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Month: December 2018

England v India 2018

The First test was to set the foundation. In a see-saw contest at Edgbaston, England eventually emerged as winners by 31 runs. India captain Kohli, who had scored an impressive 149 in the first innings, could count himself unlucky to end on the losing team. But some fine England performance, especially from Sam Curran, brought the victory.

England had edged the first Test, but the second was to be the only truly one-sided affair of the series. The Indian side, still reeling from the disappointment of defeat at Edgbaston, arrived at Lords. Joe Root won the toss and put the tourists in to bat. Jimmy Anderson then worked his magic.

Anderson was in imperious form. Both openers had been removed, with just 10 runs on the board. Captain Kohli entered the fray, attempting to dig his team out of a hole. But Pujara was soon run out, reducing India to 15-3. Kohli’s stay at the wicket was brought to an end by Woakes and India were to be all out for 107. Advantage England.

But England’s own batting frailties had been a cause of concern earlier in the year. How would they react from this position?

Some early wobbles left England at 89-4, but Bairstow and Woakes were to blast England along. Woakes made an unbeaten 137, as England reached 397-7 declared. It would need a strong Indian fightback to avoid defeat. Instead, they were bowled out foe 130 (with 4 more wickets for Anderson), as England took a 2-0 lead in the five match series.

The team’s moved on to Trent Bridge, where it was England’s turn to bat poorly. Bowled out for 161 in the first innings (Pandya taking 5-28), the home team never looked like recovering. Beaten by 203 runs, they would now have to work hard to seal the series.

The pivotal Test in the series was to come at Southampton, as August moved into September. Delightful weather greeted the two teams. England batted first, with an important lower order 78 from Curran helping them to reach 246 all out. The total looked a little below par, particularly as Pujara and Kohli settled in during the second day. But the dismissal of Kohli (by Curran) halted Indian progress. Pujara was short of partners, eventually left stranded on 132 not out. His colossal effort helped India to reach 273 and a slight, but potentially important first innings lead.

England were soon to lose the out of form Cook, but Root steadied the ship. There were critical runs further down the order, from Buttler, Stokes and Curran. England had reached 271 all out, giving themselves a fighting chance. How would India handle batting last?

Soon reduced to 22-3, India were in trouble. But a century partnership between Kohli and Rahane moved them into the box seat. Step forward Moeen Ali. First, he had the dangerous Kohli caught by Cook on 58. Soon after, he removed wicketkeeper Pant and had Rahane trapped lbw for a feisty 51, leaving India on 153-7. They were never to recover, eventually falling 60 runs short of the England score. The hosts had sealed series victory, with one match still to play.

Throughout the summer, there had been much debate about the future of England stalwart and former captain, Alastair Cook. One big score in Australia had been followed with a number of disappointments and Cook’s place was the subject of real discussion. Some suggested that he was maintaining his place in the team due to a lack of competitors to open for the team.

Between the game at Southampton and the final Test match, at The Oval, Cook announced that the last Test of the series would also be his last in an England short. With the series won, the focus at The Oval would very much be on the Essex star.

Joe Root again won the toss at The Oval, opting to bat first. Cook walked to the crease to a standing ovation, which was to be repeated again and again in the coming days. At lunch on that first day, Cook was unbeaten on 37. In the afternoon session, he reached his half century. By tea, he was 66 not out and England were daring to dream of a fairytale ending.

He fell on 71, however, bowled by Bumrah. England went on to make 332 all out (Buttler top scoring with 89). In reply, they bowled out the Indian side for 292, giving England a handy first innings lead of 40.

Cook was out to bat for the final time as an England player, when he emerged just before tea on the third day of play. He was met by another ovation and it wouldn’t be his last. There was fluency in his batting that had been lacking at various times in the past few years. He accumulated runs steadily, particularly when joined by Root. At the end of day 3, England were 114-2, with Cook unbeaten on 46.

Cook reached his 50 off 127 balls, but he wasn’t ready to stop there. Just before lunch, he reached his final century for England. He was finally out for a splendid 147, supported by Joe Root (125). England declared at 423-8, with a seemingly unbeatable total. There was, however, one last twist in the tale of this eventful series.

Rahul, the India opener, batted wonderfully in reaching 149. He lacked support, until joined by Pant, who had disappointed with the bat throughout the series. Here, the two gave England a fright. Their partnership was worth more than 200, with Rahul eventually falling to Rashid. England mopped up the last few wickets, to complete victory by 118 runs.

A great way for Cook to bow out, but the achievement of another English great shouldn’t be ignored. When Jimmy Anderson clean bowled the Indian tailender, Mohammed Shami, he completed victory for his team. In doing so, he also overtook Glenn McGrath to become the fast bowler to have taken more Test wickets than any other. An incredible achievement from a player who had made so many appearances alongside Cook.

England’s Tour Of Sri Lanka 2018

A 4-1 series victory against India in home conditions was something to savour, but a trip to Sri Lanka was soon on the horizon. With no Cook for this tour, England would need to try a new opening combination.

Conditions in Sri Lanka were unlikely to favour the fast bowlers and there some speculation in advance that either Jimmy Anderson or Stuart Broad might be rested for the tour, particularly with a trip to the West Indies providing the opening chapter in the story of 2019. Both players made it clear that they were loath to miss out and were to make the squad.

The Sri Lankans, although struggling for form on their travels, had provided more difficult opposition at home in recent years. The likes of Australia and South Africa had suffered heavy defeats on the spin friendly surfaces that were frequently served up. England’s batsmen would need to quickly get to grips with the conditions, while England’s own spinners were likely to have a heavy workload.

Prior to the Test series, England warmed up with a convincing victory in the One Day international series (despite a batting collapse in the final match), together with success in the sole Twenty20 International. The First Test was to take place in Galle.

England’s performance at fortress Galle proved to be exemplary. An injury to Bairstow meant that Surrey wicketkeeper Ben Foakes was a late addition to the touring party. He made his international debut, scoring a century in the first innings, as England built a healthy lead. Keaton Jennings, whose place had been in some doubt, scored a big second innings century too, as England ran out winners by 211 runs.

The bowling of Moeen Ali was just as critical, as he emerged with match figures of 8-137. A useful contribution with the ball from Jack Leach helped to get England over the line in some style. The team had set a marker, demonstrating that they were capable of winning overseas in unfamiliar surroundings.

The Second Test, in Kandy, saw Sri Lanka take a first innings lead. Despite useful runs from England’s middle and lower order batsmen, it looked like the visitors would struggle to equal their result from the previous match. Fortunately, captain Root was in sparkling form, scoring 124 in the second innings. Foakes batted impressively, as he had done in the First Test, contributing an unbeaten 65.

Sri Lanka’s chase fell 57 runs short, with Leach (5-83) and Moeen (4-72) doing the damage. England had an unassailable 2-0 lead heading into the third and final Test match.

That Third Test, played in Colombo, was hard fought. England emerged victorious by 42 runs, thanks to some significant contributions by both batsmen and bowlers. Bairstow, on his return to the side, scored a first innings century. Elsewhere, there were half centuries from Stokes and Buttler.

When England came to bowl, they found that Rashid (with a 5 wicket haul in the first innings), Moeen and Leach were able to give them the upper hand. A difficult tour had been completed with a 3-0 series win.

2018 brought ups and downs for the England team. In limited overs cricket, there were notable successes against Australia (home and away), New Zealand, India and Sri Lanka. The only mark on the copybook was the surprising defeat against Scotland.

The Test match year had been more variable in nature. With an Ashes defeat, a series loss in New Zealand and a drawn series at home to Pakistan, the first half of the year would be placed in the “disappointing” category. But a 4-1 home victory against India and the convincing series win in Sri Lanka meant that they year ended on a high note. Players and supporters alike would look forward to 2019 with renewed confidence.

Returning home: England’s cricket summer

On returning home, England a two Test series against Pakistan. Any hopes of improvement were destroyed, as Pakistan ran up a 9 wicket success in the first Test at Lords. England desperately needed a victory at Headingley, if they were to avoid sliding further on their downward spiral.

Pakistan’s batting performance in the second Test fell some way short of what they had produced at Lords. England’s bowlers shared the wickets, as Pakistan suffered an innings defeat. The series had been drawn and there was now some limited overs cricket, prior to the arrival of India, ranked as the world’s best Test team.

Despite the Test match setbacks, England’s one day form had proved to be consistently strong. Australia would provide the opposition in a 5-match series. Prior to that contest commencing, there was the small matter of taking on minnows Scotland at The Grange. The perfect match to get England into the one day mindset, before taking on the Aussies.

England decided to put Scotland in to bat. Although they had to watch Scotland’s opening pair put on a century partnership, England would still have been confident. A stunning, unbeaten 140 from Calum McLeod (scored off just 94 balls and including 19 boundaries) was to change the shape of the game. Scotland reached an extremely competitive 371-5. England had a fight on their hands.

England’s run chase started well. Indeed, they blasted past the 200 mark with only 2 wickets down and half of the overs still in hand. England seemed to be cruising. But wickets then fell at regular intervals, with England ultimately falling 6 runs short. Scotland had a famous victory and England had the worst possible preparation for the arrival of Australia.

As it happened, however, the Aussies were arriving in disarray. With key players suspended following the ball tampering controversy in South Africa, they were shorn of their best players. England were masterful, recording a 5-0 series whitewash and following it up with a win in the sole Twenty20 international for good measure.

The series highlight arrived at Trent Bridge, where Australia fatefully put England in to bat. What followed was explosive, as England reached 481-6, a record for the highest ever score in a one day international. The scorecard showed an Australian team left in tatters: Alex Hales, on his own ground, top scored with 147 from 92 balls. Jonny Bairstow (139 from 92 balls) wasn’t far behind, while the bowling figures were bleak.

Australia never came close to chasing the total, eventually being bowled out for only 239. India arrived with England suddenly looking in better spirits.

After getting the limited overs cricket out of the way (successfully for the home side), a brilliant Test match series was soon in hand.

Looking ahead: English cricket in 2019

What a year we have in prospect for the England cricket team. After mixed results in 2018, together with some off-field distractions, it’s hard to believe that next year could be more eventful. But the signs are promising.

During the course of 2019, England will host the cricket World Cup, a first ever Test match against Ireland, together with a home Ashes series. Cricket fans are likely to feel like they are in seventh heaven. Before we move on to look at next year, allow us to take some time to cover the highlights of 2018.

Tour of Australia and New Zealand

The year didn’t start too promisingly, with the final Test of the Ashes series Down Under seeing England crushed in Sydney. A mammoth first innings score of 649 for 7 declared was enough to put the Aussies in the box seat, with a startling 171 from Khawaja leading the way. He was one of three centurions, as England took a battering. England’s attempts to save the game were disappointing, with the side eventually beaten by an innings and 123 runs. An injury to captain Joe Root only made things worse. Australia had regained the Ashes, England had missed the absent Ben Stokes and the team were at a low point.

Despite their disappointing Test match form, England remained very much the team to beat in One Day Internationals. This was confirmed in some style, as they triumphed in back to back away series, against Australia and then New Zealand.

England arrived at Eden Park for the First Test against New Zealand, having regained some confidence. There was hope that the team would perform strongly and put the Ashes nightmare behind them, particularly with Stokes re-joining the squad.

New Zealand won the toss and put England in to bat. What followed was one of the more embarrassing episodes in English Test cricket history: England were all out for just 58, undone by some beautiful bowling from New Zealand strike bowlers Southee and (4-25) and Boult (6-32). The entire innings lasted barely 20 overs. The scorecard was a sorry sight, with Craig Overton contributing more than half of the team’s runs. Elsewhere, Root, the returning Stokes, Bairstow, Moeen and Broad failed to trouble the scorers. There was to be no coming back from here.

The second Test saw a much improved performance from England. Indeed, the team were on top for much of the match, but fell two wickets short of forcing the victory that would have drawn the series. Instead, the second Test was to end in a draw and England had been beaten away from home in a Test match series yet again. The winter of Test match cricket wouldn’t live long in English memories.

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