Year-ender 2018: England review – Resurgent in Tests, wonders with the white ball

What a year it was for England‘s men’s cricket team. From losing at the SCG, where Australia completed a 4-0 Ashes romp, to sweeping Sri Lanka 3-0 at the SSC, a feat achieved only twice by an international team, Joe Root’s Test team completed a remarkable turnaround.

After losing 10 of 13 away Tests, which included an innings defeat in Auckland as New Zealand won 1-0, to drawing with Pakistan 1-1 and then surging with a 4-1 victory over India at home, England soared back to No 2 in the ICC Test rankings. In England’s final act of the year, Root became the first England captain to win a Test series in Sri Lanka since 2001 when his team won by 57 runs  at Pallekele after winning the Galle Test by 211 runs.

Along the way, Alastair Cook bowed out of international cricket  with a 33rd Test century and Ed Smith recalled Jos Buttler to the Test squad, a move that paid rich dividends.

In ODIs under Eoin Morgan, England consolidated their No 1 ranking with sustained success. They beat Australia 4-1 in Australia and 5-0 at home, New Zealand 3-2, India 2-1 and Sri Lanka 3-1. An upset loss to Scotland, after conceding 371, was an aberration.

In T20Is, despite ranked third, England struggled. They lost three of five games in the Trans Tasman Trophy, lost 1-2 to India and then beat Sri Lanka in a one-off.

2018 record:

Tests: P 13  W 8 L 4 D 1

Ranking: 2

ODIs: P 24 W 17 L 6 D NR 1

Ranking: 1

T20Is: P 9 W 4 L 5

Ranking: 3

High:

Beating Sri Lanka 3-0 away, just the third time  a non-Asian team has swept a Test series by that margin in Asia. With a 42-run win over hosts Sri Lanka on day four in Colombo, England became the first team other than Australia to win 3-0 in Asia. It was a fantastic achievement, highlighted by top batting from the debutant wicketkeeper Ben Foakes, who scored a century on Test debut and was named Player of the Series; Keaton Jennings, whose catching close in was stupendous; and Jos Buttler and Root; and 18 wickets each to Moeen Ali and Jack Leach.

England became only the second team after Australia to claim a clean sweep in Sri Lanka.
England became only the second team after Australia to claim a clean sweep in Sri Lanka. © AFP

Low:

58 all out. After being drubbed in the New Year’s Test in Sydney by an innings, England turned up somewhat dazed in New Zealand and were bowled out for their sixth lowest total of all time at Eden Park. Their innings last 20.4 overs as Trent Boult claimed 6/32 and Tim Southee 4/25. Five batsmen made ducks, equalling England’s record. Root’s team became just the fifth side to be bowled out in the first session a Tests, and lost the opener by an innings and 49 runs.

Top performer:

Since being recalled to England’s Test team in June after a bumper IPL run, Jos Buttler has scored 760 runs in 18 innings at an average of 44.70, with a maiden century and six fifties. Buttler made 14, 67 and 80* in the drawn two-match series against Pakistan and against India has scored 0, 1, 24, 39, 106, 21, 69 and 89 to be his team’s leading-run getter of the series. His 760 runs are second to Root’s 948.

That's it! Jos Buttler celebrates England's whitewash of Australia
That’s it! Jos Buttler celebrates England’s whitewash of Australia © Getty

In ODIs, Buttler made 671 in 18 innings at a strike-rate of 113.53, scoring two hundreds and four fifties. His best knock came in a sensational one-wicket win that completed the 5-rout of Australia. In T20Is, 246 at a strike-rate of 135.91. All three formats combined, he is England’s third-highest run-getter in 2018 with 1677.

Fading star:

Stuart Broad played 11 Tests in 2018, from which he claimed 35 wickets at 28.28 apiece. Seven of those were at home, from which he took 23 wickets against Pakistan and India without bowling a single Stuart Broad spell. He is 32, with 433 Test wickets to his name, and still looms as a key figure for England when they host Australia for the Ashes in 2019, but is on the wane. Broad sat out of the first two Tests in Sri Lanka, Root said was one of his “toughest decisions” as captain, returned for the third and went wicketless across 14 overs.

Sam Curran turned up and proved a thorn in India's side all summer.
Sam Curran turned up and proved a thorn in India’s side all summer. © Getty

One to watch:

Sam Curran. The 20-year-old allrounder was India’s choice for Man of the Series during their Test tour of England, in which they were undone by his left-arm swing and lower order batting. Son of the late Zimbabwe allrounder Kevin, he burst onto the scene with terrific all-round performances against India and Sri Lanka. As the year closed, Curran found himself with a Rs 7.2 crore IPL contract  with Kings XI Punjab.

Lined up in 2019:

Jan-Feb-March: 3 Tests, 5 ODIs, 3 T20Is vs West Indies (away)

May: 1 ODI vs Ireland, five ODIs/1 T20I vs Pakistan (home)

June-July: ICC Cricket World Cup (home)

July: 1 Test vs Ireland (home)

August-September: 5 Tests vs Australia (home)

November-December: 2 Tests, five T20Is vs New Zealand (away)

December-January: 4 Tests, three ODIs, 3 T20Is vs South Africa (away)