Afternoon all and welcome to Friday. It’s been really cloudy in Mexico City lately. We’ve had a week of overcast skies, intermittent showers and temperatures hovering in the low teens. I’ve even had to dig my jumpers out from the back of my closet. This is not welcome, not one bit. One of the reasons I fell in love with this city was its amazing weather. Blue skies and 20-25 degrees, that’s what I signed up for. This is uncomfortably close to the weather back when I was a student in Manchester, where the sun would make an appearance every six weeks or so.
Speaking of Manchester, earlier this week England’s cricketers played the third and series-deciding ODI against Australia at Old Trafford. As you have probably seen, we lost. Having been in complete control during their chase of 303, the Aussies lost a few quick wickets towards the end and needed 10 runs to win off the final over. For some reason, Eoin Morgan then threw the ball to Adil Rashid when Tom Curran, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood all had overs remaining. It’s not for me to question the captain’s strategy – he won the World Cup last year and I haven’t played a game of cricket since I was 12 – but it felt at the time the wrong decision. Surely it’s easier to hit a leg spinner for a couple of boundaries than a 90 mph fast bowler who can vary his length and speed? Anyway, Mitch Starc duly smashed Rashid’s first ball for six and that was that. England ended the international summer with with our first home ODI series defeat since 2015. To the bloody Aussies as well.
Nevertheless, on the whole it was a thoroughly encouraging summer of cricket for England. Come-from-behind test series wins over the West Indies and Pakistan were backed up by a T20 series victory against Australia and an ODI triumph over Ireland. With that in mind, this week’s Friday Top 5 looks at the five players who stood out for England this summer across all formats of the game. Let’s get into it.
This was a big summer for Buttler. Coming into it, the Somerset man was under pressure after recent poor performances with the bat in test cricket. That continued against the West Indies until he notched a 50 in the final game, which probably kept him in the team. Against Pakistan he was brilliant, hitting a match-winning knock in the first test and 152 in the final one. He was at it again in the T20s, smashing 77 n/o off just 54 balls – including a six off the final delivery – to secure the series against Australia. He failed to make an impact in the ODI series, but by then he had already done enough to guarantee his place for the foreseeable future.
Woakes was brilliant with bat and ball this summer. In the tests, he took 11 wickets at 16 against the West Indies and then hit a match-winning knock of 84 n/o alongside Buttler in the first test against Pakistan. He was then the key figure in turning the second ODI against Australia in England’s favour with the wickets of set batsmen Finch and Labuschagne. In the deciding fixture, he crunched a brilliant 53 n/o off 39 balls to make England’s score competitive. Although that effort was in vain, the Warwickshire man’s contribution will not have gone unnoticed by the selectors.
Now infamously left out of the team for the first test of the summer against the West Indies, Broad roared back with a series-leading 16 wickets in the final two games at a ridiculous average of just 10.93. He led the bowling efforts against Pakistan, too, with 13 wickets – including his 500th in test cricket – at 16.46. At 34, there were doubts about whether the Nottinghamshire seamer was still a starter for England as we look forward to an Ashes series Down Under next winter. If the squad was to be picked tomorrow, Broad would be first on the plane.
Starting the summer as one of England’s talented but inconsistent young batsmen, Crawley must surely now be a shoe-in for the upcoming test series in India. Dropped after a disappointing return of 97 runs from two tests against the West Indies, the rosy-cheeked 22-year-old was given another chance against Pakistan. It is safe to say he grabbed it with both hands, notching a creditable 53 in difficult conditions in the second test and then blasting a monstrous and memorable 267 in the final game. All told, Crawley hit 320 runs against Pakistan at an average of 65. Alongside Root, Stokes and Pope, England finally look to have a settled middle order.
Billings was certainly a high point during England’s mixed ODI summer. The 29-year-old was excellent against Ireland, scoring 132 runs and finishing not out in all three innings. He continued his form against Australia, smashing an impressive 118 in the first game for his maiden international ton and averaging 61 in the series. His performances in the T20 format weren’t quite as eye-catching, but having been in and out of the ODI team for the last few years, the Kent batsman looks to have finally cemented his place in the side.
There were, of courses, other strong performances worth mentioning. Jimmy Anderson answered his critics with a brilliant series against Pakistan, Jonny Bairstow topped the run charts in the Australia ODI series with 196 at 65, and Ben Stokes was up to his usual heroics against the West Indies before missing the second half of the summer for personal reasons.
Right, that’s enough of that for today. I’m off to cook some spaghetti bolognese with lots and lots of parmesan cheese. Have yourselves a great weekend and I’ll be back here on Monday.