What can we look forward to from England’s cricket in 2019?
2019 promises to be one of our most successful calendar years if we can build on the series win in Sri Lanka and finalise some of the team positions that have troubled the team management for so long.
It’s not long until we head to the West Indies for a 3-Test series, along with 5 ODIs and 3 T20s. With both a home Ashes series and World Cup coming up later in the summer, the key objective of these matches has to be the securing of places.
Surely every single England supporter is hoping that Keaton Jennings is able to perform in the very different conditions of the Caribbean? He is one of cricket’s undisputed nice guys, a reputation only emphasised by his recent fundraising for the Macmillan Cancer charity. He was very happy to chat with fans during the Sri Lanka tour, too, and I feel strongly that the players should be willing to interact like this with the supporters who spend so much time and money following them around the world. Burns and Foakes will also be hoping to guarantee their places ahead of the Ashes; Burns has more to do in terms of cold, hard batting achievement, whereas I think we’re all sold on Foakes after his numbers in November.
While the Windies tour will certainly not offer the challenge it used to, with rock-hard pitches and terrifying quicks, England have still managed to struggle there in fairly recent times and we will need to close down sessions and matches when we are on top, in all three formats.
We start the international English summer with pre-World Cup ODIs against Ireland and Pakistan, perhaps not the sternest test before the big tournament, but one would hope for challenging matches. A delicate balance will need to be struck between giving final match-practice to our main players and taking a final look at any remaining ‘maybes’.
The ECB’s explicit investment in and focus on white-ball cricket has given us an excellent chance of winning the 50 over World Cup. We just have to hope that tournament fatigue doesn’t kick in. The Champions Trophy was long the preferred tournament among England fans because of its condensed format, in comparison with the World Cup’s 30+ days format. It will, though, showcase the growth of the game and I for one am delighted that we will be hosting an Afghanistan team.
England’s batting, in particular, has been explosively entertaining so we should be on for some stonking matches.
After the World Cup the tempo of the summer will take a turn with a single Test match against Ireland before the Ashes begins. It’s great to see all Ireland’s work in cricket recognised and I know this will be treated as a warm-up by England, but there will be some who question the expansion of Test cricket and call for a two-tier system.
I’m not in that camp yet.
The Ashes has suffered some over-hype since 2005, but Joe Root and co. should be looking to totally dominate an Australian team that has started 2019 with an ignominious home series defeat to India. We might see the return of Smith, Warner and Bancroft and if we do there is sure to be a spicy welcome from English crowds.
The winter will be a fairly long one, with a two-Test and five-ODI series in New Zealand followed by a hotly-anticipated Test and limited overs tour to South Africa over Christmas and New Year. PC TinTin and I are hoping baby Jos’ first taste of Addis touring will be the Boxing Day Test. By the time this newsletter is out, flights should be available too. All Jos needs now is his Addis Army nickname!