England’s year of disaster is finally over after Peter Moores’ side overcame India with a 3-1 victory in the Test series.
Perhaps most surprising is that once-beleaguered captain Alistair Cook managed to come through the summer relatively unscathed, after facing calls for his head following the defeats to Sri Lanka.
Indeed, as well as breaking into double figures on more than one occasion – something of a feat these days – Cook was able to retain his place in the one-day set-up, alongside up-and-coming Nottinghamshire star Alex Hales.
The spat between James Anderson and Ravindra Jadeja threatened to overshadow much of England’s good work, though both narrowly escaped a ban. Once again, however, questions have been raised about the dying art of sportsmanship in the game.
Gary Ballance did much to lighten the mood, with his Botham-style antics in a Nottingham nightclub having little effect on his performances. The Yorkshire batsman was the most consistent of England’s top order, as youngster Sam Robson struggled, barring a century at Headingley against Sri Lanka. Ian Bell has also struggled with the pressure since winning England’s ‘Player of the Year’ for 2013, though he will have done his confidence the world of good with a ton versus India.
With so many of England’s woes against Australia and the West Indies having been seemingly patched up, the task for the Three Lions now is to avoid complacency. Their recovery remains unfinished business, and head coach Moores still has a point to prove in his second stint in charge.
Moeen Ali – the beard that’s feared – is perhaps the best thing to come out of the summer. While a very different brand of spinner to Graeme Swann, Ali has filled the void at last. He may have courted controversy with his ‘Free Gaza’ wristbands, and although that landed him in hot water with the ICC, he has been backed by the ECB.
Moores opted for two spinners in Ali and James Tredwell for the ODIs with India, but the former has already established himself as the preferred option. Behind the stumps, Jos Buttler has made similar progress since replacing injured veteran Matt Prior, and has managed to fight off competition from James Taylor and Jonny Bairstow.
Buttler’s Lancashire team mate Andrew Flintoff is being speculatively linked with a shock return to the England fold, at least in the shorter form, after coming out of retirement to help the Red Rose to the final of the Natwest T20 Blast. There is unlikely to be much in that story, with Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, and Chris Jordan all proving themselves to be capable all-rounders, but it would certainly give England a morale boost if the 2005 Ashes hero were to return.
It must not be overlooked that India made England’s work relatively easy, and so the series was somewhat a case of papering over the cracks of England’s painful year. Those cracks are not seismic, but will face far greater pressure going into 2015, when England face an ICC World Cup and another Ashes series.