End of Summer Awards
Ahhh the international summer. When it’s on it’s tiring and drains us all emotionally and physically but when it’s over we all sit back and wish that there was one more series. Nevertheless it’s finished and England have had a total rollercoaster. Unbeaten in ODIs, barely put a foot wrong in the T20is and then the worst home summer we’ve seen for decades in tests marking the beginning of the end of the red ball game (sound familiar?) There's a lot to dissect. But instead of discussing where the teams are- as I did here https://www.therunoutblog.co.uk/post/what-are-england- instead here are my awards for the summer. The categories are fairly basic: best domestic player, best individual performance, best overseas performer, breakout star, best match, best moment. An elite team of judges (myself) have come together (me sat at my desk) and spent hours if not days debating (it took me about 5 minutes to draw up all the lists) who would win and finally they have reached their collective decisions. Enough stalling let us get into the meat and potatoes.
Best Domestic Player: Joe Root- 8 matches 13 innings 808 runs @ 80.8
Yeah it wasn’t hard. For the brilliance of some other names (who shall be getting mentions) it was impossible for it not to be Root. Root was just… well Root. Years have passed since we’ve seen him in full flow, punching off the back foot in mid air, working the ball of his hip, smiling, grinning and just being the bundle of joy we all fell in love with. This was Joe Root back at his very best and honestly it was a joy to behold. The ODIs were simple enough and with Sri Lanka failing to remove him twice there were warning signs. Then the first innings against India he made a pretty 60 and got out but this time it didn’t feel like Root of old instead it felt like something new; a storm was brewing. Finally Joe Root errupted and England had their best ever bat reaching unseen heights. This has been the year of Root and long may it continue.
Best Individual Performance: Liam Livingstone 103(43)
2 bad shots; ball number 4 and ball number 43; inbetween these two deliveries? Carnage. England didn’t win the game but Liam Livingstone had announced himself. Of course mentions go out to Root's dazzling hundred at Trent Bridge, Conway at Lords and Bumrah at the Oval but this was something special. No matter who you are or how long you’ve been watching cricket, watching Liam Livingstone clear the front leg, brace the shoulders, seeing his eyes light up and hearing the THWACK off the bat will bring out the child within. Livingstone spent an evening reminding us all why we love cricket and also showing England that they don’t need a Ben Stokes replacement, they have something even better. It was undoubtedly the best individual performance of the summer arguably of the year and all signs point towards Liam Livingstone just getting started.
Best Overseas Performer: Rohit Sharma- 4 matches 8 innings 368 runs @ 52.57
There was no more apt line to accompany Rohit Sharmas maiden overseas test hundred than Michael Holdings “brings up his century in style”, for an occasion as monumentous as this Holding was, unsurprisingly, relaxed and this monotone expression of admiration summed up Rohit perfectly. All summer long he’d batted with patience, with class oozing through his veins and finally one of the modern greats had conquered his everest. Conway was magnificent but even at times he looked shaky and it was only for a few innings but Rohit was, as Mark Butcher put it, ‘a barn door’. Everything was just put right at his feet and played almost perfectly. He threw away a few starts but he made others count and he finally proved to everyone that he is Indias man and world cricket would be far worse off without him. Rohit winning this award should come as no real surprise to anyone.
Breakout Star: Ollie Robinson- 5 matches 28 wickets @ 19.6
(I must once again reiterate that as a cis white male it is not my place to comment on Robinsons old tweets; instead all I can, wholeheartedly, say is that I condemn everything he wrote and always will)
This was the summer of Robinson. For a while Sussex fans and players alike had been calling for Robinson to be handed his cap and over the past year the crowd noise grew louder and louder. Given the opportunity vs New Zealand he seized it with both hands. Impeccable in his line and length (reflected by his economy rate of just 2.63) whilst also seizing prized wickets on a regular basis (SR of 44.6). The most enjoyable wicket of all was thatof Kane Williamson at Lords. Pre match Robinson had spoken with a certain level of self aduredness about draggng Williamson across his stumps and pinning him LBW- all well and good Ollie but this is the best batter in the world we’re talking about. Well, he did it. Robinson was Englands best bowler by a mile this summer and suddenly the post Broad and Anderson years are looking far far more encouraging. Robinson barely put a foot wrong all summer and has played himself into Englands starting Xi. Breakout star is an understatement.
Best Match: England vs Pakistan 3rd Odi- England win by 3 wickets with 12 balls left. POTM: James Vince.
165/5 chasing 331. England were down and out. They’d blown Pakistan away the first 2 games but this time it just felt that this new born, youthful England didn’t have a chance. Up step James Vince. 48(43) when Simpson got out, Vince finally converted and despite getting out it was his superb maiden international hundred that secured England an almost improbable chase. Plaudits to Lewis Gregroy who stitched together a stunning stand with Vince as they slowly but surely clawed Englands way back into the game. This match had it all. From Phil Salt's demolition of Shaheen, to Babar Azams magical 158 this was the game of the summer by a long stretch. The Headingley test was the only other contender but in terms of enjoyment, narrative and everything that makes cricket the spectacle it is this game was the one.
Best Moment: Thakur to Joe Root- 4 runs (ball 74.4)
“One of his very best”. Michael Atherton summed it up perfectly. Joe Root had just driven Shardul Thakur down the ground with a beautiful stroke and he was elated, never before has Root celebrated a ton like that and I doubt he ever will again. This one meant something to him. The pitch was tough and England were collapsing around him but the skipper finally delivered and after a long long wait he had a home test match hundred again. Players of Roots ilk don’t go down for as long as he did so when he bounced back he made sure to do it in style. Technically he was perfect all summer but this innings was when he looked at his very, very best, India bowled perfect ball after perfect ball but Root was on a different plane as he motored along scoring singles off balls that others would leave. Both arms raised, the ball barely past the fielder, the knowledge that it was going to the boundary the moment he struck it, the metaphorical weight almost visibly being hoisted off his back as he sprinted to the non strikers end; that is the image of the summer.
This was a summer of ups and downs for both England and their fans. The tragic story of Azeem Rafiq (which is far from over) dominated the headlines and the image of the test team lining up at Headingley with their ‘no room for insert’ shirts on was one of both laughable irony and crippling sadness. Cult hero Darren Stevens dominated once again confirming his status as a modern great and Nasser Hussain had many a rant. This is a beautiful game often played and ruined by some not so beautiful people but at the end of the day it brings groups so much closer together and brings happiness to so many worldwide. It was a strange summer but one that we certainly won’t be forgetting anytime soon.