When England were duly thumped by Australia in their recent Ashes tour, which was followed by a limp loss in the West Indies, not many would have predicted anything other than a depressing summer of cricketing action for the national team.
However, the inspired appointment of Ben Stokes as test captain has led to a marvellous resurgence that has left English fans of the game with broad grins to replace the tears and anguish suffered over the winter.
The manner in which England were thumped by the Aussies was disheartening, to say the least, and it was clear that Joe Root’s time as skipper was going to come to an end, though clearly, he remains hugely important from a batting perspective.
Ben Stokes has effortlessly moved into the position and was joined by Brendan McCullum, who has been appointed as England’s new test coach, and the move has proven instantly effective.
New Zealand arrived for their three-match test series in England as the world’s number one test team, and as such, not a great deal was expected from Stokes and his team, but they have duly delivered in quite remarkable circumstances.
A first test was secured as England chased down 277 at Lords, with Root and Stokes putting in the key partnership in their second innings. At Trent Bridge, they were set 299 to win and quite amazingly secured the victory off just 50 overs with Jonny Bairstow and Stokes sharing a superb 179 partnership.
Then in the third test of the series England took things to a whole new level as, once again batting last, they got the 296 needed for the loss of just three wickets and had therefore wiped the floor with New Zealand, and Stokes had a series win in his first as captain.
Then came India in a rearranged test from a previous series, and on his occasion, they successfully completed the highest chase in test cricket, with Root and Bairstow both scoring centuries as England got to their mammoth target of 378 for the loss of just three wickets.
It’s that never say die attitude that epitomises Stokes, and the attack-minded approach is one that mirrors his own batting style, and now they are very much the favourites in the cricket betting for the visit of South Africa for the three test series that will take place in August and September.
While the likes of T20 and the Hundred have made the shorter-form of the game hugely popular, it is worth noting that test cricket is enjoying something of a renaissance, and it’s clearly of great importance to Stokes.
The 31-year-old has duly retired from ODIs (One Day Internationals) and also was rested for the T20 series against South Africa and knows that a lot of the weight of expectation is on his shoulders, but Stokes is clearly a man who thrives under such conditions, as evidenced by his heroics in the Ashes series back in 2019 and World Cup finals of the same year.
The aura that Stokes undoubtedly possesses is certainly rubbing off on his team-mates, as evidenced by comments made by former captain Joe Root;
“Ben’s wanted us to be entertainers. He mentioned trying to be rock stars on the field,”
“It’s about trying to have fun and relish every opportunity you get to showcase what you’re about and put on a show for everyone. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to feel or look like a rock star, but for 10 seconds, I might have done today.” Root commented after that momentous victory over India.
England’s first test against South Africa begins on the 17th of August at Lord’s, and if they continue in the same vein of form that saw them ease past New Zealand and India, then you can expect an already epic summer to end on a blossoming note.