Although shortened, the summer was packed with fascinating battles, memorable moments and idiosyncrasies that will last long in the memory. We all hope that this is the only summer where we are confined to our sofas and that by the time cricket returns in 2021, spectators will be permitted inside of the stadiums once more. Yet, this summer, avid fans were happy to get their cricket fix whichever way they could.
It was testament to the ECB and Cricket West Indies that international cricket commenced before any other sport dared. The West Indies team completed a 14-day isolation period prior to their warm up matches but, despite the inconvenience and prolonged wait, both teams took to the bio-secure environment without fuss.
The pandemic triggered a realm of new regulations: Players could not shine the ball with saliva, no handshakes or hugging were recommended and players could not give their caps to the umpire prior to a bowling spell. It was a price worth paying.
It was heartening to see the umpires affording bowlers some leniency when, by force of habit, the ball was shone the traditional way. Likewise, when Jofra Archer broke the biosecure protocols ahead of the second test, the response was firm but fair. Archer missed the test and was forced to self isolate, yet when he returned he proved his worth, bowling well without much reward in the final West Indies test before taking 3-59 in the first test against Pakistan at Old Trafford. When the one day series with Australia finally concluded on the evening of the 16th September, Archer was the player who had spent the most time inside the bio-secure bubble.
And so to the cricket. First awarded in 1963, the Wisden Trophy was contested by England and West Indies 24 times. The West Indies won the trophy on 14 occasions, whilst England won 10 series. This summer was the final contest as the trophy will be replaced by the Richards-Botham trophy in the future. This isn’t the way that anybody wanted the Wisden Trophy to end.
Ebony Rainford Brent and Michael Holding spoke passionately on the plight of racism and the negative impact it has had on their lives. It is to be hoped that this is the turning point in the fight against racism in sport.
The series began poignantly with players from both nations taking a knee prior to the commencement of play at the Ageas Bowl on 8th July. The message was clear, there is no room for racism here. Ebony Rainford Brent and Michael Holding spoke passionately on the plight of racism and the negative impact it has had on their lives. It is to be hoped that this is the turning point in the fight against racism in sport.
When the summer began, few would have expected the standard of cricket to be so high.
When the summer began, few would have expected the standard of cricket to be so high. There was much talk about the selection policy England would use ahead of the series and the necessary rotation of fast bowlers to manage their workload. In the event, it would prove to be just talk. Similarly, many expected that the cricket would lack the usual pizazz and excitement without the fans presence. They had no reason to be concerned.
When England started sluggishly with the bat, Shannon Gabriel and Jason Holder pounced. England collapsed to 202 all out. Though England fared slightly better in the second innings, the momentum was with West Indies who wrapped up the victory on a tense final day when the task of restricting the West Indies to fewer than 200 proved too much, even for their captain and 2019 hero, Ben Stokes.
Stuart Broad’s omission from the first test sparked rumours that he was to retire. His rebuttal of the claims demonstrated that there was still plenty of fire in his belly. Broad returned to action in the 2nd before showing his class with returns of 6-31 and 4-36 in the final test. His performance backed up the message that he was not done yet. The magnificence of Broad’s bowling was in no doubt when Kraigg Brathwaite was trapped plumb, LBW on the final day of the series. That Brathwaite was Broad’s 500th test wicket was fitting as he had been Anderson’s 500th in 2017. England’s potent bowling partnership are never too far out of sync.
England’s batting came to the fore in the 2nd test as they amassed 469-9d in the first innings. It is the sort of first innings total that England have, too often, failed to register since the retirement of Alistair Cook. Dom Sibley’s watchful 120 and Ben Stokes’ measured contribution of 176 ensured that England set the platform for a thrilling test which climaxed late on the final day with England the victors by 113 runs. England will hope that they can replicate such a convincing batting performance more regularly moving forward.
England’s victory in the final test was more convincing due mostly, to Broad’s superb spells with the ball. An unlikely quartet of Burns, Buttler, Pope and Broad each surpassed 50 in the first innings with an attacking declaration made with 226-2 on the scoreboard in the second. The West Indies fell well short of the 399 target, bowled out for just 129 but that did not detract from an excellent series where they showed quality at the highest level of the game.
And so the Wisden Trophy was awarded to England for the final time in its history. The series between England and the West Indies is one for the history books, both for the cricket and the unique circumstances.
Here’s to watching the inaugural Richards-Botham trophy in person.