bet365 columnist Ian Bell looks back on an incredible start to the Ben Stokes era, with England turning their attentions to the T20 series in Pakistan.
The English Test summer has drawn to a close and what an incredible summer it’s been. Especially when you go back a year to when England had won one in 17 Test matches, to winning six out of seven this time, it’s been a hell of a turnaround.
The style of play and the aggression and attacking nature has been well documented, and a lot of that comes down to Brendon McCullum, Rob Key and Ben Stokes, and how they’ve taken a bit of the pressure off and unshackled a few players.
There’s a lot of talk about coaching in international cricket, but a lot of it is simply about taking pressure off players. There’s enough pressure in international sport and you don’t want to add to it, so creating an environment where players are still backed and still feel comfortable is important, and they’ve done that.
I don’t think anyone expected the turnaround to have happened quite so quickly and dramatically, but any summer you win six out of seven Test matches is quite an incredible summer.
It’s great to see England in Pakistan for the first time in 15 years. I was fortunate to be part of the last tour on the back of the 2005 Ashes win, and we had a really good time. The pitches were good, they were true pitches, they didn’t spin massively, but Pakistan have always had good quick bowlers so you expected that.
When you come to the sub-continent, you know cricket is loved and as a player you get looked after and supported so incredibly well, and England started really well this time. It’s good to see Moeen Ali leading team the team out and it was matched by a really good performance.
Alex Hales led the way with a 50 on his return to the England side. He wasn’t at his absolute destructive best, but the wicket didn’t look like an easy one to go out and smack, but I thought he played the situation very well.
There were some very good bowling performances from what wasn’t England’s number one line-up, and to beat Pakistan out there with some guys who are on the periphery of the side was really impressive and shows off how much depth we have in white ball cricket.
Harry Brook also supported it at the end and his future looks extremely promising. I don’t see him as a T20 specialist; he’s a proper player who can play all three formats.
I want him to play as much Test cricket as possible which means you can’t play as many of these T20 leagues around the world.
I spent some time with him at Hobart Hurricanes, and his time there would’ve been a great experience for him. He’s a classy player, he’s not just a hitter; he can use the pace, he can ramp, he can hit down the ground. He’s got a lot of ability and hopefully we’ll see that translate to some very consistent performances for England.
I’ll be spending the next few weeks in India with the England Legends as part of the Road Safety Cricket League. It’s a great way to get the message across about road safety, where it's especially important in India, but also to throw in some entertainment and have some fun with it.
It’s been good so far. There are some pretty strong sides, even though we’re one of the older teams out here! But it’s been good to catch up with with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, two of my cricketing heroes, but also guys I played a lot of international cricket with and against.
We have lost a few fixtures to rain which hopefully we can reschedule, but it’s been very enjoyable so far.