Updated: May 17
As one of the hottest English summers on record comes to an end bringing with it the mizzle and mid-teens degrees Celsius with it, let’s have a look back on a summer of cricket no one predicted.
England played host to New Zealand, India and South Africa as well as squeezing in an away ODI tour to the Netherlands too in a rammed summer period. These series were played in the context of a dreadful winter for England in both Australia and the West Indies as well as a disappointing end to their T20 World Cup campaign resulting in the ousting of Chris Silverwood and the resignation of Joe Root for the Test captaincy.
More upheaval was to come when England’s most successful limited overs captain of all time, Eoin Morgan, announced his retirement for international duty following continued poor form.
Voids must be filled and duly they were with Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes taking the reins in the Tests and Matthew Mott and Jos Buttler focussing on the white ball formats.
Whilst England’s white ball form has been unusually patchy in the context of the highs of recent years, it's been no secret the England’s red ball form has completely shifted on its axis. Under McCullum and Stokes’ directives, players have been encouraged to play their natural game and to play against the natural defensive nature of Test cricket resulting in a record this summer of 6-1 wins vs losses.
So what have we learned this summer?
The summer of Bairstow
Even in his golden year of 2016 when he became only the second wicket-keeper ever to score 1000 Test runs in a year, Jonny Bairstow’s run of form was not as good as it has been this summer.
6 centuries in 10 Tests this year has left opposition bowlers in his wake. His turnaround in form from a man considered a maybe for the tour to Australia this time a year ago to now has almost mirrored the England team’s fortunes themselves.
His naturally aggressive batting that has made him a force with the white ball has made him a monster in the longest format of the game too.
South Africa are good…but only at full strength
Of the 3 sides that England took on this summer, few would have thought that it’d be South Africa who would be able to take a game against England - but they did.
There’s no denying that South Africa’s attack is astounding, possibly the best in the world right now options including Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Simon Harmer, Arich Nortje, Marco Jansen, Duanne Olivier and Lungi Ngidi means that a seriously good player misses out every game.
The batting, less so…
Dean Elgar is undeniably a resilient bat, Erwee, van der Dussen and Petersen look like they can hold a bat but other than that the line up lacked any bite. So much so that the highest batting average was from Marco Jansen with just 27.
In fairness, South Africa were without their vice captain Temba Bavuma but there seemed to be a lot of holes in the side.
The Netherlands need our continued support
The mini-tour to the Netherlands halfway through the English summer was an unexpected pleasure.
Whilst the games were rather one sided it was good to see the quality of Netherlands players in a series rather than in one-off World Cup games as so often has been the case.
Lacking many of their county pros, the Netherlands performed admirably and sold out all 3 days of their games against the English.
New Zealand, Pakistan, the West Indies and England all toured the Netherlands this summer with games spread beyond the hub of Amstelveen in Amsterdam but also Rotterdam and Voorburg.
Results may not have gone their way but the appetite is there - perhaps full members should make a habit of stopping by…
Ireland felt a bit quiet
In a summer without Test cricket again in Ireland, it felt like another lost summer for the Irish.
Sure they were jam packed with white ball tourists: India, New Zealand and Afghanistan all came over and the men in green headed over to England to take on South Africa at one point for some reason at one point too.
An overall result was their biggest achievement, unfortunately coming close a few times against New Zealand and India doesn’t give you wins.
The biggest shame was no Test cricket and it felt like Ireland’s summer drifted by.
New Zealand's star beginning to wane?
All of a sudden, after the success of last year's inaugural Test Championship Final, New Zealand's form seems to have dropped off.
A T20 World Cup Final which they should have won on paper passed them by and it was followed by a 3-0 thumping from England, a team they'd been so comfortable against in the longest format for a good few years. Albeit England were buoyed under their new found freedoms under McCullum and Stokes but 3-0 is not the standard of that New Zealand team.
Kane Williamson has been nursing injury over the last 12 months or so and Ross Taylor's retirement leaves a hole to fill but worse is following with Trent Boult turning down his central contract.
It feels like we are beginning to watch the dismantling of the golden generation of the Black Caps.