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
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.