What a difference six months makes. After the dark cloud that was the 2015 Cricket World Cup down under — and the underwhelming performance in the West Indies — it would surely not be too much of an overstatement to say that the England cricket team have just experienced a “silver lining summer”.
It may not have been the perfect ending, with Australia winning Sunday’s fifth and final ODI by eight wickets to seal a 3-2 series victory, but the 2015 cricketing summer will be filled with overwhelmingly positive memories for most England supporters, not least the reclamation of a certain small red urn which is now back where many fell it belongs. But which memories stand out more than others? Here are half-a-dozen of the best.
England Cricket Team Summer 2015: Six of the Best
Ben Stokes’ 101 — 1st Test against New Zealand: Lord’s
The Durham all-rounder’s Botham-esque second Test ton came off just 92 balls and was the fastest Test century at the Home of Cricket as it took him 85 deliveries to reach three figures. More importantly, it gave England a fighting chance of winning the Test, as did captain Alistair Cook’s 162 off 345 balls. The hosts were eventually bowled out for 428 on day five but had set New Zealand 345 to win. This proved too much for them as they were skittled out for 220, thanks largely to 3-38 from Stokes, who picked up the Man-of-the-Match award to go with securing a 1-0 lead for England in the series.
England break records — 1st ODI against New Zealand: Edgbaston
The Three Lions’ brave new era in one-day cricket after the World Cup disaster got off to a remarkable start when they posted 408, their highest ever score in ODIs and their first over 400. This was anchored by Jos Buttler’s superb 129 off 77 balls, also his highest score in this format for England. New Zealand never looked like achieving an improbable victory as they were all out for 198 in 31.1 overs which gave the home side a 210-run win: their highest margin of victory in limited-overs cricket.
Bairstow’s brilliance — 5th ODI against New Zealand: Chester-le-Street
Yorkshire wicket-keeper/batsman Jonny Bairstow’s 60-ball 83 gave England the perfect ending to a thrilling series. Earlier, New Zealand were reduced to 283/9 in 50 overs and after a lengthy rain-break, England needed 192 from 26 overs (D/L method). However, at 45-5, their chances of winning looked minimal at best, but that was before Bairstow got going and with other vital contributions from Sam Billings and Adil Rashid, England won by three wickets and won the series 3-2.
Joe Root’s 134 — 1st Test against Australia: Cardiff
With England 42-3 on the first morning of the 2015 Ashes, things could have been very different had Brad Haddin hung on to an edge from the Yorkshireman’s second delivery. After that reprieve, there was no going back as Root showed the sort of timing and shot-selection he has become famous around the world for (which would eventually take him to number one in the ICC Test rankings) to give England the platform to comprehensively defeat the Aussies by 169 runs.
Steven Finn’s return — 3rd Test against Australia: Edgbaston
Over a year-and-a half after being deemed “unselectable”, fast bowler Finn returned to the Test fold with a bang. After being called up to replace Mark Wood, the Middlesex seamer took match figures of 8-123 in his first Test match in two years to earn him the Man-of-the-match award and give his team a comfortable eight wicket win and a 2-1 lead in the Ashes.
Stuart Broad’s 8-15 — 4th Test against Australia: Trent Bridge
Arguably the most remarkable morning session in Ashes history. Australia took just 18.3 overs to crumble to 60 all out (the top scorer being “Extras” with 14) thanks in no small part to Broad’s career-best bowling figures. The standout moment was Ben Stokes’ outstanding one-handed diving catch to remove Adam Voges, which left everyone, not least Broad himself, stunned. After that, it was only a matter of time before the urn would return to the Northern Hemisphere.
As demonstrated above, it was one of the most memorable English cricket summers in recent times. Can that momentum be built upon during the winter, where England have tours in Pakistan and South Africa as well as the T20 World Cup in India? Only time will tell.