England cap summer to remember under Ben Stokes, but what does the future hold?

·3-min read

England capped a summer to remember under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum by beating South Africa 2-1 in the LV= Insurance series courtesy of a sixth win in seven Tests.

It is the first time since 2004 that England have bagged at least half a dozen Test wins in a single home summer, earning rave reviews for their philosophy as much as the positive results.

Here, the PA news agency takes in the past few months and looks at what the future might bring.

Have England turned a corner?

The benchmark was low. England had won just once in their previous 17 matches to sink embarrassingly to the bottom of the World Test Championship. What has happened since then is nothing short of remarkable. And England’s triumphs have not just been against also-rans but four of them were against nations who reached the final of last year’s WTC in New Zealand (three) and India (one). South Africa, possessing a vaunted pace attack also showed they were no mugs in a pulsating three-match Test series.

How did the players rate?

Ollie Robinson celebrates
It is the first time since 2004 that England have bagged at least half a dozen Test wins in a single home summer (John Walton/PA)

Alex Lees 4, Zak Crawley 4, Ollie Pope 7, Joe Root 9, Jonny Bairstow 10, Harry Brook 5, Ben Stokes 9, Ben Foakes 8, Sam Billing 6, Stuart Broad 8, Ollie Robinson 9, Matthew Potts 7, Jamie Overton 7, Jack Leach 6, James Anderson 8, Matt Parkinson 5.

What has been key to their success?

Relentless positivity, role clarity and keeping things simple, with Stokes leading from the front in a summer where he has averaged 40 with the bat and 25 with the ball. There may be some exasperation with the odd rash dismissal here and there but the results speak for themselves. Look at Bairstow’s numbers; his mind free from clutter he has amassed 681 runs at 75.66 and a freakish strike-rate of 96.59.

Surely there’s more to it than that?

James Anderson smiles
James Anderson is enjoying his cricket this summer (Mike Egerton/PA)

Perhaps. A harmonious dressing room tends to pull together more than a divided one. Anderson recently said: “I think I’ve smiled more than I ever have on a cricket field, I’m absolutely loving it.” While fellow old stager Broad declared: “It does feel really fresh and exciting.” Broad has even adapted unflinchingly to an unfamiliar role as first-change bowler with Robinson recently making a comeback and sharing the new nut with Anderson. It is noticeable, too, that players have been backed to the absolute hilt, such as Crawley and Lees, despite dwindling returns.

Is this approach sustainable?

Who knows? One thing England have been criticised for in the recent past is looking too far ahead, so try to enjoy the good times while they last. An ultra-aggressive approach is likely to be stress tested on tougher Pakistan pitches in December but Stokes hinted before signing off for the summer that they could tailor their outlook. As they showed in the penultimate Test against South Africa at Emirates Old Trafford, there is a little more subtlety to England’s thinking than just all crash, bang, wallop.

At least they know they can do it, right?

The Ashes urn
England’s next major assignment on these shores will be the Ashes (Mike Egerton/PA)

This is crucial. Even home comforts offered little respite last summer. And of course their next major assignment on these shores will be the Ashes, with England so desperate to get their hands back on the urn having not beaten their oldest rivals since 2015. Again, peering into the distance has come back to bite England and, while Stokes recognised as much, he could not resist saying he was “excited” by the prospect of another crack at Australia.