After a disappointing prelude to England’s 2015 cricketing summer, few would disagree that Trevor Bayliss’ men have exceeded all expectations. England were in disarray following Peter Moores’ departure, with some arguing that such a situation might best be described as a ‘crisis’.
World Cup finalists New Zealand were the first of two antipodean visitors this summer, with the Kiwis providing a tough test before the ashes. Perhaps England underestimated their early season opponents, as things started in rather poor fashion. At 30-4, few would have anticipated such a dramatic England recovery. That fightback was largely due to the efforts of Joe Root and Ben Stokes. Both hit over 90, the former falling eventually for 98 and the latter for 92. That innings from Stokes did nothing to match his effort second time round, as his second test hundred set up a memorable victory. His 101 from 92 balls was the fastest ever century witnessed at Lord’s. England’s middle order slump at Headingly allowed New Zealand to level the series, but there were many positive aspects for the home side to take from the series.
The ODI series that followed heralded the end of Paul Farbrace’s brief tenure as head coach, and he certainly signed off in style. One of the best ODI series involving England for some considerable time, both sides played some incredibly positive, thrilling cricket. England hit 400 (yes, England hit 400 in an ODI), and chased down over 350 on their way to a spectacular 3-2 victory. New Zealand had more than played their part though, with Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor excelling.
England’s public were beginning to pay attention to cricket once again, just before the Australians landed.
It seems that the freedom with which England played against New Zealand transferred itself immediately to England’s red ball game. Trevor Bayliss merits all the accolades he has received, as he encouraged expression and a positive approach to test cricket. They secured a convincing victory inside 4 days during the first test at Cardiff, with Yorkshire’s latest favourite son putting in the match-winning performance. Joe Root was soon becoming England’s golden boy, as he took wickets in the second innings, and the catch that sealed the victory. Unfortunately, England’s smiles didn’t last too long, as they were beaten comprehensively at Lord’s. Steve Smith asserted himself as one of the world’s best, before Australia’s quicks demolished England’s batting line-up on a slow, dry pitch.
Edgbaston has certainly witnessed some truly unforgettable test matches over the years, and the third test of the 2015 ashes series was no different. Australia were wiped out inside 3 days, as James Anderson and Steven Finn ran through the batsmen in the first and second innings respectively. With England back in control, the Trent Bridge test couldn’t come quickly enough. Incredibly, Nottingham was soon to witness an even more dramatic game than Birmingham had. At 2-1 to England, the home side had taken a serious body blow, losing Jimmy Anderson. It was just as well that Stuart Broad rose to the occasion then, as he took 8-15 to dismiss Australia for 60 in the first innings. Australia’s public enemy number one had just ensured the doubling of the price on his head, as the Nottinghamshire police stood by, after reports of ‘Australians in trouble’. England duly went on to win the game, bringing the ashes back home.
Regardless of what they might say, very few pundits would have put money on that outcome at the start of the summer. While England lost at the Oval, that was little consolation for Australia. England had outplayed them over the five games, and fully deserved their victory. Alastair Cook had both scored runs consistently and captained very well, as he put a torrid period firmly behind him.
England won the post-ashes T20, before levelling the ODI series 2-2 with one game to play. Unfortunately, the fifth and final one day game was over disappointingly quickly. England only mustered 138, and Australia knocked the runs off two down.That said, Eoin Morgan had continued his superb form, while Adil Rahshid and Moeen Ali had bowled well together going into the UAE tour.
Overall, the return home of the beloved urn alone represents a fantastic summer for England. With ODI cricket rejuvenated and Joe Root, Stuart Broad and James Anderson climbing the ICC test rankings, things are looking up. Permission to relax, everyone. Crisis averted.
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