Was it worth sacrificing the Ashes to win the World Cup? Rhodri Evans looks back on England’s spectacular cricketing summer.
There is little doubt, looking back on this summer of cricket, that it has been the most exciting and enthralling since 2005, if not even 1981. The British public jumped on the cricketing bandwagon for their nation’s first One-Day World Cup victory and stayed to watch the best Ashes series since 2005. But with Australia ultimately travelling home with the Ashes Urn, was it worth sacrificing the Ashes to win England the World Cup? What performances could the likes of Bairstow, Buttler, and Woakes put in had they not been put so much into trying to win the World Cup?
The answer is actually quite simple. Which tournament had England spent the last four years planning for and which one had they been quite happy to go into with a team in transition and vital positions in the XI up for grabs? Once you look at it like that, there is no doubt which was more important for England this summer.
However, there was a sense that Australia planned the summer better than England. Even though it would be silly to try and claim that the Aussies somehow lost that semi-final on purpose, it is fair to say that they were less interested in winning the World Cup and more focused on the Ashes. Marnus Labuschagne, one of the breakout stars of the Ashes, played more County Cricket than most of the England squad, and along with Peter Siddle and Cameron Bancroft, used the county system to make sure they were in the best shape possible going into the Ashes.
NOT A SINGLE FAN WOULD SACRIFICE THAT FINAL NOR THE WORLD CUP ITSELF FOR A DRY FIFTH MORNING AT LORD’S
There is a nagging thought that England could have approached this summer knowing that a large part of their Test match squad would need a serious pick-me-up if their main goal was achieved. That question was mooted after they were bowled out for 85 against Ireland. Would Root, Woakes, Bairstow et al be up for the fight ahead of another mentally and physically gruelling series?
And, in all honesty, only Stokes and Archer proved that they could translate their form from format to format over the course of the Ashes series. The only other players that performed above their average level were Broad and Burns, neither of whom played white-ball cricket for England this summer.
What we cannot forget though, is that not a single fan would sacrifice that final nor the World Cup itself for a dry fifth morning at Lord’s.
Fundamentally though, the fans who enjoy all forms of the game should look back on this summer as a special one. One that included at least three Ben Stokes innings that he will never surpass, the emergence of a once in a generation talent in Jofra Archer, and countless other quickly forgotten moments – Eoin Morgan’s ridiculous 17 sixes against Afghanistan, Broad getting Warner out 7 times in 10 innings, or Jack Leach’s glasses cloth.
To think back on all those moments, and indeed many more, it makes the debate over the justification of sacrificing the Ashes for the World Cup all rather arbitrary, doesn’t it?