2023 promises to be an exhilarating one for English cricket. As in 2019, fans will be treated to a home Ashes series and in October the return of the Cricket World Cup in India.
England will arrive in India as double-world champions having conquered the T20 scene in thrilling fashion in November of last year, thanks to a composed knock from test captain Ben Stokes, whose heroics in the 50-over final in 2019 will remain etched in English memories forever. England, as one of the top forces in white-ball cricket for the last few years, will be among the favourites for the title. Emerging stars like Harry Brook backing up the experience of Butler’s squad are a testament to the depth of white-ball cricket in England.
Standing in their way will be India, buoyed by home fans who will be begging for a repeat of 2011 when Dhoni hammered a 6 to win in front of the adoring fans in Mumbai. However, despite having some of the finest talents to have played the game in recent years, this is a team that has faltered in major tournaments. Suryakumar Yadav, Bumrah, and Jadeja will do what they can to provide Kohli’s apotheosis, but failure in the Asia Cup and demolition by England in the World T20 are signs that this team could be less than the sum of its parts.
Top-ranked New Zealand will want to avenge the final of 2019, but to do so they will need to continue firing on all cylinders. The Australians have the depth and the firepower, but such traits can leave them with selection headaches and unbalanced teams that falter when the top order doesn’t bring runs. This could, once again, be England’s year.
Speaking of the Australians, they arrive in the summer for one of the most hotly anticipated Ashes series in memory. After the embarrassment of last winter England are reborn under Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum. Their new approach to test cricket – “Bazball” – has picked the England team up from its dire depths to a stunning run of victories. Their ultra-positive approach has yielded blistering victories and in Rawalpindi, a win that seemed impossible to create out of the most lifeless of surfaces. Everyone has bought into the approach that, whilst carrying risks, has paid off massively.
In terms of accumulating runs, England bear a potent middle-order; Root, Stokes, Brook, and Bairstow. A decision is needed over the gloves; do they go for Foakes, or use Bairstow, freeing up another spot in the team? The openers show frailties that too often see Pope walking out in the early overs, and the bowling attack needs to see a well-balanced mix of experience and youth. Anderson and Broad should play, but not necessarily together. Robinson has improved dramatically, Wood and the returning Archer bring much-needed pace, whilst Woakes and Potts have wicket-tacking knacks.
Facing up to “Bazball” with relish are the Aussies, strong as ever under Pat Cummins, having demolished the Windies and South Africa. England’s attack must find an answer to the Smith and Labuschagne question (last time it was knock them out), whilst also dealing with an in-form Head, a developing Cam Green and a scary Aussie attack. Along with the big trio, there are murmurings about Lance Morris, bowler of 95mph rockets. And if Boland comes along, which he surely will, England may well be all out before you can say “Build the man a statue!”.
As with any home Ashes series, it’s sure to be much more exciting than one in Oz. England have a wonderful chance to regain the Ashes. The Aussies have their own style of dominance. Strap yourselves in.
Image: CC2:0//John Sutton via Geograph