The curtain has been drawn on the 2022 English cricket season, which concluded with one of the most thrilling County Championship finales in memory. Telegraph Sport looks back at the season that was and dishes out awards – both good and bad – from the most recent campaign.
England winning six out of seven summer Tests after losing 4-0 in Australia and 1-0 in the West Indies.
Yes, yes, yes, they were not playing Australia but it was still a triumph for the new leadership of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum – and India’s opening attack of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami in the first innings of the Edgbaston Test, before they tired, was even better than anything Australia have because they swung the new ball more.
To come back from 83 for five, after India had scored 416, then knock off 378 to level the protracted series 2-2 was one of England’s supreme non-Ashes triumphs.
Biggest mission statement
Stokes marching out to bat for Durham in his first innings since being appointed England Test captain – and before McCullum was appointed head coach – and playing himself in against Worcestershire with 12 off his first 30 balls (and no running down the pitch and slogging), before smashing 17 sixes for a new Championship record.
He bludgeoned 34 from one over and 149 off his last 58 balls with the cleanest hitting imaginable. Everything in England’s Test summer flowed from that declaration of intent.
Colin de Grandhomme over-stepping by the smallest margin in England’s first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s meant Stokes was not dismissed for a single run, having dragged the ball on to his stumps: England would have been 76 for five, chasing 277.
England learned how to walk again after winning that game, and were soon sprinting. But what would their confidence have been like if they had lost that opening Test?
Turn back around Ben Stokes! 😲
Huge moment as Stokes comes down the pitch to De Grandhomme again and chops on. He's almost at the boundary rope when he's asked to turnaround and come back due to a no-ball 😅 pic.twitter.com/6qZc9JYLLt
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) June 4, 2022
Lowlight of season
Deepti Sharma running out Charlie Dean for backing up too far in the Lord’s ODI without any apparent warning.
'Mankading' seems to be a speciality of Indian spinners: not only the eponymous Vinoo Mankad, who did it twice, but Murali Karthik who did it three times in first-class cricket, while Ravi Ashwin is a leading advocate of the practice.
Yet the chief practitioner in first-class cricket was Tom Barker, who did it five times. He bowled round-arm well enough to be the first Nottinghamshire-born player to represent the Players v the Gentlemen in 1834. His action was described as “by no means graceful, his delivery being most impetuous”, which could apply to his Mankading too.
Barker's playing career was ended shortly after he had run out a backing-up batsman for the fifth time, when he was playing for MCC against Hampshire at Lord’s. His cab’s horse bolted, Barker jumped out and broke his leg, and he was taken unconscious to Marylebone Infirmary.
It is not recorded whether a) this was divine retribution or b) whether an MCC official visited him to reassure him that Mankading was entirely legal.
England player of the season
Jonny Bairstow. He did not score a match-winning century off 50 balls on one leg in the Oval Test, after injuring himself playing golf, but otherwise he was pretty useful.
Which was his finest achievement: his 136 off 92 balls to win the run-chase against New Zealand at Trent Bridge; or his 162 and 71 not out against them at Headingley; or his 106 and 114 not out against India at Edgbaston?
Any one of those would have been the innings of a lifetime for most people. Or his very careful 49 at Old Trafford which turned the series against South Africa around? The firebrand Yorkshireman transcended tribal affiliations by becoming a cult hero even in Manchester.
Division One player of the season
Keith Barker of Hampshire, the only all-rounder to do the modern ‘double’: 595 runs at 29 and 52 wickets in the top division. A sturdy competitor, especially when bowling his left-arm pace from round the wicket.
Division Two player of the season
John Simpson of Middlesex. Scored 1,039 runs at 64 in addition to maintaining the high standards of English wicketkeeping.
The most thrilling competitions
The Vitality T20 Blast, won by Hampshire when they beat Lancashire by one run; and the County Championship when it went to the final session of the season before Warwickshire beat Hampshire by five runs to stay up, relegating Yorkshire to the second division.
Most humdrum moments
Whenever the red Dukes ball had to be changed, and whenever bowling sides tried to change the ball in favour of one that swung or bounced more.
Most humdrum competition
The Hundred in its second season, without novelty on its side. All action, and little drama, as only a handful of games had exciting finishes.
How to improve the Hundred
Given it is here to stay: play not just one female/male double-header but two some days (at weekends, for example) to save a week of August. And turn Welsh Fire into Western Warriors.
Most frequently used phrase
“It’s been a tough day” by Leicestershire's captain Callum Parkinson. The county went all season without a Championship victory, having gone three seasons in the last decade without a win.
Biggest silver lining
Teenage leg spinner Rehan Ahmed. Leicestershire picked up the young wrist spinner who was unwanted by Nottinghamshire and are turning him into Adil Rashid’s successor as England’s white-ball wicket-taker. He is an all-rounder too – making a maiden century in the final Championship round.
How to produce England spinners and 90 mph bowlers? The ECB’s high-performance review, which recommends 10 Championship matches, would help pace bowlers but make life even harder for young spinners.