Looking back on a splendid summer of cricket

Cricket Tuesday October 3, 2023 By: Harry Howes

The Cricket World Cup gets underway this week and following a sensational few months of cricket, we’ve taken a look back at the highs (and lows!) of a memorable summer of sport.

An Ashes series to remember

A summer of British cricket wouldn’t have been the same without the Ashes and this year’s series certainly delivered. England were looking to win the famous urn for the first time since 2015 and were entering a new era, with new captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum.

With timeless moments including England’s early declaration at Edgbaston, Jonny Bairstow’s controversial dismissal at Lord’s and Stuart Broad’s fairytale farewell, it will be a series that lives long in the memory.

It didn’t quite start the way we had hoped, with Australia racing into a 2-0 lead following the first two Tests. Stokes’ decision to declare at 393 on the first day of the series was a bold risk that ultimately didn’t pay off – but it was a glimpse at our new aggressive philosophy.

The following Test saw Alex Carey stump Bairstow, who had left his crease under the impression that the ball was dead. The incident sparked controversy, leading to suggestions that it wasn’t in the spirit of the game.

Nevertheless, it left a sour taste in England’s mouths and motivated them more than ever. The hosts went into the third Test looking to become the first team to win an Ashes series from 2-0 since Australia in 1937.

A routine win at Headingley halved the deficit and England looked like they were on their way to levelling the series at Old Trafford. A phenomenal 189 from Zak Crawley put them in the ascendancy but in typical British fashion, the rain ruined the party. The match was brought to a close, meaning Australia retained the Ashes by default.

England were still desperate to level the series at The Oval in the final Test and thankfully, the scriptwriters ensured it was a fairytale finish. Broad, who had announced his retirement prior to the match, smashed Mitchell Starc for six in his final ever shot in Test cricket.

And the bowling legend went out in style, dismissing Carey with his final ever delivery to win England the match. While the result of the Ashes may have been ultimately disappointing, England played their part in delivering one of the best summers of Test cricket in recent memory.

Traditional cricket fans may still be getting their heads around ‘Bazball’ but the future under Stokes and McCullum is very bright.

Guests enjoy hospitality at the Kia Oval during England's ODI win over New Zealand in September 2023.

Cricket Hospitality

Oval Invincibles win The Hundred

There was barely time for us all to catch our breath following the Ashes as we jumped straight into the third season of The Hundred. The 100-ball franchise format raised eyebrows when it was first introduced but this year’s edition saw record viewing figures in both the men’s and women’s competitions.

Oval Invincibles claimed their first men’s title, winning six times and losing just once as they finished top of the group stage. The franchise based at The Oval saw off Manchester Originals in the final at Lord’s, but they didn’t find it easy.

Led by captain Sam Billings, they got off to a tricky start and found themselves at 34-5. But Sam Curran, the IPL’s most expensive player in history, teamed up with Jimmy Neesham to claw back the runs and bring the title to south London.

Despite being on the losing side, Jos Buttler smashed the record for most runs in a season as he finished with 391. And after a promising Ashes showing, Harry Brooks’ stunning 105 not out from 42 balls for Northern Superchargers against Welsh Fire put him in contention for England’s World Cup squad.

Unlike the men, the Oval Invincibles women’s side weren’t able to claim their third consecutive title. They were among the favourites prior to the competition but four defeats in the group stage saw them finish fifth.

Southern Brave topped the table thanks in large part to Danni Wyatt, who finished the season as the highest runs scorer. The Hampshire-based side won seven of their eight group stage matches and sailed into the final.

They met Northern Superchargers at Lord’s, who advanced after the eliminator match was called off due to rain. In a tight final showdown, Southern Brave eventually won by 34 runs to claim their first championship, having lost in the previous two finals.

Fans spectate at Lord's Cricket Ground under the media centre

England prepare for World Cup with New Zealand series

In preparation for the World Cup, England went toe-to-toe with New Zealand in a white ball series, facing off in four T20 matches and four one-day internationals.

The T20 series started positively as England went 2-0 up but a limp performance in the third match at Edgbaston saw the visitors halve the deficit. And in the final match, New Zealand destroyed England with ease.

Despite Bairstow’s best efforts, scoring 73 runs from 41 balls, New Zealand claimed a six-wicket victory to tie the series at 2-2.

Things seemed to go from bad to worse as England surrendered the opening ODI, losing by eight wickets as Daryl Mitchell and Devon Conway both scored centuries. But England knocked themselves into form and turned their fortunes around, winning the next three matches to comfortably claim the series.

Having come out of ODI retirement ahead of the World Cup, it was Stokes that stole the show in the third contest at The Oval. he scored 182 as England won by 181 runs, setting a new record for the most runs in a one-day match.

And in the final game of the series, Dawid Malan was in fine form, scoring 127 as England won by 100 runs.

Can England retain their World Cup crown?

The Cricket World Cup is just a few days away and England are looking to continue their momentum in their opening match against New Zealand.

The defending champions defeated the Kiwis in a dramatic super over back in 2019 and Stokes will be looking to recreate the magic of that tournament as he steps up to the crease in India. It may well be the all-rounder’s final one-day involvement for England – although we’ve heard that before!

England will take part in nine group stage matches, with the top four teams progressing through to the semi-finals. We’ve announced a strong squad, with Brook coming in to replace Jason Roy despite initially missing out.

As well as Stokes, Buttler will have the likes of Bairstow, Malan and Joe Root to rely on for runs, alongside the bowling strength of Curran, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes and Gus Atkinson.

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