From Ashes battles to World Cup woes, the cricketing year in review

By Sports Desk December 14, 2023

Outsiders often marvel at cricket’s ability to conjure a draw from matches that last five days at a time, but 2023 took the concept to extremes as two separate Ashes contests stretched across nearly seven weeks concluded with honours even.

And, as if to prove that the magic lies in the journey rather than the destination, it was by a distance the most gripping Ashes summer in a generation.

In the men’s series, two wonderfully matched teams scrapped tooth and claw as the ledger ended level at 2-2, England only denied a famous victory from two down by a 48-hour deluge in Manchester.

In the women’s multi-format match-up, finally afforded equal billing and staged concurrently at the peak of the season, things were just as tight. The decision to offer a five-day Test, rather than the four-day affairs that have so frequently forced draws, allowed a bold Australian victory in spite of Tammy Beaumont’s epic double century, tipping the scales heavily towards an away win.

Instead, Heather Knight’s team rallied to unseat the world’s most reliable white-ball winning machine in both the the T20 and ODI legs and tie the points score at 8-8.

In both instances the tourists retained the Ashes as holders, but in each case the rivalry was bolstered afresh. Pat Cummins’ Australia failed in their stated mission of winning behind enemy lines for the first time since 2001 – a permanent gap on the CVs of decorated veterans such as Steve Smith, David Warner and Mitchell Starc – while Alyssa Healy’s group saw the limited-overs dominance that forms their core identity challenged and eroded.

In a cricket landscape facing rapid, exponential change in the face of the franchise juggernaut, it was a timely reminder that the Ashes can still deliver in a vital, visceral way.

The memorable moments were vivid and plentiful. Zak Crawley kicked the whole circus off by crashing the first ball of the series through cover for four with a flourish that spoke a thousand words.

Lord’s brought a major flashpoint as Alex Carey ran out Jonny Bairstow in an act that was either elite opportunism or craven skullduggery, depending on your side of the divide.

In an unlikely twist, the famously genteel surroundings of the Long Room became the most expensively dressed bear pit in the sporting world and helped create a frisson that never quite went away. Ben Stokes’ defiantly doomed century on one good leg could not save that game but laid the ground for a profound shift in fortunes.

Chris Woakes and Mark Wood were late arrivals but star turns, Moeen Ali’s rollercoaster comeback ended on a grace note and Crawley hit a jaw-dropping 189 at Old Trafford before the prospect of a winner-takes-all decider fell foul of the rain.

It fell to Stuart Broad to provide a fitting final chapter, announcing his retirement midway through the match before penning his own perfect swansong at the Oval. He hit his final ball as a batter for six and walked into the sunset having taken the winning wicket with his last ever delivery.

Katharine Sciver-Brunt also bowed out after two decades as a standard-bearer in the women’s game. There was no fairytale finish here, a losing effort against South Africa in the T20 World Cup semi-final spelling the end of her Three Lions career, but the departure of the country’s record limited-overs wicket-taker leaves just as big a void.

That tournament was a disappointment for a team with their eyes on the top prize, but a roaring success compared to the efforts of England’s men in India. Looking to retain the 50-over crown they famously won at Lord’s in 2019, Jos Buttler and company produced a ripe contender for the most shambolic title defence ever seen in elite sport.

Near favourites at the start of the campaign, they lost six of their first seven games as they sleep-walked out of contention. Lacking identity, hopelessly out of form and shorn of intent they became the biggest scalp in Afghanistan’s history and were thrashed by a Sri Lanka side led by Chris Silverwood, the man they sacked 18 months earlier.

Buttler and head coach Matthew Mott lived to fight another day but barely had time to lick their wounds before being pressed back into action in the West Indies, where their latest one-day reset began in defeat.

In 2024 both teams will turn their attention to the 20-over format, with the men defending their 2022 title in the Caribbean and USA and Knight’s women eyeing an overdue T20 success of their own having previously triumphed in the inaugural edition 15 years ago.

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    Reigning champions Guyana Harpy Eagles strengthened their position to retain the West Indies Championship title, as they downed Combined Campuses & Colleges Marooners by eight wickets in their final round encounter at Frank Worrell Field, in Trinidad and Tobago, on Friday.

    Set 180 for victory, Harpy Eagles, through half-centuries from Raymond Perez (79 not out) and captain Tevin Imlach (50), as well as 42 from Tagenarine Chanderpaul, got across the line with minimum fuss, to successfully wrap up what started out as a slow campaign.

    Scores: Combined Campuses and Colleges Marooners 200 (Demario Richards 43, Romario Greaves 36, Avinash Mahabirsingh 23, Amari Goodridge 22, Jediah Blades 22 not out, Jarion Hoyte 21; Nial Smith 3-45, Veerasammy Permaul 3-51, Gudakesh Motie 2-40, Isai Thorne 2-45) and 203 (Shamarh Brooks 59, Odaine McCatty 56, Jario Hoyte 22; Kevin Sinclair 2-29, Niall Smith 2-35, Gudakesh Motie 2-42, Veerasammy Permaul 2-44).

    Guyana Harpy Eagles 223 all out (Raymond Perez 62, Tevin Imlach 55, Kevin Sinclair 37, Kevlon Anderson 27; Avinash Mahabirsingh 17.4-2-51-8) and 182 for two (Raymond Perez 79 not out, Tevin Imlach 50, Tagenarine Chanderpaul 42).

    Resuming on 165-7, the Marooners only added 38 runs to their overnight total, with captain Shamarh Brooks (59), adding only five to his 54 from overnight, before being removed by Niall Smith. Jarion Hoyte (22) and Jediah Blades (11) offered little resistance before the innings inevitably ended.

    Kevin Sinclair (2-29), Smith (2-35), Gudakesh Motie (2-42), and Veerasammy Permaul (2-44), shared the wickets.

    With the bowlers’ job done, the batsmen responded with much gusto, as Chanderpaul and Perez laid the foundation for the chase with a solid opening stand. Chanderpaul had three fours and a solitary six in his 62-ball knock, before his departure brought Imlach to the middle.

    The captain, along with Perez took the Marooners bowlers to task in another tidy partnership that ensured they ended the campaign on a high. Imlach’s 51-ball 50 included six fours and a lone six, while Perez’s unbeaten 79 off 92 balls had five fours and two sixes.

    With their job done, Harpy Eagles, who started the round in third position on 87.2 points, will have to await the outcome of the other contests involving leaders Windward Islands Volcanoes and second-placed Barbados Pride.

    The 12 match points before bonus has pushed Harpy Eagles up to 99.2 points, and ahead of Windward Islands Volcanoes (90 points), who require a daunting 304 runs to top Leeward Islands Hurricanes, while Barbados Pride (87.6 points), lead CWI Academy by 21 runs, heading into Saturday’s final day.

    Elsewhere, At the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua, Barbados Pride, with five second innings wickets intact, will seek to build on their lead and possibly bowl down CWI Academy to stand at chance of claiming top spot.

    Scores: Barbados Pride 155 (Jonathan Drakes 35, Kevin Wickham 27, Shian Brathwaite 26, Demetrius Richards 21 not out; Johann Layne 3-23, McKenny Clarke 3-26, Joshua Bishop 2-25, Ramon Simmonds 2-43) and 228-5 (Kraigg Brathwaite 90, Raymon Reifer 43 not out, Kevin Wickham 35, Shian Brathwaite 21; Joshua Bishop 3-43).

    CWI Academy 243 (Ackeem Auguste 76, Carlon Tuckett-Bowen 49, Johan Layne 38, McKenny Clarke 30; Akeem Jordan 4-76, Raymon Reifer 2-32, Jair McAllister 2-40, Shaquille Cumberbatch 2-75).

    At Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad and Tobago, Windward Islands Volcanoes has nine second innings wickets in hand to try and get the remaining 304 runs to deny Leeward Islands Hurricanes (84.6 points) a fifth win of the campaign.

    Scores: Leeward Islands Hurricanes 300 (Mikyle Louis 100, Jewel Andrew 68, Jeremiah Louis 43, Jahmar Hamilton 34; Ryan John 3-67, Gilon Tyson 2-33, Daren Cyrus 2-70) and 294 (Keacy Carty 65, Mikyle Louis 33, Kieran Powell 31, Justin Greaves 27, Jewel Andrew 26, Jahmar Hamilton 23, Oshane Thomas 21, Colin Archibald 20; Kavem Hodge 3-60, Gilon Tyson 3-91, Shamar Springer 2-32, Darel Cyrus 2-84).

    Windward Islands Volcanoes 179 (Johann Jeremiah 41, Shamar Springer 33, Kavem Hodge 29, Stephan Pascal 25; Daniel Doram 16-5-34-6, Hayden Walsh Jr 3-21) and 112-1(Stephan Pascal 60 not out, Johann Jeremiah 23 not out).

    Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago Red Force, who started the round in fourth position on 72.8 points, wrapped up a convincing innings and 125-run win over Jamaica Scorpions, but are unlikely to upstage any of the top three in the race for the title.

  • Charles finishes with 13 wickets in the match as Red Force demolish Scorpions by an innings and 125 runs on day three at Sabina Park Charles finishes with 13 wickets in the match as Red Force demolish Scorpions by an innings and 125 runs on day three at Sabina Park

    Bryan Charles finished with 13 wickets in the match as the Trinidad & Tobago Red Force ended their 2024 West Indies Championship season with an innings and 125 run thrashing of the Jamaica Scorpions on day three at Sabina Park.

    The Scorpions entered Friday 159-9 in their first innings, trailing the Red Force by 273 runs. The final pair of Jeavor Royal and Andrae Dennis further 30 before being bowled out in the 64th over of the innings.

    The Red Force then asked the hosts to follow on before dismissing them for 118 in just 44.4 overs to complete a dominant win.

    Opener Javaughn Buchanan was the only Scorpions batsman to offer any kind of resistance with a 95-ball 33 as Bryan Charles was, once again, the pick of the Red Force bowling, ripping through the Jamaican batting on his way to figures of 7-43 from 13.4 overs to finish with a match haul of 13-125.

    Debutant Navin Bidaisee took 2-20 from six overs in support.

    Full Scores: Trinidad & Tobago Red Force 432 all out in 122 overs (Joshua Da Silva 106, Terrance Hinds 79, Amir Jangoo 51, Kjorn Ottley 45, Khary Pierre 43, Jeavor Royal 3-113, Ojay Shields 2-61, Peat Salmon 2-83)

    Jamaica Scorpions 189 all out in 63.4 overs (Kirk McKenzie 57, Jeavor Royal 46, Bryan Charles 6-82, Khary Pierre 3-57) & 118 all out in 44.4 overs (Javaughn Buchanan 33, Bryan Charles 7-43, Navin Bidaisee 2-20).

     

     

  • England stars out cheaply as Dukes ball returns to County Championship England stars out cheaply as Dukes ball returns to County Championship

    England trio Zak Crawley, Joe Root and Harry Brook were all out for single-figure scores as bowlers across the Vitality County Championship had more success following the return of the Dukes ball.

    The trial of the Kookaburra ball, which has a flatter seam than its Dukes counterpart and tends to go softer earlier, in the opening two rounds has proved divisive and led to much higher scores than expected in the early season.

    Warwickshire captain Alex Davies’ fantastic 149 underpinned his side’s 340 for four in their Division One clash against Hampshire at the Utilita Bowl – but the opener was the only batter in the country to reach three figures on Friday.

    Crawley edged to third slip for five in his first appearance of the season for Kent, who ended a rain-affected opening day on 111 for three after 39 overs against defending champions Surrey at Canterbury.

    Daniel Bell-Drummond registered 70 before he was trapped in front by Tom Lawes and Daniel Worrall accounted for Crawley and fellow opener Ben Compton.

    Four wickets for Shane Snater and three for England hopeful Sam Cook helped Essex skittle Lancashire for 146 at Chelmsford, where the hosts went to stumps on 68 for one with just 54 overs possible.

    England off-spinner Shoaib Bashir snared the in-form Joe Clarke as Nottinghamshire were all out for 193 against Somerset at Taunton.

    Craig Overton was the pick of the attack with three for 57 before a classy 70 not out from Sean Dickson led Somerset to 116 for one at the close.

    Durham’s Ollie Robinson thrashed six fours and three sixes in a belligerent 55 off 43 balls but his side were all out for 244 against Worcestershire in a clash between the two promoted sides at Kidderminster.

    Former West Indies captain Jason Holder took three wickets for Worcestershire, who reached 78 for four in reply.

    In Division Two, Yorkshire were dismissed for 159 by Middlesex at Lord’s, where Root steered to gully for five while Brook made just three before nicking to second slip.

    Middlesex slipped to 37 for two in reply but Mark Stoneman’s unbeaten 38 and Leus du Plooy’s 23 not out led the hosts to 84 without further loss, with 55.4 overs bowled in the day.

    Half-centuries for Ben Charlesworth (62), Miles Hammond (56) and James Bracey (69) ushered Gloucestershire to 319 for eight against Sussex at Hove. Danny Lamb took three for 49 for the hosts.

    Colin Ingram’s 69 not out rescued Glamorgan from 27 for four against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road. Ben Sanderson’s third wicket left the Welsh side on 96 for five but Ingram’s efforts and 50 from Dan Douthwaite helped them close on 203 for seven after 56.1 overs.

    Leicestershire opener Marcus Harris’ unbeaten 77 got his side to 168 for two after 46 overs against Derbyshire at Derby.

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