David Lloyd concludes his end of season review by looking back at a thrilling Ashes series that saw Steve Smith dominate and Ben Stokes produce one of the great Test innings, plus a memorable double for Essex secured in a matter of days…
It was a fantastic Ashes series!
Australia always understand that you need 20 wickets and they ensured that they had enough pacemen and that they were fit. They were able to rotate them throughout the series while the batting was carried by Steve Smith.
He is a complete one-off with the style that he has adapted – he and Virat Kohli are the best players in the world. It is as dominant as I’ve seen a batsman in recent years but you go back to Kevin Pietersen, Brian Lara, Sir Vivian Richards and there have always been times when great players have dominated.
It’s a good job he did because Australia didn’t have much else. I thought Matthew Wade played pretty well but other than that… The captain was non-existent really but the bowling attack was fantastic. Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are as good an opening bowling pair as we’ve ever seen in international cricket – they were brilliant.
Staying with the bowlers, I think Jimmy Anderson would have made a heck of a difference in the series but that is just the way the game is, you get injuries. It’s just tough – it is unlucky for England.
A player who I admired greatly, David Warner, just couldn’t get his head around Stuart Broad – he just couldn’t! Warner is a wonderful cricketer and he will be working on being a better person because the other things detract from his ability as a player.
I understand all the things that went wrong in Australian cricket regarding a decision made by Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft and they got what they deserved but I would always give someone a second chance.
Stokes’ Headingley heroics
I wasn’t working on the incredible game at Headingley but I watched the last couple of hours of that and in our house there wasn’t a word said, we were just sat on the edges of our seats!
Ben Stokes was just irresistible.
There are two things that come to mind, it is very rare that you can watch for two hours and nobody says anything and then it got down to single figures to win and Tim Paine went for the review against Jack Leach when the ball had clearly pitched outside leg stump and I just said to my wife, “that is going to come back and bite him straight on the bum!”
It did with the lbw decision in the next over, Nathan Lyon to Stokes. I’ve obviously seen it as many times as anybody else, I’ve been an umpire and I couldn’t give that out because I’m not certain that it is hitting the stumps. I would never question the technology because it is the same for everybody. However…
‘You cannot do that, Ben Stokes!’
Sir Ian Botham had 1981, Andrew Flintoff 2005, while 2019 belongs to Ben Stokes after a remarkable Ashes win at Headingley.
Just before that Leach had gone walkabout and Lyon dropped the ball. There was then a reaction to when Lyon dropped the ball on AB de Villiers in the series against South Africa last year, which wasn’t a clever thing to do. He is a world class bowler and just at that moment, it would have gone through his mind about De Villiers. In any smart-alec play, always remember that it will come back and bite you. It always does!
Rory Burns really enhanced his reputation throughout the series, I thought Joe Denly got better and better and Broad carried the attack in Anderson’s absence.
Jofra Archer gave England a potency and his battle with Smith at Lord’s is just Test cricket, that’s it. That is Test cricket: it’s tough, it can hurt you and it’s hard work! Test cricket is the measure of any cricketer.
When Australia retained the urn there were questions over whether Joe Root should stay on as England captain – not from me. He is England’s captain, they’ve drawn a series against Australia two apiece, which is about right. I think with Stokes being vice-captain, it gives Root another dimension. I’m not one to keep chopping and changing because of a knee-jerk reaction.
One man who is leaving, though, is Trevor Bayliss. I’m privileged to call him a friend and I think he’s been absolutely terrific.
He’s old school and England may go in a different direction now. They may have a head coach who is more technical and, from what we’re hearing, it will just be one head coach with two or three assistants underneath him. That’s fine, Ashley Giles’ job is to decide those things but it is a hell of a job for one person.
The contenders for the job will be Graham Ford, Ottis Gibson, Mickey Arthur and from the English boys it would be Chris Silverwood and Paul Collingwood. It would be nice to have an English coach but I doubt it will be, I expect they will go for someone like Ford.
Essex do the double in double-quick time!
In the domestic game the end of the season was all about Essex. Finals Day was fabulous, we had great weather, it was sold out and T20 cricket continues to go from strength to strength.
There are probably too many matches in the Vitality Blast – 138 is far too many – but that is not my decision to make, I’m only offering an opinion. But Finals Day impressed again, it’s rock ‘n’ roll, it’s just a fun day out. Essex were the form team and Essex have done the double!
They won the County Championship just a few days later, it is just a shame that the four-day game has been pushed to the margins and I hope that the people who make these decisions think very carefully about it.
County Championship cricket deserves to be on a more level playing field and be played more in the summer months. When you talk to anybody in the game they would say quite categorically that pitches have to improve.
I’d have zero tolerance on poor pitches. I don’t mind a spinning pitch so long as it is a solid pitch and has a good bounce. I don’t see anything wrong with that, that’s absolutely fine.
What I’d also like to see is that the lads playing the game get on with it! There are too many interruptions for peripheral things: gloves, pills, drinks, bats, helmets. Smarten up, lads, make it a bit more snappy.
No winter hibernation for Bumble
Over the winter I’m going to New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka for the England tours. There is a lot of cricket, a lot of T20 cricket.