That’s that. Six bio-secure Tests, two England series wins, an irritating amount of rain – but some fine red-ball cricket.
We’re marking the end of the Test summer by handing out some awards – giving the verdicts are Wisden Cricket Monthly editor-in-chief Phil Walker, WCM magazine editor Jo Harman, WCM staff writer James Wallace, Wisden.com head of content Yas Rana and Wisden.com features editor Taha Hashim.
England’s player of the summer
Phil Walker: Zak Crawley. He’s 22, and he’s just made 267.
Jo Harman: Honourable mentions to Crawley, Buttler, Woakes and Stokes, but it has to be Stuart Broad. The ‘diary room’ interview he gave after he was left out of the first Test of the summer could easily have blown up in his face, perhaps even hastened the end of his England career. Instead, it will be remembered as a defining moment for all the right reasons. Broad is now the first bowler on the teamsheet, performing as well as he’s ever done and going nowhere until that seat in the Sky commentary box looks too comfy to resist.
Yas Rana: Stuart Broad. By some distance the bowler of the summer: 29 wickets at a touch over 13, taking at least three wickets in the first seven innings he bowled in. In arguably his best home summer with the ball, it was encouraging to see his batting look the best it has for years, too.
Taha Hashim: Jos Buttler. A thrilling 75 powered by his white-ball skills in the Manchester chase, and then a 311-ball stay at the crease to finish the summer. The questions will persist – Ben Foakes and Jonny Bairstow will never leave the conversation – but for now, let’s just appreciate the remarkable turnaround.
James Wallace: Hard as it is to ignore Buttler and Broad, Mr Dependable takes this one for me. Wickets, runs and shades of Hemingway with his beard and fleck of grey, Chris Woakes is grace under pressure, seizing his opportunity and making himself undroppable in a summer of rotation.
Overseas player of the summer
PW: Jason Holder. Majestic at Southampton with ball, in the field, and with the mic. Spoke beautifully about the wider themes swirling around that week, his grace and style showing a clear way forward for West Indies cricket that draws on its epic past, and not be cowed by it. As important a voice as there is in the game. A serious cricketer and a serious man.
JH: Shannon Gabriel deserves a shout-out, for somehow getting through three Test matches as much as anything else, but this was my first proper look at Mohammad Rizwan and there’s a lot to like about him. Graceful with the gloves and fearless with the bat, he balanced attack and defence in testing conditions better than any overseas batsman we’ve seen this summer. It’s not immediately obvious why Pakistan stuck with Sarfaraz Ahmed for so long.
YR: While there were a number of excellent individual performances from overseas players across the summer, arguably no West Indian or Pakistani player enjoyed more than one good Test other than Mohammad Rizwan, who picked up a pair of half-centuries and was a joy to watch behind the stumps with his near-flawless glovework.
TH: Mohammad Rizwan. A pleasure to listen to and watch behind the stumps, with plenty to offer with the bat.
JW: Jason Holder. West Indies flew over a month before the first Test to a country in a calamitous state. Holder and his side remained dignified throughout and we owe them a debt that should be repaid sooner rather than later.
PW: Jos Buttler, 75, Old Trafford, first Test v Pakistan. Two drops and a missed stumping, the demeanour of a dissolute poet burning his last manuscript, and still three days to negotiate. His innings-steadying 38 in the first dig is an apologetic technical masterclass. His second-innings 75 is what we’ve hung around for after all: impish, punchy, beautifully paced low-heartbeat batting, with that crispness of timing that marks the real talents. Now just let him play.
JH: Jermaine Blackwood’s match-winning 95 to kick off the Test summer runs it close but Zak Crawley’s epic steals it as the last. As assured a maiden century from an England batsman as we’ve seen in the last decade or more.
YR: Shan Masood’s 156. With all the rain we had in Southampton, it was an innings that would have, were it not for Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler’s heroics at Manchester, won Pakistan the series. The most complete innings put together by an opener on these shores for some time.
TH: Zak Crawley’s 267. Fair play, Ed Smith.
JW: Has to be Zak Crawley – his maiden ton will go down as one of the classiest on file. Assured against pace and spin and elegant for such a tall bloke. Can see him getting runs Down Under and on the sub-continent. His knock had it all and just pips Buttler’s chatter-silencing sophomore ton.
The spell/bowling performance
PW: James Anderson, day two, Southampton, third Test v Pakistan, 5.5-1-13-3. Late on day two and Pakistan are most definitely knackered, but Anderson’s hoop and cut and outrageous bloody-mindedness is still as intense as anything we’ve seen this summer. He tears through the top order, completes his five-bag the next day, and then slings his chandelier through another impossible ceiling a day or two later. Where does it come from? Lunatic.
JH: It feels an age ago now but Jason Holder’s six-for in the first innings of the summer gave ‘lockdown cricket’ the kickstart it needed. Had England swept aside the Windies in that first Test, we could have been looking at a very drab, one-sided contest. Holder gave the series some spice, and set the platform for a victory his side richly deserved having made the trip when other countries may not have done.
TH: Stuart Broad’s 3-66 in West Indies’ first innings in the second Test. “When I get that opportunity again you can bet I’ll be on the money” was Broad’s take from the Sky chair after his omission from the first Test, and he wasn’t wrong, delivering 29 wickets across five Tests. It all kicked off with the second new ball on the fourth evening in the second West Indies game, a three-wicket burst reviving hopes of victory. He finished the job with three more the following day.
YR: Jason Holder’s 20-6-42-6. Laid the platform for West Indies’ win at the Ageas Bowl, the only Test England lost this summer. An exhibition of patience, intelligence and skill.
JW: Got to be Broad walking the walk after he had well and truly talked the talk. His Sky interview could easily have come back to give him a face full of oeuf. His 6-31 that took him to the precipice of 500 Test wickets was one of the great f***-you bowling spells.
PW: Ollie Pope’s pull shot to Naseem Shah. It was early in his 60-odd, in the first Test. Shah’s bowling fast, it’s the classic two-lengths trick. He pounds one into the not-slow pitch, climbing to shoulder height. Pope rolls his wrists and, in slow motion, fetches it from outside off stump all along the floor through mid-wicket, leaving deep-square flagging behind it. Later that game, Shah blows Pope’s glove off with an unplayable ripper. Here’s to the future.
JH: Rahkeem Cornwall only mustered 12 runs in his solitary appearance but his straight drive to get off the mark in Manchester was as cleanly struck as any boundary of the summer.
YR: There were a few moments during Zak Crawley’s 267 that took the mind back to England greats of years gone by. The shot that did it most for me was the one which brought up his 250; walking across his stumps to flick Mohammad Abbas through mid-wicket for four. Very KP.
TH: Alzarri Joseph is quick. But Ben Stokes’ hands are quicker. The ball is full, the on-drive takes hold, the pose is held, and it’s gone all the way for six with barely a follow-through. Don’t believe me? Here.
JW: Nearly everything that comes off Babar Azam’s blade leaves me with a warm and fuzzy feeling in the pit of my tummy, not dissimilar to Spielberg’s E.T but instead of crooning “phone home” I’d stare longingly into screen and chant “cover drive”. Saying that, the lofted on-drive Stokes played off Alzarri Joseph was so good it felt sinful.
PW: Mohammad Abbas to Ben Stokes at Old Trafford. The great Stokes, batting halfway down the track, trimmed up for nought by a supply teacher bowling unhittable wobblers from round the wicket.
JH: Not helped by some slowish decks, Naseem Shah didn’t quite have the impact Pakistan would have hoped for on his first visit to England. But the 17-year-old’s unplayable delivery which removed Joe Root in the third Test – angling the ball in at near-enough 90mph before getting it to jag away sharply and take the England’s captain’s edge – showed why he’s been fast-tracked into international cricket.
YR: Naseem to Pope. A vicious delivery that reared off the pitch, caught the shoulder of the bat and popped straight to gully.
TH: Mohammad Abbas triumphing over Stokes with a gorgeous bail-trimmer. The jubilation of the Pakistan fielders added to the moment.
JW: Jimmy’s 600th wicket is the one that will be replayed until oblivion but if it’s one ball of the summer on a loop I’d take Abbas’ bail-trimmer to Stokes. The way the bails dislodge like quizzical eyebrows is immensely satisfying.
PW: Babar and Shai. That neither of these two could play a defining innings. Shai Hope looked troubled all series; it’s a worry that his high of 2017 should feel so long ago, while Babar Azam looked regal all summer without quite nailing the big one.
JH: After scoring twin tons at Headingley on his last Test tour of England, the Windies would have been hopeful that Shai Hope could turn around his miserable form in the longer format. Instead, things went from bad to worse, Hope averaging 17.50 for the series to leave his Test spot in peril.
YR: The weather, particularly during the Pakistan series. It was such a shame that after all the sacrifices made by the Pakistan squad to make this series possible, that we only really got to see two Tests worth of cricket.
TH: A brilliant first Test between England and Pakistan, two evenly-matched sides going at it. Everything’s set up for a cracking series and… Oh, it’s raining.
JW: That Fawad Alam’s 11-year wait and certifiable stance didn’t yield any runs. And to not see more of Mark Wood or Jack Leach.
What we’ll miss most
PW: Test cricket. A scandalously long time till we can all go again.
JH: Michael Gough standing in home Test series, presuming the ICC decide to return to neutral umpires. If Gough was a sprinter I’d assume he was on Nandrolone, he was that far ahead of the rest of the pack.
TH: The Lord’s hum. Someone get it up on Spotify, please.
YR: Joe Denly. Crawley’s 267 probably spelt the end of Denly’s Test career. The senior Kent statesman never crossed three figures in his 15 Tests, but he also rarely let England down, regularly providing solid platforms for his teammates lower down the order as England adopted a more patient approach in their new era under the leadership of Chris Silverwood. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Denly more than played his part in both of England’s Ashes Test wins last summer, too.
JW: Michael Gough’s umpiring. Different class.