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World Test Championship

The hits from a golden English cricket summer amid testing times

Feature

It was a summer of cricket like never before: at a challenging time for everyone, England played host to international cricket action.

Empty stands, bio-bubbles, social distancing and new standard operating procedures – the vocabulary used for cricket changed. But thanks to the efforts of several teams, on and off the field, from around the world, fans enjoyed a summer of high-profile international cricket in England, in the middle of a global pandemic.

This past summer featured 18 men's matches and five women's matches across formats, with teams from West Indies, Ireland, Pakistan and Australia in attendance for compelling on field action.

Here we look back at the cricketing summer and the big hits from the season.

Making cricket happen

The idea of cricket happening within a bubble seemed far-fetched when it was first put forward. From chartered flights to quarantining players, bio-secure environments, staying in hotels on the ground and training within the bubble, cricket witnessed a new normal, with plenty of work going on behind the scenes to make it happen.

With constant testing and player movements tracked, the effort to keep the bubble intact was commendable. Despite instances of breaches and travel-related challenges cricket went on and the action proved to be a feast. "I think certainly we have pioneered – or mapped out – exactly how to get cricket back on,” Eoin Morgan, the white-ball skipper, said.

West Indies got plenty of gratitude from the England cricket fraternity for being the first team, men's and women's, to agree to fly into the country and pave the way for other teams to tour too. "I'm very proud," said Stafanie Taylor, the West Indies skipper, at the end of the final match of the summer. "When the chance came, we took it because we wanted to play some cricket. We knew what the challenges would be but, nevertheless, we wanted to come here and play some good cricket."

Separate white and red ball teams

The demands of the schedule and the bio-bubble meant England had to line up separate white and red-ball men's teams, with the first Test match against Pakistan in Manchester happening a day after the final ODI against Ireland in Southampton.

With no quick end to the pandemic in sight, and more boards looking to get their schedules back on track, this might be something more teams will embrace.  

Taking a stand

The season began with England and West Indies players and support staff taking a knee to support the Black Lives Matter movement, and ended with their women's teams doing the same. It sent a strong message and was backed up by efforts from the broadcasters and commentators in bringing attention to a pressing issue.

A first for England Women

After India and South Africa were forced to pull out of their tours to England, Heather Knight's side were in danger of going all summer without any internationals – until West Indies came to the rescue. Keen to put on a strong show, during what was promoted by ECB as 'women's cricket month', an all-round performance from the hosts ensured a 5-0 sweep in the T20Is, a first for them in bilateral cricket. 

It took their winning streak in completed matches in the format to eight.

The Broad and Anderson show 

Stuart Broad was the star of the summer for the England men. Broad picked up his 500th Test wicket and finished the summer with 29 wickets in five Tests at an average of 13.41, including a best of 6/31. From being a doubtful starter at the start of the summer to producing stellar performances – he even averaged 41.33 with the bat in the summer, scoring at a strike-rate of 111.71 – Broad's fortunes took a firm U-turn.

James Anderson was equally effective at the other end. He became the first fast bowler ever to pick up 600 Test wickets. At 38, Anderson squashed rumours of a possible retirement and was one of the standout performers for England in the summer. 

Young blood steps up 

Zak Crawley topped the run charts in the summer with 417 runs at an average of 69.5. His flamboyance in the middle order helped England fill one major void in their batting line-up. Crawley's sensational double hundred (267 at Southampton) against Pakistan made him the third-youngest Englishman to the landmark. 

Jermaine Blackwood's exceptional fourth-innings knock of 95 at Southampton set up a West Indies win in the first match of the summer. Ollie Pope (England) and Mohammad Rizwan (Pakistan) in the Tests; David Willey, Sam Billings (England) and Curtis Campher (Ireland) in the men's ODIs, and Player of the Series in the women's T20Is Sarah Glenn also made lasting impressions. 

ICC Cricket World Cup Super League begins

England, Ireland and Australia began their ICC Cricket World Cup Super League campaigns on their 'Road to 2023'. It was not all smooth sailing for the ODI champions, though. They began with an ODI loss to Ireland and a series loss to Australia.

The ODI series loss to Australia was the first time England lost a home ODI series in the last five years. They had a much better time on the ICC World Test Championship, though, where they are third, despite starting off on the wrong foot with a loss to West Indies. 

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