Cur­ran and Foakes breathe new life as Moeen hits back

Nick Hoult chooses his award win­ners of a year in which Eng­land have shown they are a force once again

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Cricket -

Best match Fifth Test v In­dia, the Oval

In a year of thrilling Tests played by Eng­land’s bold young side, the sum­mer’s fi­nale had ev­ery­thing. Alas­tair Cook’s farewell cen­tury was a mo­ment to stand the test of time. Cook had so many stand­ing ova­tions that even he looked em­bar­rassed by all the fuss.

Joe Root made a hun­dred bat­ting back at No 4, a mo­ment of deeper sig­nif­i­cance for the team’s fu­ture; Cook added one fi­nal dis­play of dogged stub­born­ness in scor­ing his 33rd Test cen­tury.

In­dia were set 464 to win, a world record, and at tea on the fi­nal day had a chance with 166 needed off 33 overs with two cen­tury-mak­ers at the crease.

Rashid pro­duced a won­der ball to bowl KL Rahul and James An­der­son took the fi­nal wicket to move past Glenn McGrath to be­come Test cricket’s most suc­cess­ful seam bowler. An­noy­ing the Aussies was a nice fi­nal touch.

Best bats­man Sam Cur­ran

In a team of all-rounders, some­how Eng­land squeezed in one more and he turned out to be the most re­li­able of the lot (with the bat). Cur­ran’s sec­ondin­nings 63 at Edg­bas­ton won a tight first Test against In­dia while 78 and 46 in Southamp­ton put Eng­land in con­trol of the se­ries-win­ning fourth Test.

His best was still to come. In­nings of 48 in Galle and 64 in Kandy killed Sri Lankan re­sis­tance. Cur­ran is an old-fash­ioned bats­man, gen­er­ally hits the ball in or­tho­dox places and seems im­mune to pres­sure at the age of 20.

He has hit 14 sixes in seven Tests, twice as many as the next Eng­land bats­man in 2018 (Jos But­tler with seven). In­cred­i­ble to think he has never scored a hun­dred in pro­fes­sional cricket.

Best bowler Moeen Ali

Re­lieved to have been dropped in New Zealand, Moeen (be­low, far left) bounced back glo­ri­ously in the sum­mer with nine wick­ets in his come­back Test at the Rose Bowl re­peat­ing his 2014 sub­du­ing of In­dia on home turf.

Bet­ter was to come with 18 wick­ets in Sri Lanka on an im­por­tant tour when Moeen had to prove he could bowl Eng­land to vic­tory when ex­pec­ta­tions were high on turn­ing pitches against good play­ers of spin. He also took on lead­er­ship of Eng­land’s three-pronged spin at­tack en­thu­si­as­ti­cally, be­com­ing a source of guid­ance for Jack Leach and con­stant sup­port for his friend Adil Rashid, who also grew in stature as the Sri Lanka tour went on.

An­der­son had an­other great sum­mer, but Moeen had to fight for his ca­reer in 2018 and did it bril­liantly.

Un­likely sen­sa­tion Ben Foakes

Cat­a­pulted from hol­i­day into the Test team in Galle, Foakes (left) now looks a solid, de­pend­able mem­ber of Eng­land’s fu­ture. In Sri Lanka, he showed off the best of his glove­work stood up to the stumps.

His bat­ting was the sur­prise, though. He scored a com­posed hun­dred in Galle, an im­por­tant fifty in the tight sec­ond Test in Kandy and helped Eng­land amass cru­cial runs in Colombo. De­servedly named man of the se­ries.

Most left-field se­lec­tion Ed Smith

The ap­point­ment of Smith as chief se­lec­tor by An­drew Strauss was not uni­ver­sally pop­u­lar but he has had a very good six months in the job. The de­ci­sion to call up But­tler from deep freeze was in­spired, and gave Root a cru­cial ally in the dress­ing room as the power shifted from the Cook-Broad-An­der­son axis to Root-But­tler-Stokes.

There were a cou­ple of bad calls: pick­ing Ol­lie Pope and bat­ting him at four and Joe Denly for Sri Lanka. But Smith has backed up Root and coach Trevor Bayliss by pick­ing crick­eters of flair and in­tel­li­gence will­ing to buy into the new meth­ods in Test cricket.

Big­gest shock re­sult De­feat by Scot­land

Eng­land had just been crowned one-day world No1s while Scot­land had missed out on World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion. A barn­storm­ing 140 by Calum MacLeod, who plays for Bex­ley in the Kent League, took Scot­land to 371 for five on a flat pitch. Jonny Bairstow fired a 54-ball hun­dred and Eng­land were cruis­ing when he got out, but when Safyaan Sharif started re­vers­ing the ball and pinned last man Mark Wood lbw, it brought a fa­mous Scot­land win.

Quote of the year Stu­art Broad

Drop­ping the heav­i­est of hints that Eng­land thought the Aussies were up to no good in the Ashes in the wake of the ball-tam­per­ing scan­dal, Broad said: “I saw Steve Smith in his press con­fer­ence said it was the first time they’ve tried it, which, to me, seems re­ally sur­pris­ing why they’d change a method that’s been work­ing.

“Look at the Ashes se­ries that we’ve just played. You look through vir­tu­ally all of those Test matches and they re­verse-swung the ball in some­times con­di­tions that you wouldn’t ex­pect the ball to re­verse, so I don’t un­der­stand why they’ve changed their method for this one game. There was no ev­i­dence that they were do­ing this in the Ashes se­ries, from what I’ve seen.” Yeah, right.

Most im­pres­sive op­po­nent Vi­rat Kohli

Led bril­liantly with his runs, outscor­ing Root and un­der­lin­ing his dom­i­nance as the best bats­man in the world by vir­tu­ally car­ry­ing In­dia as his col­leagues strug­gled against swing.

Kohli (left) had a poor tour in 2014 but buried any no­tion that he can play on only flat pitches at home.

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