England wrapped up a 4-1 Specsavers Test series win over world number ones India, and completed their summer with five wins and two defeats in all.
Here, Press Association Sport assesses the state of play for Joe Root’s men as they prepare for a winter away – and then next summer’s Ashes.
Alastair Cook ensured hoarse throats and handkerchiefs all round the Oval on the penultimate day of the Test summer. Then James Anderson did his bit too, as England’s two elder statesmen conquered their Everests. We already know Cook will not be around anymore, though, after his brilliant farewell hundred – and there is uncertainty over whether all-time national-record wicket-taker Anderson will be fully deployed, or at all, for England’s next assignment in Sri Lanka this winter. The same goes for his pace partner Stuart Broad – leaving Root potentially bereft on occasion of almost 1,000 Test wickets of experience.
Where is the next Alastair Cook then?
Don’t be silly. We will not see his like again, and almost certainly neither will Test cricket globally. He only partially agreed, before his last international match, that he was perhaps the last of a dying breed as a batsman ideally-suited to Tests rather than the power, ingenuity and pace needed against the white ball. Few modern players aspire principally to the five-day examination of their talents when instead they can do a short breeze for 20 overs or maybe even less and become relative household names in the process. Even if England retain Keaton Jennings for this winter and beyond, they are still looking for at least one more opening fixture. Rory Burns, the more mature Joe Denly or even county elder statesman Daryl Mitchell have all been mentioned. Good luck …
Root is bedding in
There may still be issues in his team, but Root has done plenty this summer to cement his reputation as a captain who can make things happen. After his chastening, exhausting Ashes winter, the Yorkshireman returned with sunny disposition still intact and apparent optimism he could get things right. Sod’s law dictated that – contrary to punditry – all would be well once back home from Australia and New Zealand, instead England lost heavily to Pakistan in the first Test at Lord’s. They recovered emphatically at Headingley, though, and then Root increasingly showed his aptitude against India – keeping his nerve at Edgbaston, stamping his authority at the Ageas Bowl – and importantly in his last innings of the summer, rediscovered the knack of the Test century. England appear to be in good hands.
What happened to India?
Home advantage 4 Test rankings 1. The upshot of India’s best efforts was merely to confirm that, in contemporary Test cricket, it is devilishly hard for any tourists to match their hosts. On a level playing field, India are at least England’s equals, and arguably Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah outbowled their opponents much of the time. India even had the temerity to better England at seam-and-swing haven Trent Bridge. But in the end, the effort of raising their game took its toll. In trying to redress the balance, they ran out of steam – and captain Virat Kohli apart, they did not have enough runs either.
England’s attack for all seasons
Whatever the selectors decide over Broad and Anderson this winter, within England’s generation of all-rounders they have many options. The emergence of Sam Curran and return of Moeen Ali, alongside Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and two wicketkeeper-batsmen is almost an embarrassment of riches. It did mean this summer, though, that England could beat India not just in favourable conditions – at Lord’s for example – but on the increasingly dusty terrain of Southampton. They will need to prove that was no one-off as they head for still more extreme climes in Galle, Colombo and Kandy.