Five players of the summer

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With the English cricket season having drawn to a close, we pick out five English players of the summer, from across formats and across domestic and international cricket.

Jonny Bairstow

There were signs in early 2022 that something special would come from the bat of Jonny Bairstow. Having gone three calendar years without reaching 60, centuries in consecutive Test appearances in Australia and the West Indies suggested a player returning to his best. But there was little to prepare anyone for what was to come, as Bairstow hit four of the finest Test hundreds and England batter has ever produced in the space of five innings.

First at Trent Bridge, in the second LV= Insurance Test Match against New Zealand. England had been 96-4 chasing 299, and came out for the final session still needing 160 to win. “Don’t hit the ball down,” was Ben Stokes simple advice to Bairstow, who, fuelled by a cup of coffee and a ham and cheese toastie, proceeded to smash the second-fastest Test hundred by an Englishman. In the blink of an eye, the game was done.

Cut to Headingley, and England’s gung-ho approach seems finally to have hit a speed bump, an inspired Trent Boult reducing them to 55-6. Bairstow is joined in the middle by Jamie Overton on debut, and the two have some fun, Bairstow making another century at better than a run a ball. In the chase, a pause for breath, and a mere 44-ball 71* as England gun down 296.

Then it’s India at Edgbaston, completing last year’s LV= Insurance Test Series. Again, England are seemingly out of it, 83-5 in response to 416. Something someone says fires Bairstow up, and he creams another hundred to just about keep England in touch. Still, England are left needing a national record chase of 378. So, of course, Bairstow tons up again as the target is reached with an almost embarrassing ease before the second new ball is available. The only thing that could stop him, it turned out, was a slick grass slope, a freak slip while golfing breaking his leg in three places. He will be back.

James Anderson

It seems a long time ago now, but James Anderson came into the English Test summer with a point to prove. Left out for England’s Test tour of the West Indies, and not quite putting up his usual ridiculous numbers in the early rounds of the LV= Insurance County Championship, some wondered whether the age of Anderson might finally be coming to an end. Two overs, two maidens and two wickets into his first spell against New Zealand at Lord’s, and it was clear they needn’t have worried. Anderson was back, and it was like he had never left. He ended the summer with 27 wickets at 17.66, having overtaken Anil Kumble to sit third on the all-time Test wicket-taking list and with Shane Warne, now only 41 wickets away, in his sights.

Nat Sciver

There is very little Nat Sciver hasn’t achieved on a cricket field, and she seems a player determined to check off whatever she hasn’t yet done. This summer, it was a Test hundred ticked off, and the innings was a marvel. With South Africa having put up 284 thanks to Marizanne Kapp’s own excellent ton, England were 121-5 when Alice Davidson-Richards joined Sciver at the crease. Their double-century stand put England in the ascendancy, and when Davidson-Richards fell, Sciver was far from done, switching gears effortlessly to take the total past 400. Add into that two half-centuries to seal the ODI series against South Africa, some stardust in The Hundred, including an epic 72* to almost take Trent Rockets to the final, and a short-notice captaincy stint, guiding England to the Commonwealth Games semi-finals, and it’s been quite the summer.

Charlie Dean

The abiding image of Charlie Dean’s summer will surely be of her disconsolate, leaving the field and then during the presentation, having been run out at the non-striker’s end to bring an end to the third England-India ODI just as it seemed that she might pull off a heist. But that shouldn’t detract from her own progress as a cricketer, becoming a vital part of England’s 50-over side with the ball, and increasingly contributing with the bat. She finished the summer as England’s leading ODI wicket-taker and their only ever-present bowler, with scores of 24*, 37 and 47 against India underlining her proficiency as an all-rounder. And a day after that Deepti Sharma run out, back at Lord’s playing in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final, she demonstrated her humour too, pretending to warn the non-striker after bowling her first ball.

Keaton Jennings

Lancashire fell just short in the LV= Insurance County Championship title race, ending up second to Surrey, but it was largely thanks to Keaton Jennings that they got that close. Having last played a Test match for England in early 2019, the opener was back to his very best, notching five hundreds - the joint-most in the country - including a high score of 318, and topping the LV= Insurance County Championship Division One run-scorers list too. An England Lions call-up was his reward - could a recall to the full Test side be on the cards too?