Jonny Bairstow goes wild at Trent Bridge
When Rob Key announced the appointment of Brendon McCullum as England’s Test coach in May, he advised fans to “buckle up and get ready for the ride”. There will surely be some disappointments at some point but so far the Kiwi and his captain, Ben Stokes, have taken them on a dizzying, thrilling tour of the game’s giddy heights.
Already there has been a string of highlights but it would be hard to beat the final day at a packed Trent Bridge, the festive atmosphere supercharged by the fact that everyone had got their ticket for free. England chased 299 to win and at tea stood at 139 for four off 34 overs, with Jonny Bairstow on 43 off 48 balls. He scored 45 off the next 20 deliveries he faced, repeatedly nailing pull shots high over midwicket.
“Ben said: ‘Don’t even think about hitting it down, just plant it in the stands,’” said Bairstow. “I was just trying to do what the captain said.” Their challenge was to score 299 in 57 overs; they did it with 22 to spare. “I can’t quite wrap my head around it,” said Stokes. “That’s never going to happen again.”
India and Pakistan create chaos at the climax
For all that their team went and won the thing, England fans didn’t see the best of the T20 World Cup. While they were toiling through the group stage, their momentum repeatedly derailed by bad weather, the drama was happening elsewhere. The two big-name sides in the opening group stage, Sri Lanka and West Indies, lost their opening games to Namibia and Scotland respectively – despite their win the Scots still didn’t qualify, and despite their defeat Sri Lanka did. In the Super 12s Pakistan, needing to score three runs off the last three balls to beat Zimbabwe, found a way to lose, while South Africa fell apart against the Netherlands and were knocked out.
England’s outstanding performance came against India in the semi-final but it was India’s first match rather than their last that stands as the tournament’s most extraordinary occasion, played in front of 90,293 colourful, noisy and joyful supporters, and decided by a Virat Kohli innings described by Rohit Sharma as “not just his best, one of India’s best”. The moment of peak chaos came in a final over full of ludicrously improbable plot twists, when Pakistan’s Mohammad Nawaz bowled Kohli – but it was a free hit, the ball skittered away to third man and India ran three to take themselves to the verge of victory.
Charlie Dean’s Mankad
It was a hell of a way to decide a match and end a series. Charlie Dean’s remarkable, near-match-saving innings of 47 ended just as England started to think of victory after she was controversially run out at the non-striker’s end – Mankadded, if you will – by Deepti Sharma to become the final English wicket to fall.
She left the pitch in tears but though the incident was hugely controversial (becoming sufficiently well known that when Mitchell Starc threatened Jos Buttler with a similar fate a few weeks later and 10,500 miles away in Canberra, stump microphones recorded him warning: “I’m not Deepti, but I can do it”), a comprehensive analysis of Dean’s innings showed that she had left the crease early on about 85% of all the deliveries when she was at the non-striker’s end. That makes it hard to complain about the eventual outcome.
The debate about this type of dismissal seems to have progressed as a result of the furore, with the view expressed by Michael Atherton on Sky – “The message is clear really: if you’re a non-striker at the non-striker’s end, you stay in your ground until you see the ball released, and this thing can never happen” – increasingly widespread. The following day Dean was back at Lord’s for the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, where at the start of her first over with the ball she stopped her run-up in her final stride as if to execute a run-out of her own, to cheers and laughter from the crowd. She left the wicket alone.
Nathan Ellis wins the T20 Blast for Hampshire (twice)
One ball of the T20 Blast final left and Nathan Ellis stands at the end of his run-up with Lancashire needing four to win. If he can stop Richard Gleeson hitting it to the boundary, the trophy is Hampshire’s. He runs in and produces an impeccable slow yorker that bemuses the batter and hammers into off-stump, and he sprints away in celebration as fireworks explode around Edgbaston. Behind him, teammates rip the remaining stumps out of the ground before joining the joyful huddle.
And then they see the umpire, Graham Lloyd, arm at 90 degrees, beckoning them back. Ellis had overstepped, and Gleeson would get another go with the outfield now clouded in firework smoke and only two required. Ellis has to do it all again and that’s precisely what he does – another slower ball, another swing and a miss from Gleeson, and a bye is not enough (though they actually ran two, providing fuel for a bit of post-match controversy about precisely when the ball became dead). Fabulously good drama.
Trent Boult opts out of NZ central contract
Last December South Africa’s Quinton de Kock unexpectedly announced his retirement from Test cricket. In July England’s Ben Stokes retired from one-day internationals (though he may yet reconsider). Shimron Hetmyer seems to have pretty much opted out of international cricket altogether, albeit unofficially – he played eight of West Indies’ 52 matches of 2022, his absence variously blamed on poor fitness, injury, missed flights and recent parenthood. Yet he had no problems turning out for 15 of the 17 Rajasthan Royals games in the Indian Premier League and all 11 Guyana Amazon Warriors matches in the Caribbean Premier League, as well as finding space in his crowded calendar for the Abu Dhabi T10.
In November the rising English star Will Smeed, at the age of only 21 and without a first-class appearance to his name, decided to give up on red-ball cricket. But it was when Trent Boult asked to be released from his central contract in August that the cricket world teetered on its axis. The bowler’s decision, albeit at the age of 33, to “move into the next phase” – less international cricket, concentrating on family and franchises – felt like a significant domino falling.