England are history makers once more. They are the first ever men’s side to hold both the ODI and T20 trophies at the same time following their magnificent five wicket win over Pakistan in yesterday’s T20 World Cup final in Australia.
Arguably, this achievement is far more impressive than those heroics we witnessed in 2019 at the 50-over championship. Three years ago, Eoin Morgan’s side had the luxury of competing on home soil and with a well-oiled machine-like team which had been built up over the previous four years.
This time around, England were Down Under, playing on pitches which they traditionally struggle on, with a team that was missing five first-team options and included a formerly exiled star, as well as several relatively inexperienced in what would prove to be vital roles.
Yet, who else, but Ben Stokes would once again save the day for England; hauling the side over the line to ensure Jos Buttler’s squad became undisputed white-ball champions of the world. To add to the trophy, 24-year-old Sam Curran - featuring in his first ever World Cup - won Player of the Tournament and four of England’s finest featured in the Most Valuable Team of the Tournament.
So what’s next for a side who are on the brink of cricket supremacy? Or, as BBC Sport’s Matthew Henry believes, have already “secured their legacy as an iconic team in the nation’s sporting history” in a much more optimistic fashion than may well be wholly accurate?
Well, that’s simple - win the Test Championship.
A simple answer, but as we are all well aware a much harder reality and potentially a much more arduous task than either white-ball trophy - potentially being the most pertinent word here.
It’s now impossible for England to win the 2021-23 Championship but as the new era of ‘Bazball’ continues to rise and develop, so does the hope and prospect of Ben Stokes leading his side to yet another trophy in 2025.
England’s ODI squad won their trophy after a four-year rebuild, following their embarrassingly early exit from the 2015 competition and now we are beginning to see the reconstruction of England’s Test side once more with Stokes now at the helm and Brendon McCullum coaching.
They don’t quite have the same four years Eoin Morgan’s squad did, but as Jos Buttler’s T20 side have just proved, a wealth of time to rebuild isn’t essential.
England have had a depressingly predictable habit of falling to the lowest of lows following the highest of highs - England’s rise to the top of the rankings in 2013, only to fall fast and hard just a few months later, culminating in the sacking of coach Andy Flower, being one of many notable examples; the contrast from 2015 to 2019 ODI World Cups offering quite the reverse example of their rollercoaster.
But their famous win in Melbourne could signal the beginning of the end of these ruts and instead mark the start of a cricketing dynasty.
A dynasty might be a tad optimistic, but what we have witnessed over the weekend is that contrary to the usual flop we have all come to expect from England’s cricketers, they have, in great contrast, affirmed their status as champions, giving us maybe too much hope for what could happen to the red-ball squad.
With 2019 ODI and 2022 T20 World Cup hero Ben Stokes leading the red-ball side on their journey towards a potential Test championship, fans should be living without fear. But to live without fear is not the life of an England fan, and for good reason.
The Test squad is not where it must be to overcome the world’s best and pick up a trophy in a few years time.
To start with, we once again turn to the issue of batting. This summer saw some miraculous wins thanks to the efforts of Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Stokes, but we are still left with the monotonous question of how sufficient are the rest of our batters? England’s World Cup winning T20 squad had a phenomenal depth in batting with Chris Jordan and Adil Rashid highlighting this as they were set to bat 10th and 11th respectively.
The same luxury of depth cannot be attributed to the Test squad, who have consistently faced issues with openers and the upcoming series against Pakistan is likely to see yet another new pair come together as the selectors attempt once more to find a stable opening partnership.
Batting is obviously not the only issue, despite repeated cries made concerning England’s beloved obsession with middle-order collapse. Another fear relates to a sense of belief and accountability. England’s white-ball sides have built up a phenomenal reputation of indestructibility.
Ireland confounded and defeated a side known for white-ball strength superiority and England responded to this humiliation by winning the whole tournament, taking out India in stunning style in the process. In the past four white-ball tournaments, England have won two of them, been finalists in one and semi-finalists in the other.
However, the recent achievements of England’s red-ball squad cannot compare. They have long since lost their reputation for being a consistent force with which very few can reckon in Test cricket, and until they can build up this necessary wall and air of indelibility, they will continue to be rattled.
It’s far from an impossible feat for England, in a three year period, to hold all three championships but they must hope that Ben Stokes is able to gift his red-ball squad with the divine inspiration that has driven him to bestow two World Cups for England in three years.