Anderson’s 500th Test strike crowns longest summer
Away from that night out, there was plenty for cricket to celebrate over the past summer, says Scyld Berry
Not everything that happened last season should be forgotten after the night out last weekend of Ben Stokes and some team-mates, even if it has sabotaged England’s chance of retaining the Ashes. It was the longest of all English cricket seasons – because the England and Wales Cricket Board greedily packed the Champions Trophy into their normal schedule – and plenty else should be remembered:
James Anderson. In seven Tests against South Africa and West Indies, he took 39 wickets at only 14.10 runs each – a wicket every six overs. The key was that he made his outswinger his stock ball again, after years of swinging the ball away from left-handers, like the former South Africa captain Graeme Smith (who told Test Match Special that he much preferred Anderson swinging the ball away from him). The culmination came when Anderson took his 500th Test wicket at Lord’s, breaching Kraigg Brathwaite’s defence.
Shai Hope. In the Headingley Test, in conditions made for English seamers not West Indian batsmen, Hope batted for 11 hours to score 147 and 118 not out. He became the first batsman to make a century in each innings at Headingley in a firstclass game, let alone a Test. Hope’s secret was his control: he not only kept himself in check, but played checked drives, not the uninhibited strokes commonly associated with the Caribbean of the past – or 20-over batting now. Hope lived up to his name in enhancing the belief that West Indian Test cricket will revive.
Moeen Ali. After a nondescript Champions Trophy, he scored more than 250 runs and took 25 wickets against South Africa – the first such double in a series of fewer than five Tests – then powered from 50 to 100 against West Indies in the Bristol ODI in only 12 balls.
The Women’s World Cup final. England looked to be gone until India staged an old-fashioned batting collapse. The heroines were Anya Shrubsole, who took six wickets, and Sarah Taylor, first for turning up after overcoming her panic attacks, second for gracing the stage with her footwork and handiwork, both as batsman and wicketkeeper. But the whole England team should be applauded for holding their nerve in a series of the tightest finishes.
The Champions Trophy final between India and Pakistan. Had enough of analysis, and stats, and percentages, and pitch maps? Then bring on Fakhar Zaman. Aged 27, a former naval rating and a left-handed batsman who had never played a one-day international before this tournament. He torpedoed England in the semi-final with a fifty and India with a century. Pakistan’s bowling was superb in its passion and almost infinite in its variety, from quick leftarm to the wrist-spin of Shadab Khan.
England’s biggest strategic mistake
The failure to identify the right opening pair of batsmen to win a global 50-over tournament. Giving Sam Billings an opening slot whenever Jason Roy or Alex Hales was unavailable blinded the selectors to the need for a Test match-style batsman to open with Roy or Hales. The switch to Jonny Bairstow for the semi-final in Cardiff came too late.
The yorker by Kagiso Rabada in the England v South Africa Test at the Oval that demolished the stumps of Dawid Malan.
Most stupid ICC decision
saying something less polite to Ben Stokes than, “After you, Claude.”
Most creditable county performance.
In the championship, Essex for winning the Division One title with so many home-grown players – most notably the season’s leading wicket-taker, Jamie Porter, and batsman Dan Lawrence – supplemented by the signing of two overseas left-arm pace bowlers into whose footmarks off-spinner Simon Harmer could pitch. In 50-over cricket, Nottinghamshire took the palm and won the 20-over title.
Little-noticed batting feat
Six sixes in an over by Worcestershire’s Ross Whiteley off Yorkshire’s Karl Carver. Worcestershire still lost.
Most welcome initiative by MCC
Limiting the thickness of the bat, thus reducing the danger to non-strikers, umpires and bowlers.
Most unedifying sight
The cannibalism at Chester-le-Street. The ECB gave Durham a lethal injection last year, now counties are devouring the still-twitching corpse.
Second-most unedifying sight
Players transferring mid-season. No player should represent two counties in the same competition in one season.
Biggest crowd disconnect for the ECB to solve
British Asians watched the Champions Trophy in large numbers, but not England or the NatWest Blast.
Most encouraging overseas development
Zimbabwe’s revival. Since they brought in Faisal Hasnain as CEO, they have won a one-day series in Sri Lanka and repatriated some Test players.
Best philosophical reflection on the Stokes incident
Nobody is indispensable, the game goes on.
Star of the show: James Anderson’s sensational swing bowling earned him a landmark 500th Test wicket for England