The last few weeks have been magnificent for English cricketers of both sexes. Each side has been very dominant through a sequence of games, and each have set a team scoring record during the sequence of games.
The women warmed up with an ODI series against South Africa, losing the first match but winning matches 2 and 3 very comfortably, in each case with their efforts being spearheaded by centuries from Tammy Beaumont. Then they moved into a T20 tri-series featuring South Africa and New Zealand, the latter fresh from three straight 400-plus ODI tallies against Ireland, the last of which featured the first part of a ‘script rejection’ performance by Amelia Kerr – 232 not out with the bat, and then to settle things 5-17 with the ball. No author of a cricket themed novel would dare have a 17 year-old do that in an international match, but it happened in real life.
On Day 1 of the tri-series New Zealand opened proceedings by scoring 217 from their 20 overs against South Africa, which at the time was a new record in that form of the game, and won them the match comfortably. That record lasted until later that same evening when England took on South Africa, and with Beaumont scoring yet another century (getting there in a mere 47 balls) and Katherine Brunt responding to a promotion up the order by running up 42 not out off just 16 balls reached a total of 250-3. This proved way out of SA’s reach. On Saturday, the second set of games in the tri-series, England lost to South Africa but bounced back to beat New Zealand in the other match.
The men started the limited overs segment of their summer by losing to Scotland at The Grange, but then they commenced a five match series against Australia and were absolutely dominant through the first four matches, winning all comfortably and racking up 481-6 in the third match. The fifth match was a very different kettle of fish. Australia were all out for 205, a modest total that featured the most misjudged leave-alone in cricket history (perpetrated by Ashton Agar). England then collapsed to 114-8 and I was getting ready to point out that wins in dead rubbers don’t really count. However, Jos Buttler was still there, and now Adil Rashid provided some sensible support, and the pair put on 81 for the ninth wicket, turning the match into a nail-biter. Jake Ball, the England no 11 only scored 1 not out, but he survived 11 deliveries, while Buttler first completed an astonishing hundred (with a six that on sheer distance should probably have been a nine) and then sealed England’s one-wicket victory in this game and with it a 5-0 whitewash against the old enemy.
Tim Paine thus became the second Tasmanian born captain with a surname that begins with P to surrender a match in which the opponents had needed 92 with only two wickets left (look up Mohali 2010 for more details).
Buttler’s innings secured him both the player of the match and player of the series awards. Buttler was 110 not out in a score of 206-9, and the joint second biggest scores were 20 for Alex Hales and Adil Rashid, and he finished the series with 275 runs at a handy 137.50. In the course of this innings he passed 3,000 ODI runs. Unlike most of his previous big innings which have been all about putting opponents to the sword (his 3,000th ODI run came up off only just over 2,500 balls faced in this form of the game) this one involved getting his team out of trouble and probably rates as his finest for precisely that reason.
Both the men’s and women’s teams have benefitted from the fact that everyone has contributed somewhere along the line, but each also have had certain players who have been especially outstanding (see Buttler above), and I offer the following composite list of the best:
Moeen Ali: Watching the way the Aussies tackled his off-spin you might have thought they had been put in a time machine and taken back to 1956.
Jonny Bairstow: about the only thing he did wrong all the way through was get out in the game at The Grange when he was putting Scotland to the sword and would have had England firmly in control had he batted a few more overs. None of the Aussie bowlers, even the highly impressive Billy Stanlake, had any idea where to bowl at him.
Tammy Beaumont: the smallest player in physical stature in this list (5’3″ tall) she has been a metaphorical giant in these matches with three centuries from her position at the top of the order.
Katherine Brunt: In the first match she made 72 to give England something to defend. After her 42 not out in the 250-3 T20 game she followed up by picking up 2-18 from her four overs. Ignore talk of imminent retirement – so long as her body remains in one piece she will keep going.
Jos Buttler: The batsman-keeper did all that was asked of him in the first four matches of the series against Australia and when the going got tough in fifth match he got going and carried England to victory.
Alex Hales: started these matches as favourite to miss out once Stokes was available again but played several incredible innings, and I would now say that for all his all-round credentials Stokes has to be considered as far from certain to regain his place.
Adil Rashid: another of the ‘role-reversal’ aspects of this series was that on this occasion it was Aussie batsmen who looked like rabbits in headlights when facing an English leggie. In addition to his success with the ball he played that crucial little innings in the final match.
Jason Roy: the leading run scorer of the series with 304, including a ton which spearheaded the chase-down of 310 in the 4th game.
Anya Shrubsole: reliable as ever with the ball, and when really needed in the game against New Zealand on Saturday she delivered some quick runs.
Sarah Taylor: quite possibly the best wicketkeeper of either sex on the planet at present and she also scored some important runs.
Danielle Wyatt: opening with Beaumont in the 250-3 game she was quite magnificent, and she had other successes through the season.
Time now for some photographs, starting with a cricket themed one from James and Sons’ upcoming cigarette card auction.