Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum reignite England's Test team
Ben Stokes was appointed as England's captain after Joe Root stepped down in April. His team faced New Zealand, South Africa and India over the summer, winning six matches out of seven
By Amar Mehta
Last Updated: 12/09/22 1:57pm
After a disappointing Test series in the West Indies, England embarked on a new era under the guidance of new managing director Rob Key, head coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes.
Out went Sir Andrew Strauss, Chris Silverwood and Joe Root, with Stokes and McCullum teaming up with the task of reigniting England's Test team culture.
They both came in with a clear plan - to play front foot, enjoyable and fun Test cricket.
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Announcing Stokes' appointment in April, Key said the all-rounder "epitomises the mentality and approach we want to take this team forward".
The appointments have been vindicated, with England winning six Tests out of seven this summer, losing only one.
Here are six key moments from England's Test summer.
There was an air of uncertainty and excitement going into the first Test of the summer against New Zealand at Lord's.
Ben Stokes went into the Test against the ICC world champions with a new opening pair, Ollie Pope in at No 3, veteran bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad recalled and a debut given to Durham seamer Matthew Potts.
England bowled first and managed to restrict New Zealand to a first innings score of 132, a target that looked easy for England to match, only for the Kiwis to restrict them to a nine-run lead.
A 195-run stand between Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell set England a tough target, which looked too much after falling to 69-4.
In came Stokes, joining Root at the crease with a mammoth task in front of him. But rather than enter a shell and steady the ship, Stokes countered - scoring 54 in 110 balls.
By the time he was caught by Blundell, England were 159-5, with just over 100 runs for Root and Ben Foakes to chase down.
Free from the burdens of captaincy, Root scored his first fourth innings century, while Foakes supported him admirably, guiding England to a five-wicket win in four days.
The match ebbed and flowed, it was a sign of things to come, not just against New Zealand but through the summer.
The Jonny Bairstow show
Going into the summer, several key players' positions in the starting XI were questioned, including Jonny Bairstow.
The Yorkshireman had performed in fits and starts for England's red-ball team, but under Root, he struggled to make a mark on games.
This changed over the summer. Bairstow scored over 1,000 runs before he missed the last Test match against South Africa with a "freak" injury.
This included four centuries and two half centuries.
Stokes' side chased 378 runs by India in the fourth innings - a record target for an England team and the fifth-highest overall in Test history.
After a solid foundation was set by openers Alex Lees and Zak Crawley, Bairstow joined Root, with England on 109-3.
Root played with his usual poise, and Bairstow backed up his first-innings century with an excellent 114 off 145 balls.
Going into day five, Root and Bairstow resumed on 259-3 and breezed beyond 300, sapping any remaining enthusiasm from an embattled India attack that did not even get their hands on the second new ball as England stormed home in 76.4 overs at an incredible run rate of 4.93.
It was a remarkable turnaround for Bairstow, with the India match epitomising what Stokes and McCullum are trying to achieve in England's red ball reset.
Stokes, Root, Ollie Pope and Foakes have impressed with the bat this summer, but Bairstow has stood out as the key man in the middle order.
Struggles setting a score
For the first time under Stokes, England were put into bat by Dean Elgar in the first Test against South Africa.
Until then, England batted second, something which allowed their front-front batting ethos to really flourish.
But against South Africa, England came unstuck, losing by an innings and 11 runs.
Only Pope, Stokes, Broad and Jack Leach reached double figures - with Pope steadying the first innings with 73 off 102.
The opening pair of Lees and Crawley lost their wickets cheaply, and England could only manage to post 165.
In response, Elgar's side hit 326 as England's bowlers toiled. On recent form, England may have expected to overhaul South Africa's total, but they failed to do so, succumbing to a loss in three days.
While they responded in emphatic fashion - beating South Africa in three days in the second Test, questions remain over England's batting line-up's ability to set a score.
Problems at the top
England have been searching for a solid opening pair for several years since Sir Andrew Strauss and Sir Alastair Cook retired.
Many have tried, few have succeeded, but it seems as if Stokes has backed Lees and Crawley as his opening pair.
Aside from an excellent partnership in the fifth Test again India, neither pair have set the world alight.
Both made some good starts and showed signs of something resembling an opening pair, including good partnerships in the first Test against New Zealand and in the India Test.
But neither made a century this summer, with Lees scoring 327 runs in seven matches, including two half centuries.
Crawley's position in the side has also been questioned, he lost his wicket twice in his 40s but only scored 276 runs this summer - a disappointing return.
Both showed why Stokes has backed them, steering England to a win in the final Test against South Africa with Crawley scoring his first half-century of the summer.
While the middle order, which includes Root, Bairstow, Stokes and Foakes, have played with an element of freedom, the opening pair have struggled.
Stokes has stayed loyal and backed their pair, but England's next Test isn't until December in Pakistan so the selectors have a decision to make over the opening pair.
The opening partnership is something Stokes will want to address sooner rather than later but at the moment it is a problem that has lingered from the end of the Root era.
Anderson and Broad are still key, but the future is bright
Both Anderson and Broad were dropped for the final series of Root's captaincy, a decision that was questioned.
England's all-time leading Test wicket-taker said at the time he felt "frustration and anger" at the decision, while Carlos Brathwaite said before the series that the omissions swung the balance in the West Indies' favour.
While the decision to omit the pair is understandable - both bowlers are entering the twilight of their careers - England are lacking options in the seam bowling department.
Ollie Robinson has had a good start to his Test career, Stokes continues to be a dangerous fourth seamer option but Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes, Saqib Mahmood, Olly Stone and Matthew Fisher have all struggled with injuries and fitness problems.
Broad has taken 33 wickets this summer, including a game-changing spell in the first Test against New Zealand, which resulted in three wickets in three balls at Lord's.
It was a moment in the match that Broad has become synonymous for, and tilted the game in England's favour as New Zealand looked to build a big lead and in the final Test of the summer, he went past Glenn McGrath on the all-time leading wicket-takers' list and second on the all-time wicket-taking seamers, behind Anderson.
Anderson's 22 wickets took him to No 3 in the all-time list of highest wicket-takers and included a five-wicket haul in the first innings against India.
Both bowlers showed they can still perform on the biggest stage.
However, they were supported brilliantly by fourth seamer Stokes - who took important wickets throughout the summer - and first Potts and later Robinson.
Making your debut at the Home of Cricket is no mean feat, but Potts took to first-class cricket like a duck to water - taking four wickets, including Kane Williamson, in his first innings.
He impressed throughout the series and backed it up with four wickets against India, including the scalp of Virat Kohli in the first innings.
In his five matches for England this summer, he took 20 wickets, with an economy of 3.06 and best figures of 4-13.
Going into the summer, there were fitness concerns over Robinson, and he was not in the squad for the Tests against New Zealand and India.
He returned for the last two Tests of the summer, and reminded the selectors of his ability, taking 17 wickets, including 5-49 and 2-30 in the final, shortened three-day match at the Kia Oval.
Robinson was the pick of England's bowlers against South Africa and his first wicket in the second innings was his 50th for England in 11 matches.
Jamie Overton replaced the injured Anderson for the second New Zealand Test and also impressed with the bat and ball.
Stokes and McCullum clearly told the seamers to bowl full and go for wickets, something that has paid dividends this summer.
They will now be hoping that the likes of Archer, Mahmood, Wood and Wokes can get fit to give him some excellent seamer options.