My tenure in charge of the England team began with a ruthless 2-0 Test series victory at home to New Zealand.
In the first Test, captain Joe Root led the way from the off with a majestic innings of 184. We opted not to enforce the follow-on but ran out winners by a whopping 291 runs with a day to spare. In the second Test, the evergreen James Anderson (7-43) did the damage before we comfortably chased down 244 to seal the series. We then moved onto white-ball cricket…
Despite taking the lead in the series, we lost the T20Is against Sri Lanka. However, despite losing the opening One-Day International, we fought back to win 2-1. We then beat Pakistan 2-1 and 3-0 in ODI and T20Is, including a thrilling tied match that went to a super over. Debutante spin bowler Arron Nijjar and Jason Roy were the heroes on that occasion. Jonny Bairstow clocked up three ODI centuries in just six matches meanwhile Jason Roy registered one in both formats. Miserly leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson excelled with the ball.
We then beat India 3-0 in a five-match Test series as the good times rolled on. Rory Burns (191), Joe Root (190), Dom Sibley (109) and Jos Buttler (108*) set the tone in an innings of 708-5 declared in the first Test and from there, we never looked back.
Root (191) and Crawley (106) pocketed tons in the second Test but we had to wait until the third to go 2-0 up. Inspirational captain Root (125*) was at it again. He hit yet another ton (120*) in the drawn fourth Test before sitting out the final dead rubber. Dom Sibley (116) struck a vital century for himself (Such is the competition for places) and the team. However the match would be remembered as David Payne’s Test. The thirty-year-old debutante left-arm pace bowler followed up a couple of first innings wickets with second innings figures of 5-75. He then struck the winning runs to seal a scintillating victory!
What was impressive about our success was that it was built on strong batting and wasn’t reliant on the experienced duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad excelling. All bowlers that were used stepped up at times, including off-spinner Dom Bess (16 wickets at 33.12). Having slotted into the side to replace the injured Jack Leach, he visibly grew in confidence and contribution as the series went on. Following a cruel injury to the in-form Rory Burns, 21-year-old Rob Yates (299 runs @ 49.83 in three Tests) highlighted both the depth and raising of standards of England’s batting.
A special mention to Indian batsman Shubman Gill and spin-bowler Ravi Ashwin, both of whom performed superbly.
There then followed a ridiculous 2-1 ODI series defeat in Bangladesh. Liam Livingstone (147* off 99 balls) and skipper Moeen Ali (65* off 34) propelled us to 401-5 in the first encounter. Livingstone then claimed 4-42 and Man of the Match… obviously! However we collapsed to lose the second match and debutante Stevie Eskinazi’s 87-ball 108 wasn’t enough to forge a decent total in the decider. We fought back superbly though to win the T20Is 2-1. Joe Root (86 off 50 & 62* off 42) silenced any T20 doubters, whilst the return of fast bowler Jofra Archer (6 wickets @ 16.50) and the development of Arron Nijjar contributed massively.
Ahead of the World Cup, we picked our strongest squad for the two-match T20I series in Pakistan. That meant some disappointing conversations were had with Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid and Tom Curran amongst others. Jason Roy (104 off 51) led the victory charge in the opening match then the amazing Root (102* off 65) set up victory in the second. Matthew Parkinson claimed 3-25 whilst Lewis Gregory (1-39) held his nerve to seal a five-run win and series victory.
At the T20 World Cup, we lost our first game to India by 6 wickets. We responded with an eight-wicket victory over Zimbabwe. Arron Nijjar (3-31) and Lewis Gregory (3-2) were in the wickets. West Indies were brushed aside by 49 runs (Morgan 85*/Archer 4-25) then Afghanistan were downed by 9 wickets with fast man Archer (5-32) on fire again. Joe Root struck 88 not out after Jason Roy fell first ball!
We then beat Ireland by 49 runs to take us into a semi-final against Pakistan. The match would be one for the ages and go down as one of cricket’s greatest! We recovered from 77-5 to post a potentially competitive 174 (Root 56, Moeen 37, Buttler 33). Pakistan then romped to 69 without loss with Archer conceding 20 off his first over and Nijjar faring little better. Chris Woakes (3-38), Sam Curran (3-32) and find of the tournament Lewis Gregory (1-19) turned the screws. Archer returned to pick up two wickets and Pakistan were 153-9. In his final game for England, captain Eoin Morgan could’ve turned to experienced Moeen Ali. However he backed Nijjar and all the young man’s good work came spectacularly undone! Last man Shaheen Afridi struck 18 from only six balls to send Pakistan to the final. Nijjar finished with figures of 0-51 from 3.4 overs. 14 wickets at 25.93 in ten matches (Often opening in the powerplay) suggests that he will come again… but this will take some bouncing back from!
Joe Root led the way with 320 runs and Jofra Archer with 16 wickets. Lewis Gregory claimed 13 wickets in the competition at an average of just 7.77 and an absurd economy of only 5.14! It was then onto Australia for the Ashes with fifth Test hero David Payne extremely unfortunate to miss out.
What occurred in Australia was one of the great series. There’ve been some good ones between the two sides but this was gripping until the very end.
We won the first Test by 112 runs. Who else but Joe Root (117) leading the way? Jack Leach, recalled at the expense of the unfortunate Bess, spun us to victory with scintillating figures of 7-77. The relentless Root (181*) and Dom Sibley (176) piled on the runs but we drew the second Test. This was despite seven wickets for Dom Bess. In the third match, Steven Smith’s 190 not out helped Australia square the series. In the fourth, we posted 593-6 (Root 135*, Burns 123, Sibley 118, Buttler 102) first up but took too long doing so… and it cost us! Australia themselves made 509 (Parkinson 5-132, Bess 4-167). The match petered out into a draw and so it all went to the fifth and final Test. We made a bold selection with Zak Crawley dropped and Dom Bess (Who scored 50 in the third Test) batting at number seven. Burns (84) and Sibley (99) compiled an opening stand of 146. Dan Lawrence (138), selected ahead of Ollie Pope throughout the series, made a maiden Test ton having been promoted to number three. Jofra Archer (4-77) led the way as we gained a 96-run first innings lead. From there, we attacked, striking 273 from 46 overs before declaring. Dan Lawrence (119 off 123) followed up his first innings maiden Test ton with a stunning second. Root (39 off 26), Buttler (32 off 17) and Stokes (21* off 18) teed off to support the cause. We reduced Australia to 209-7 (Despite Will Pucovski’s fourth century of the series) but there would be no fairytale ending to the international careers of messrs Anderson (2-39) and Broad (2-52). Tim Paine (72*) and Pat Cummins resisted (27*) to save the home side. We should be extremely proud of our efforts to draw 1-1 in Australia but it was the home side who were celebrating at the end.
Still, the result capped off an encouraging first nine months or so in charge. We’d remained undefeated in Tests, losing only one of 12 matches and reached the T20 World Cup semi-final, losing by only one wicket.
Disclaimer: I almost didn’t want to buy this game. Yes it’s the same game as ever but, maybe because I haven’t played for a while, it seems extremely real. I’ve had so many thrilling series. Look out for more posts soon!