PAUL NEWMAN: Dark days at Headingley, the transformation of England’s Test team, Mankad, Harry Brook and Bazball… the good, bad and ugly of a VERY eventful season
- Rob Key began a process that is changing the face of the Test game
- Coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes have transformed Test team
- Superb Harry Brook will become England’s next great red and white-ball batter
A dramatic campaign ended in extraordinary drama as Warwickshire secured County Championship First Division status by the skin of their teeth and sentenced Yorkshire to last-gasp relegation.
From the transformation of the England Test team and the emergence of Harry Brook ahead of the T20 World Cup to the dark days at Headingley, it has been a very eventful season.
Here, Sportsmail’s PAUL NEWMAN picks out the highlights and low points.
Jonathan Bairstow celebrates after England beat India in the Test series decider at Edgbaston
There is only one place to start. England’s Test cricket could not have been at a lower ebb after another Ashes debacle and defeat in the Caribbean left them with one win in 17 and Joe Root with no option other than to resign as captain.
But the transformation this summer has been extraordinary, starting with what was something of a surprise — if only because he had been making such a success of broadcasting — in the appointment of Rob Key as managing director.
What Key did next was begin a process that is changing the face of the Test game and has provided genuine hope that the grand old format can not only survive in the modern franchise-driven world, but also become the vehicle to bring new supporters to cricket.
KEY UNLOCKS BAZBALL
And Key did it with the appointment of Ben Stokes as captain — it may have been the only viable option, but plenty of us had what proved unnecessary reservations of what it might do to England’s most important player — and the imaginative and inspired recruitment of a man who had never coached in first-class cricket before: Brendon McCullum.
And so Bazball, a word McCullum hates but is a term of endearment, was born and Test cricket might never be the same again.
Yes, there have been positive, attractive sides before. But while winning six out of their seven Tests, England were truly innovative — I don’t think they will ever bat first again after winning the toss — and are now set on revolutionising not only how Tests are played, but also first-class cricket.
Coach Brendon McCullum (L) and captain Ben Stokes have helped transform England
SOLVING THE PUZZLE
The first-class season has ended with much gnashing of teeth over Sir Andrew Strauss’s High Performance Review, with the proposal of a reduction in Championship matches and the fudge of meaningless red-ball friendlies in August never likely to go down well.
There is, of course, an obvious solution to cricket’s scheduling puzzle and it is one everyone knows but no-one will actually address.
Just get rid of the men’s Hundred. Everything else would fit into place without the unnecessary new format. Then throw all those marketing resources and regular TV slots at an enhanced T20 Blast.
IT’S ONE ISSUE AFTER ANOTHER AT HEADINGLEY
One consequence of Strauss’s proposals — if they are ever accepted — is that this is a very bad year to go down because, with two conferences underneath a first division planned for 2024, it will take at least two years to get back up again.
So what a blow yesterday’s collapse by Hampshire at Edgbaston is for ever-troubled Yorkshire, who are relegated at the end of a turbulent year in which they have managed to botch all efforts to make amends for the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal.
Dark days indeed at Headingley, while Warwickshire can celebrate a great escape a year after winning the Championship.
And the small matter of an Edgbaston thriller providing further evidence that there is little wrong with English first-class cricket as it i
Yorkshire were relegated at the end of a turbulent year in the wake of Azeem Rafiq scandal
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
It has been a difficult summer for England’s white-ball cricket after the surprise retirement of Eoin Morgan but they are still a good bet for next month’s World Cup.
Principal among the reasons to be cheerful is the emergence of Harry Brook, who spent the summer waiting for a Test chance that finally came when Jonny Bairstow broke his ankle in freak circumstances and then proved his quality in England’s overdue return to Pakistan with a stunning 81 off 35 balls in the third T20 international.
Brook is truly a once-in-a-generation talent who will become England’s next great red and white-ball batter.
MANKAD LEAVES A SOUR TASTE
Of course, the international season had to end on a sour note. I understand the dismissal of Charlie Dean by Deepti Sharma in the final women’s one-day international at Lord’s was within the laws.
But there is no place for Mankading in the game. It always used to be that any batter backing-up too far was warned before a side even considered running them out. Make that warning mandatory and it should solve the problem.
And the ICC should let the umpires on duty at Lord’s reveal whether any warnings were handed out by India to Dean. Then we would know who is lying.
The Mankad run-out of England’s Charlie Dean by Deepti Sharma left a sour taste