Damian Reilly

The glorious return of the England cricket team

  • From Spectator Life

Let civilisation fall apart if it must. I no longer care. The England men’s cricket team is suddenly playing with such swaggering magnificence that everything else – endless culture wars, inflation, even the threat of hypersonically delivered nuclear annihilation from Russia – pales into insignificance.

I just want to watch my heroes – Ben Stokes, Joe Root and the rest – play the game I love like deities. If Putin is going to press the big red button then so be it. As the temperature rises to a million degrees celsius here in Putney, I will console myself that at least I witnessed Jonny Bairstow’s transcendentally perfect innings at Trent Bridge earlier this month.

We deserve this, don’t we? We England cricket fans who over many decades have suffered so much.

Yes, there have been high points in recent years – I consider the Stokes-inspired 2019 Miracle of Headingley to be amongst the happiest moments of my life, and the Ashes glory in 2005 was likewise something I intend, Putin notwithstanding, to tell the grandchildren about – but we’ve never had anything like this.

Can the secret to sport, and life, really just be to throw caution to the wind?

We’ve never had a team so unabashedly committed to a style of play that seems almost post-coital in its exuberance – our batsmen playing throughout the recent series against New Zealand with the unfettered joy of young men recently relieved of their virginity. Something massive has very clearly changed for them, and with it the realisation that things never again have to be as they were.

After only one win in England’s last 17 test matches prior to June, evidently a new paradigm of possibility has opened – one in which all that is required to thrive seems to be willingness always to take the gung-ho option – to ‘run toward the danger’, as new coach Brendon McCullum is said to have put it.

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