As the nights start to draw in, another summer of international cricket draws to a close leaving England fans with a brief period of reflection before it all starts again in New Zealand in November with the first of three winter tours.
Before attempting to draw any conclusions though, one simple fact must be acknowledged: this has not been just another summer of international cricket. It has been far more than that.
With a World Cup and an Ashes series, it was always going to be a special but what has transpired over the past four months has surpassed all expectations. Cricket has captured the imagination of the British public in a way not seen since 2005, thanks to a collection of remarkable – at times scarcely believable – moments.
There have been countless to choose from, but we have narrowed it down to six. Read on to find out which made the cut and then vote for your favourite below.
Buttler smashes stunning 50-ball century
The summer had barely begun when Jos Buttler strode out to the crease at the Ageas Bowl with a little under 15 overs of the England innings remaining. Pakistan were the opposition and with the hosts 211-3, they were already under pressure.
However, they could not have been prepared for what happened next as Buttler proceeded to blast nine sixes on his way to a century from just 50 balls – the second fastest hundred by an England batsman. Top of that list? Buttler versus Pakistan in 2015, that one was from just 46 balls.
Having taken 32 deliveries to reach his fifty, Buttler then went ballistic as he went from 50 to 100 in just 18 balls with 36 of those runs coming in maximums. It is no longer a surprise to see him take a bowling attack apart in such style, but it is always spectacular and less than three weeks before the start of the World Cup, it was a reminder of the unbelievable power England had at their disposal and just why they were going in as favourites.
World Cup off to a flyer with Stokes stunner
May 30. After a build-up that seemed to last for years, the waiting was over and the World Cup had arrived.
England had posted 311-8 at The Oval and South Africa were struggling in reply, the hosts had impressed but the match was lacking a defining moment, something to really signal the start of this much-anticipated tournament.
Enter Ben Stokes – and Nasser Hussain…
“Oh! No way! No way! You cannot do that, Ben Stokes!”
Andile Phehlukwayo had slog-swept Adil Rashid and watched expectantly to see the ball sail into the stands. Instead, he looked on in disbelief with the rest of us as Stokes, five yards off the rope at deep midwicket, flung himself into the air and powered his right arm above his head to pluck the ball out of the air for one of the best catches the World Cup has ever seen.
The World Cup was well and truly under way and Stokes was the name on everyone’s lip, not for the last time in the summer.
England win the World Cup ‘by the barest of margins’
It had been touch and go for a while – defeats to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia had left their World Cup hopes hanging by a thread – but England were in the World Cup final. Australia had been vanquished in the semis and only Kane Williamson’s New Zealand stood in between them and World Cup glory.
All seemed to be going well as the Kiwis were restricted to 241-8 at Lord’s, Liam Plunkett and Chris Woakes with three wickets apiece and Jofra Archer miserly in the death overs to keep the runs down. However, when Eoin Morgan departed in the 24th over of the chase with England 86-4, the prospect of him lifting the trophy seemed slim.
Half-centuries from Stokes and Buttler kept England in the hunt but when the latter fell, they still needed 46 from 31 balls. Stokes kept fighting, given a life when Trent Boult stepped on the boundary cushion after catching the all-rounder, but wickets tumbled around him and with four balls left, 15 runs were still needed.
The next ball from Boult went into the stands, the one after somehow brought six more as the ball thrown in from the deep deflected off Stokes’ bat and ran away to the fence. Suddenly it was three from two, then two from one and when Mark Wood was run out from the last ball, a tie. Super Over.
Stokes emerged again with Buttler for company and, aided by a boundary apiece, mustered 15 from six balls. Then it was over to Archer. England’s superior boundary count meant New Zealand required 16 to win. A six from Jimmy Neesham took it down to seven from four. That became three from two, mirroring England’s equation just a few minutes previous, and then two from one.
What happened next will be seared into the mind of England cricket fans forever. Archer to Martin Guptill, a yorker dug out into the legside, Jason Roy tearing in and, with Guptill turned to come back for the second, launching the ball into Buttler, who collected it and broke the stumps to win the World Cup for England – “by the barest of margins!”
Woakes and Broad skittle Ireland for 38
No sooner had Morgan lifted the World Cup trophy, attention turned to the Ashes and the chance to regain the urn. Before that though, England were back at Lord’s to try and overcome Ireland in a one-off four-day Test.
It did not go entirely according to plan. With five of England’s World Cup winners in the XI, the home side were rolled out for 85 before lunch on a sweltering day one. They clawed their way back into the game thanks to 92 from nightwatchman Jack Leach, surely the batting highlight of the left-hander’s summer, and Ireland were left needing 182 to win.
However, a day that started with dreams of a famous win in their first Test at Lord’s turned into a nightmare for Ireland. Their innings lasted only 15.4 overs as England tore through them, Woakes taking 6-17 and Stuart Broad 4-19 – a nice boost before taking on Australia.
Archer and Smith battle it out at Lord’s
Twin hundreds from Steve Smith had condemned England to a heavy defeat in the Ashes opener at Edgbaston, a situation only made worse by an injury sustained on the first morning by Jimmy Anderson that would rule him out for the remainder of the series.
England needed a bowler, not only to replace Anderson but to galvanise both the team and the supporters. That man was Archer. The fast bowler had been left out of the first Test as he recovered from a minor injury but was now fit, firing and ready to make his Test debut.
He had to wait to get into the action though after rain washed out all of day one and a chunk of day two as well. By the end of day three though, he had well and truly made his mark.
For just over an hour on Saturday afternoon England’s new star went toe-to-toe with the world’s premier Test batsman in one of the most enthralling passages of play Lord’s has ever seen. Archer was fired up and bowling consistently over 90mph – his fastest ball was clocked at 96mph – in one of the quickest spells by an England bowler in years.
Smith was up for the challenge before a painful blow on the forearm shook him up. Clearly in pain, the former Australia captain carried on, taking on the short balls from Archer and collecting a number of boundaries, albeit rather fortuitously on occasion.
With the usually serene Lord’s crowd baying for blood, the battle came to an abrupt end when Archer struck Smith on the neck with ferocious bouncer. The batsman hit the deck and then, despite his protestations, led off the pitch by the Australia team doctor, concluding an utterly pulsating spell that showed Test cricket at its brutal best.
Stokes takes England to epic Headingley win
Nine down with 73 runs still needed to win. Having been bowled out for 67 on day two in Leeds, a day that began with hopes of a record run-chase was turning into another to forget for England. Australia needed just one wicket to retain the Ashes and it was surely just a matter of time.
Jack Leach joined Stokes in the middle and so began an hour of the most nerve-shredding, intense and, where Stokes was concerned, heroic Ashes cricket you could wish to see. Although in truth, for much of it, the tension was such that you would not wish it on anyone.
Stokes started by taking on Nathan Lyon, hitting him over long off for six, and it went from there. An astounding reverse slog-sweep flew into the stands to take the required runs down to less than 50, ramping Pat Cummins for six more got it down to 40 and by the end of the next over from Josh Hazlewood, the first three balls of which went for 18, Stokes had his hundred and England needed 18.
Marcus Harris failed to hold on to a difficult chance running in from third man, Stokes hit the next two balls for four and suddenly England were just nine away. Six more off Lyon, this one hanging in the air and clearing the long off fielder by millimetres. Two to win, and that is when it really got interesting.