Over the winter, the England team slumped to one of the worst defeats in Ashes history with several embarrassing performances over the test cricket series.
One of the many reasons given for such a poor display was put down to the captain at the time, Joe Root. His team selections baffled supporters and pundits alike, as he missed opportunities to make the most of the specialities of some of his players.
It just didn’t seem like he could get a decision right, and the test cricket team looked devoid of any confidence. Any glimpse of a spark of something that looked promising snuffed out time and again as England went on a depressing run that saw them underperforming in several test cricket games.
Root himself even suffered in his own performances, having once been at the top of the test cricket batting rankings, but being overtaken in December 2021 by Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne.
Time for a change
The slump in England’s form when it came to test cricket eventually encouraged Root to hand back the captaincy, allowing him to focus on his playing career. But there was no successor to step in straight away to fill the empty spot.
Instead, rumours circulated and there was one name that was a popular suggestion amongst fans. World Cup hero, Ben Stokes.
It wasn’t long then until he was approached for the role, with men’s cricket managing director, Rob Key, meeting with Stokes to discuss the position. Stokes accepted the captaincy, announcing his takeover of the role on the 28th of April, 2022.
He had the following to say about his appointment:
I am honoured to be given the chance to lead the England Test team. This is a real privilege, and I’m excited about getting started this summer.
Brighter future for England Test Cricket
It has been a bit of a long wait for Ben Stokes to get his first test under his belt as captain, nearly two months since his announcement. But we do find ourselves in the middle of a test cricket series against the current world champions, New Zealand.
It will have been both an exciting and daunting prospect to face the number one side in the world as your first game. Though it is one that Stokes has risen to, as they currently take a 2-0 lead into a series that some may have expected them to fall in.
The first test cricket match saw New Zealand win the toss and choose to bat, but England’s bowlers were on form as Matty Potts went 4/13 and James Anderson came back into the side bowling 4/66. This left New Zealand with just 132 runs from their first innings, a figure England surpassed with 141 runs.
It was a much improved second innings for New Zealand, with Daryl Mitchell managing to get over a century, and Tom Blundell just falling short of one himself. This left New Zealand with a total of 285, leaving England chasing 277 runs to win the series. And that is just what they did as Joe Root returned to his best form with 115 not out, to help give England a first win under Stoke’s captaincy.
The second game of this test cricket series saw England win the toss, but they surprisingly decided that they would bowl first rather than bat. And despite Anderson and Stokes taking five wickets between them, it was an excellent performance from Mitchell and Blundell who both secured centuries, racking up 296 points between them for New Zealand to end with 553 runs.
England did their best but fell short with 539 runs, although Joe Root (211) and Ollie Pope (145) managed 356 between them. A terrific bowling display from the Lions then limited New Zealand to just 284 runs in their second innings, meaning that England needed just 299 to take the second test of the series.
Joe Root stepped up to the wicket, as fans who were given free entry to the game for the entire day hoped to see him add to his impressive tally which has returned Root to the top of test rankings. However, Trent Boult bowled and caught Root out for just 3 runs, and England’s hopes of winning the second test looked lost.
That was until Jonny Bairstow decided to play cricket like it was a One Day International (ODI). With every ball that came his way, he was stepping forward and sending ball after ball into the crowd, repeatedly earning sixes and fours like it was a practice game. In fact, at one point he was on for scoring the fastest century for England in test cricket history. However, he had to settle for being second fastest.
That won’t matter though as he helped England secure victory in the second Test by five wickets.
What is next for Stoke’s England?
It’s safe to say that Stoke’s reign as the new England captain has gotten off to a fantastic start. He has rallied the troops and united fans as they look to bounce back from a disappointing Ashes series, amongst other results.
There are two more scheduled test cricket series this summer, with both India and South Africa up next for the England test cricket team. The future is certainly looking brighter with impressive displays in the first two tests against New Zealand, but these next series will show us if this has just been a one-off. Or if England can rise to the top of the rankings once again.