Ahead of the members vote for the Sports Journalists’ Association British Sports Awards, we asked members of the SJA Academy to make their case for contenders to win sportsman, sportswoman and team of the year. OSCAR RESS with the case for England’s men’s cricket team.
It’s been quite the year for England men’s cricket teams and it’s fair to say at the start of 2022 few would have predicted it.
Jos Buttler succeeded Eoin Morgan as white ball captain and has continued where his former skipper left off.
And England end the year with a win in the T20 World Cup in Australia, becoming the first team to hold the world titles in both white ball formats.
Ben Stokes was the final hero in Melbourne to cap off another remarkable year for a player who succeeded Joe Root as Test captain.
With six wins out of seven, two series victories and concluding a third series by beating India, it represented a remarkable turnaround in England’s fortunes in the longest form of the game.
More importantly, the change of attitude instilled by the coach and captain combination of Brendon McCullum and Stokes has altered the way Test cricket is viewed.
The fearless brand of cricket that largely culminated in taking the most positive option at every venture of the match was named ‘Baz-ball’ by the media.
In test cricket, it can be hard to distinguish a style of play that is applicable to five full days of cricket, but people were so awe-inspired by the way they were playing that they saw it fitting to name it.
The coach, former captain of New Zealand and hitter of cricket’s fastest test century, has rejected the use of the phrase but its effect on the players has been evident.
All the players bought into the method, but a number have thrived.
Jonny Bairstow personified ‘Baz-ball,’ profiting with 681 runs at an average of 75.6, four hundreds and a staggering strike rate of 96.6 – unheard of against the red ball.
The style of play has utilised the world-class talents of a player who had previously found test matches his weakest format.
During the summer, they opted for a bowl-first approach which meant they tended to chase in the fourth innings which is traditionally the hardest time to bat.
Second innings totals of 277, 299, 296, and 378 were successfully pursued, which previously would have been impressive for a team over the history of the game let alone one summer.
The moments might be more significant; Root signalled the new dawn of English test cricket when he reverse-scooped a ball from New Zealand opening bowler Tim Southee over the slip cordon, a shot previously unthinkable in the format.
The best example of the growing audience was Trent Bridge, a catalyst moment in this great summer.
Fans, let in for free and representing a much wider demographic, were treated to 50 overs of scintillating batting as England chased down 299.
In their own words, they wanted to inspire kids to want to play red-ball cricket, resulting in children from all walks of life seeing their future in test cricket.
The men’s England Test side should win team of the year because they have changed English perceptions of cricket, especially the test match variety, with their performances on the field.
Stokes and his side have restored cricket’s greatest format, whose importance was diminishing, to the forefront of the country’s attention.
Full members can vote here for their full choice.