2019 promises much from an English cricketing perspective. We’re hosting the World Cup with a real chance of success, with a home Ashes series to follow. 2015’s World Cup was a miserable one for our ODI team, but the chances of similar disappointment this time around are, you would think, pretty low. Our last Ashes series wasn’t great, either, so there’s a chance for revenge against the old enemy on two fronts.
Before we focus all our attention on next summer, though, we should take a moment to reflect on 2018. After starting in the worst possible way with a crushing defeat in Australia, everything looks very different now. England have just recorded their first ever 3-0 win in Sri Lanka after defeating the current number 1 Test side, India, 4-1 earlier in the summer. The ODI side looks to be in great shape, too, as we enter the final stages of World Cup preparation. Let’s take a moment to review three of this year’s greatest moments.
Edgbaston Delivers Again
13 summers ago, Edgbaston hosted arguably the greatest Test match of the last 25 years. While finishes like that one are now few and far between, this year’s first Test against India evoked similar feelings of excitement and tension. Both sides arrived on the final morning with the result still completely unknown, and with first blood in the series up for grabs. That the game had even gone to five days was unusual; that the fifth day was so much more than a token victory confirmation made it special.
England wrapped things up in the end, as we all know, and the roar that accompanied Stokes’ dismissal of Kohli wouldn’t have felt out of place in that famed ’05 series. Sam Curran, a player who may have been too young to remember that Edgbaston Test, rose to stardom and England were set on their way to a comprehensive series win. It was a pivotal couple of hours in that Test series, but that morning may have had a bigger impact than anyone yet realises. People were talking about Test cricket again, and Joe Root’s men gave them what they wanted. Joe Root’s men, that is – not Michael Vaughan’s, not Ray Illingworth’s – Joe Root’s. If Edgbaston can keep delivering, then so can England.
The famous (or infamous, depending on who you’re playing for) Edgbaston atmosphere owed much to the presence of several hundred Barmies, all helping to ramp things up in the Hollies stand. They had taken advantage of Warwickshire’s generous allocation for our members to ensure that the volume went all the way up to eleven. We can only imagine what it’ll be like when the post-sandpapergate Aussies venture out into the Birmingham sunshine next summer …
Chef’s Final Course
As it turned out, the India series was bookended by two stand-out moments. Just as it began with an Edgbaston classic, it finished with a great of the English game making his final bow under an Oval sunset. Alastair Cook is widely regarded as one of the nicest men to have ever worn an England shirt, so the fact that he made an exceptional hundred in his final innings for the country was made even sweeter.
The end to Cook’s career was perfect. That a word shouldn’t be used lightly, but it really is applicable here. England won and Cook hit a glorious hundred, supported by the soundtrack of the Barmy choir and Billy Cooper. Jimmy Anderson, his best friend, took the final wicket, and the generally introverted Northerner was even forced into a public display of emotion! The only possible aspect that could have been improved upon was the mode of dismissal; a “caught Cook, bowled Anderson” might have been written into Hollywood’s version. As a setting for these occasions, the Oval tends to do the romantic, epic conclusions rather well. Sunsets always seem to feature, providing us with mental images that tend to linger in the mind.
As a side note, it is a real shame that Cook didn’t make it onto the shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday. It was fantastic to see Jimmy Anderson in the final 6, but he should have been joined by the ex-skipper. Cook has the achievements, he has the personality, it’s just a shame he doesn’t have the award. Not that he’s likely to mind; an example to any English sportsman, the discipline and work ethic he exhibited during his 12-year career is something that anyone can learn from, in whatever walk of life. 12, 472 runs on from his debut in Nagpur, we bode farewell to a true great in a truly great way.
A Successful Outing
England’s 3-0 win in Sri Lanka was confirmed last month, and it continued to look as impressive now as it did then. No, Sri Lanka were not at their strongest, but everyone knew that before we headed out there and they still ended up extremely surprised. Victory in England’s final game of the calendar year capped not only a great tour, but a great few months. The Test side is seemingly beginning to click under Joe Root’s leadership, and Sri Lanka were comfortably beaten in the one-day fixtures as well. Ending the year on a positive note could prove to be important, with only the West Indies tour and a couple of one-off fixtures lying between England and a massive summer.
2018 gave us plenty to enjoy as Barmy England cricket fans. Beyond these three stand-out moments, the general feelings surrounding the game seemed to be quite positive during the summer. It’s come at just the right time, too, with one of our biggest-ever summers just around the corner, both in terms of importance and scheduling. If we can pull this off, it will surely go down in history as an all-time high point. England have never won a World Cup, so why not do it just before they regain the Ashes?