After nearly four months (that’s a third of a year!) away from home, England’s cricketers have finally left Australia. They must be tired of this store. But the ordeal isn’t quite over yet. We have two or three T20s to go across the Tasman Sea before we finally get a break from David Warner’s grinning pitcher. The international schedule never ends…
However, with our winter trip to Australia finally drawing to a close, I thought I’d write down my final thoughts. Call it a short summary, if you like. BT Sport asked fans to sum up the last 15 weeks in one word, so I thought I’d give you one: ‘long’.
The word “long” refers to the Tour for many reasons – it’s not just the time our players spend away from their families. Ashes includes long hours watching Steve Smith hit the ball and long hours bemoaning the lack of variety in our offense. In fact, the only short balls we saw during Ashes were throat balls delivered by Australia’s long, fast bowlers. Oh, how we “crave” our own 90 mph.
Unfortunately, there’s no denying that Ashes was an unmitigated disaster. Despite the uncharacteristically slow pitch that should have given our hitters more chances, we folded as smoothly as many predicted. We would have lost 5-0 were it not for that poor pitch in Melbourne, slow enough for Alastair Cook to undergo some top fast bowling changes. In fact, there was only one positive point in the entire tour: Dawid Malan. Everyone else was disappointed.
A 4-1 win in the ODIs was fun, albeit a bit of a disappointment after the Ashes bat. Jason Roy’s brilliant 180 in the first game was brilliant and seemed to catch Australian observers off guard. England have come a long way in ODIs under Trevor Bayliss, but the Australian media and commentators seem to have been very surprised by the result. It’s all a little surreal.
I was very impressed with our performance in the ODI series. While the Test team missed Ben Stokes terribly, the White Ball boys took his absence in stride. In individual games, things don’t always go our way, but we usually find a way to win. England are likely to enter the 2019 World Cup as favorites, although the team occasionally succumbs to sticky wickets that require good batting skills rather than wanton aggression.
Sadly, the Tour ended the way it started: two narrow wins. But I doubt how many people lose sleep over a couple of pointless T20s. Of course I won’t. Also, if we had won the T20, some might remember the tour as a moderate success – which of course it wasn’t (not even close). The ECB has gotten a lot of criticism for completely screwing up the four-year cycle since the last Ashes debacle, so perhaps it’s a good thing that Australia’s winter meeting didn’t end satisfactorily.
Looking ahead, England has two Tests against New Zealand, followed by two (why only two?) Tests against Pakistan and a series of five Tests against India. Oh, and there were five more pointless ODIs against Australia in between. Ah, so that’s why we only have two tests against Pakistan!
Once again I find England’s timetable absolutely puzzling. When Pakistan last visited our shores, the Test series was a very interesting 2-2 draw. I doubt another series of white balls against Australia will be so exciting. Why can’t we cancel the ODI against the Canary Yellows and then play a Test or two against Pakistan? Don’t really answer that. We all know the answer.
The upcoming test against New Zealand should be good. I’m really looking forward to the game. The two teams are well matched tonight and there is more interest at stake. Everything would change this summer if Mark Stoneman and James Vince weren’t running. Moeen Ali will also be in the spotlight – especially if Mason Crane (or even Jack Leach) plays well in the Lions’ ongoing series against West Indies A.
The great thing about New Zealand cricket, however, is that it’s fun no matter the outcome. While the first Test will be a day and night game in Auckland (boo!), the highlight will undoubtedly be the second in beautiful Christchurch. The previous five ODIs might have been a bit of a “struggle” (see what I did there?), but at least they should be competitive.