2020 hasn’t got off to the best of starts. In cricketing terms, it’s nicked a wide one through the cordon only for it to plug short of the third man boundary.
And yes, sport does matter. There are clearly far more important things at play here but it allows us to escape from everyday life and to pour our energy into the meaningless and uncontrollable.
It remains unclear when we will next see the Three Lions take the field but that just gives us some time to look back on what has been a fantastic year or so for English cricket.
We’ve put together a list of four of the best matches from the last 12 months to help you get your fix during these strange, strange times.
South Africa v England at Newlands
In fairness, it’s actually been pretty plain sailing for England on the field this year but if you’re looking for drama it’s hard to look past the second Test of the South Africa series.
The first match of 2020 saw Rooty’s men level things up against their hosts with a fantastic display and – shock horror – yet another special display from Ben Stokes. Watching him wheel around at the top of his mark as the Barmy Army chant through the entire sun-drenched evening session is a sight to behold at any time, but it’s even more meaningful right now.
It’s worth taking a look at the first Test, too. England were undercooked physically and it showed but the way they bounced back was nothing short of spectacular. Watching the final day allows you to see England seal victory – but this Test was littered with impressive displays. If you can, give the whole thing a watch.
England v West Indies at Grace Road
England’s women haven’t had the best 12 months but it wasn’t all their fault. Call it sour grapes if you’d like but losing a semi-final because it rained doesn’t feel right. Someone needs to have a very close look at that particular rule. Perhaps the social distancing will provide one or two with a chance to reflect and draw up something that actually works.
For a game that actually allowed England to showcase their incredible talent with bat and ball, you need look no further than the first ODI of the summer against the West Indies.
Grace Road played host to a record-breaking game, which saw England emerge as 208-run winners. Yep, 208! Heather Knight struck an imperious 94 and Amy Jones a classy 91 before wickets were shared around almost everyone as the visitors were bowled out for only 110.
The fourth Ashes Test at Headingley
Looking for the latest England cricket info? Don’t forget to check out our new Forum.
If you don’t punch the air with Ben Stokes when you re-watch this, you’re probably not a cricket fan. Every ball was an event in this spectacular conclusion to the best Test match we’ve seen in many years and you need to keep both eyes fixed on the TV when you decide to go back through it. No half watching while you’re supposed to be working – this is one to stick on and give your undivided attention.
If you’re a bit short on time, we’d recommend that you just stick Stokesy switch-hitting Nathan Lyon on repeat. That should last you a good few hours and provide some inspiration for the next shot you practice in the living room. Seriously. Stress ball against the wall, switch as you throw it, and then a full extension. Just give it a dry run first to make sure there are no precious ornaments in the line of fire.
The World Cup Final at Lord’s
Jos Buttler breaking the wickets with Martin Guptill short of his ground is still my Facebook cover photo. Granted, I’m not especially active on Facebook these days but I do try to keep up appearances as you never know who might come snooping. If every ball of the Headingley fourth innings was an event, then every ball of the last couple of hours at Lord’s was its own opera.
Even now, months after that incredible day, you find yourself tearing your hair out when England need 15 from 4. ‘Surely they won’t do it’, you despair, only to find that they do once again.
If possible, try to do all of it. A one-hour highlights package simply doesn’t do justice to the plots and sub-plots; you need the pre-match interviews, Plunkett’s performance, the Buttler/ Stokes partnership. The crescendo of this game was as complex as it was relentless, and the more time you can take to drink it all in, the better.
This won’t last forever. Cricket, and normality, will return. And when it does, we’ll be ready. Jimmy will still be swinging it round corners, Jofra will still be bowling thunderbolts, and Stokesy will still be Stokesy.
Until then, sit tight and stay safe.