer proved one thing. Cricket remains the greatest sport. It’s not broken. You just need to let people see it.
Ali Martin, cricket news reporter
England’s epic World Cup win and the gripping Ashes series that followed made the home summer of 2019 a career highlight for those of us lucky enough to be at the coalface.
There were nearly 100 days of international cricket, from England’s men playing a one-off ODI against Ireland in Malahide on 3 May through to their Ashes-series-levelling win at the Oval on 15 September, not to mention countless training days and press conferences. The Guardian has been present throughout and I hope the readers enjoyed our stories and coverage.
As well as sharing a press box with the ever-upbeat Vic Marks and the rest of the team, it has been a pleasure to work with Moeen Ali on his column. He has provided unique insight and his piece after the World Cup final – spoken from the heart and explaining the strength that Eoin Morgan’s squad found in their diversity – was a personal favourite.
Raf Nicholson, women’s cricket writer
For a women’s cricket writer, there’s a certain amount of cognitive dissonance when I hear people proclaiming what a brilliant summer it’s been for cricket. Having exclusively covered the women’s game this season, it feels like there’s more to worry about than there is to celebrate: the gap in investment between English and Australian women’s cricket laid bare in a one-sided Ashes series; the ending of the 50-over Women’s County Championship, with still not much certainty about what will replace it; and the last ever Kia Super League, with the Hundred roundly booed on Finals Day. A warning to anyone getting carried away on the back of the men’s World Cup win: of course enjoy it, but the party won’t last for ever – ours certainly didn’t.
Andy Bull, senior sports writer
As I write, I’m in Japan, waiting for the start of England’s first rugby World Cup match. Things move on quickly in sport, and the cricket season already feels a very long way away. But there are little bits of it still so clear in my mind that if I shut my eyes I can picture every last detail about them. I can hear the noise in the press box in the final moments of the World Cup final at Lord’s, which is usually quiet as a library, as all us English journalists started shouting like little children. I told myself then that if it was the last match I ever covered I’d be happy enough. And then, six weeks later, it was better again when Ben Stokes played that innings at Headingley. I can feel the rush of blood I suffered in those last few overs, and see the look I swapped with my colleague Vic Marks as we both realised we were going to have to tear up everything we’d already written and start over again. This one time, I don’t think either of us really minded.
Vic Marks, cricket correspondent
It’s been a brilliant summer for cricket, which should help to invigorate the game. And it’s been great fun to cover it for the Guardian and Observer. Ali Martin always knows exactly what’s happening behind the scenes, while a galaxy of others have mused, analysed, informed and always enhanced our coverage. “What are you doing today?” they sometimes asked. “I’m doing the bleeding match report,” I replied every time.
That sounds straightforward – and sometimes it is. But on two occasions, the World Cup final and the Headingley Test, this meant completely scrapping a piece that had been polished to perfection – describing a Kiwi victory at Lord’s, then an Australian one in Leeds – and starting again in some haste. But, unusually, on both occasions I didn’t mind.
Rob Smyth, sports writer
I will always be able to say I wasn’t there. My experience of a magical summer was a little different, as I wrote the Guardian’s over-by-over coverage working remotely from my office in Orkney. I’d love to have been at the grounds, or better still sharing it all in the Guardian office, but being so far removed had one upside. The experience of the matches was both personal, like when I was a kid, and communal. The best of both worlds.
Aside from the World Cup final and the Headingley Test – the twin peaks of this and every cricket summer since 2005 – I have especially fond memories of England’s group-stage victory over India at the World Cup. That was a nerveless response to the serious prospect of unprecedented humiliation, against the most intimidating team in the competition. I wasn’t there, but I’ll always cherish that.
Tim de Lisle, from the Guardian’s over-by-over team
Cricket often feels like one big organism with a single brain, maddeningly pedantic one minute, magnificently witty the next. It’s at its best when readers chip in to our over-by-over coverage. Rueful, creative, calmly self-regulating, they’re the kind of community that could give the internet a good name.
After falling for the OBO as a reader, I now love writing for it. Every five minutes, we assemble a tiny newspaper – first the facts, then some colour and comment, and finally the letters page. This summer, we had two epic dramas to report, and Rob Smyth, the star of our show, rose to both occasions. His sparkling sentences are built to last: the very first draft of cricket history.