By Michael Stafford-Jones
- England lose The Ashes 4-0 and then suffer 1-0 defeat in New Zealand
- Ed Smith is appointed as new Head Selector and England draw 1-1 with Pakistan and beat India 4-0
- ODI team whitewash Australia and Test team join them in record books by winning 3-0 in Sri Lanka
LORD’S, ENGLAND – Joe Root leads his new-look team in a bold direction as England recover from their Ashes agony to enjoy a fantastic year that includes series wins over India and Sri Lanka.
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Misery Down Under
It was a depressing start to the year for England. They suffered a heavy defeat to Australia by an innings and 123 runs which put the seal on a humiliating 4-0 scoreline in The Ashes.
The tourists were outplayed in every area during the series and, although they earned some revenge with a 4-1 win in the ODIs that followed, their Test performances went from bad to worse when they were bowled out for 58 during a 1-0 series loss in New Zealand.
New selector’s bold choices pay off
When England lost for the sixth time in eighth Test in the first match of the summer against Pakistan, Director of Cricket Andrew Strauss decided enough was enough. He removed Angus Fraser and Mike Newell from the selection panel and appointed Ed Smith as the new Head Selector.
Smith appointed several consultants to work with him, including James Taylor and Marcus Trescothick, and immediately made changes to the England squad. He dropped Mark Stoneman and Mark Wood and called up Keaton Jennings, Jos Buttler and Sam Curran.
Buttler made an immediate impact. He came in at 212-5 and hammered a quick-fire 80 to get England up to 363 – a total which was formidable enough to set up victory by an innings and 55 runs.
Joe Root and his team built on that spark during the five-match series against India. They won the first two Tests and then recovered after losing the Third Test to win the last two and earn an impressive 4-1 scoreline.
Buttler and Curran were the stars. The Lancashire batsman scored his first Test hundred during a losing cause at Trent Bridge and then backed it up with 69 at Southampton and 89 at The Oval. He also set a great example to his teammates in the field with his lively contributions.
The Surrey youngster enjoyed an even better series. He ripped through the Indian top order at Edgbaston and then rescued England from a dire situation (87-7) with a counter-attacking 63 off 65 balls. He then scored a rapid 40 at Lord’s.
It must have felt like déjà vu for Curran when he came to the wicket in the Fourth Test. England were 86-6 and staring down the barrel of a hopelessly inadequate first-innings score. But the Surrey all-rounder was unfazed. He put on 81 with Moeen Ali and went on to make 78 to help his team reach 246.
Those game-changing contributions at Edgbaston and the Ageas Bowl, along with several important wickets, prompted Indian Captain Virat Kohli and Coach Ravi Shastri to choose Curran as their man of the series. Not bad for a 19-year-old!
Historic ODI whitewash
In between their Test series against Pakistan and India, England’s all-conquering ODI team added another thrilling triumph to their growing highlights reel as they whitewashed Australia 5-0 for the first time in any format.
As ever, their success was led by their exciting batsmen. Jason Roy led the way with two centuries and an 82, while Buttler also produced three brilliant innings. Alex Hales then hit 147 and Jonny Bairstow 139 as England beat their own world-record by racking up a remarkable 481-6 at Trent Bridge.
They were backed up well by their bowlers. Spin twins Moeen and Adil Rashid stayed on top of Australia’s batsmen throughout and took 12 wickets apiece, while Liam Plunkett and David Willey were the best-performing seamers with eight and seven wickets respectively.
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Stunning success in Sri Lanka
After an excellent summer, England headed to Sri Lanka ready to put new ideas into practice. They won a rain-hit ODI series 3-1 thanks mostly to the batting of man of the series Eoin Morgan.
Then there was a significant incident away from the cricket field, as Bairstow turned his ankle playing football and was ruled out of the First Test. The tourists could have named Buttler as wicketkeeper, but Head Coach Trevor Bayliss was keen to give Ben Foakes a chance.
The other selectors backed him, and the Surrey keeper was summoned from his holiday and put straight into the team in Galle. And what a choice it turned out to be, as Foakes scored a century on debut and a fifty in the Second Test and kept superbly throughout the series.
Bayliss and Root also made the right call on the bowling line-up when they opted for three spinners. Moeen, Rashid and Jack Leach out-bowled the Sri Lankan spinners to finish with 18, 12 and 18 wickets respectively as England won all three Tests to secure their first-ever whitewash in Asia.
The positives did not end there. Jennings scored a fantastic 146 not out at Galle and fielded brilliantly at short leg, Root hit a magnificent 124 in Kandy and captained the side superbly and Bairstow scored a hundred at number three in Colombo.
Furthermore, Buttler batted and fielded well throughout the series, Ben Stokes was electric in the field and took five wickets with aggressive, short-pitched bowling and Rory Burns showed promise as an opener. Bring on 2019!
England’s first match of 2019 is against the West Indies. It begins in Bridgetown at 2pm GMT on the 23rd January.
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