Saluting 2019's Superb Summer Of Sport

Let's sit back and remember a glorious few months
17:15, 16 Sep 2019

The conclusion of the Fifth Ashes Test across the mid-September weekend brought the curtain down on a brilliant summer of sport, the week before the season ends (astronomically speaking).

The first drawn series since 1972 illustrated the hugely competitive nature of the cricket which Australia and hosts England brought to proceedings across six-and-a-half weeks.

Steve Smith stunned with Bradman-beating numbers, as Australia retained the Ashes for the first time since 2002, going as close to turning the home crowd as it was possible to get having left the crease for the last time to a standing ovation. 

Their campaign may have been in vain but England showed a typically stiff upper-lip, under-fire captain Joe Root’s astonishing catch to dismiss Josh Hazlewood in the final act of the last Test ensuring his side levelled the series, which had reached its apex with that incredible Third Test at Headingley. It will live long in the memory.

Here are other brilliant moments that helped define 2019's Summer of Sport...

The Cricket World Cup

Boring sport isn’t it, cricket? 

Two men stood head and shoulders above to define this summer: Smith and England hero-cum-rehabilitated-superstar Ben Stokes.

Just under two months before that mind-boggling match-winning innings at Headingley which tied the score with Australia, Stokes had helped end England’s 44-year wait for their first Cricket World Cup, starring in one of the most exhilarating sports finals in which he dragged England all the way to a Super Over. It was a knock which induced hard-bitten fingernails for those watching at Lord’s, and in households, pubs and bars in both England and New Zealand.   

All credit needs to be provided to the Kiwis, who were equally responsible for a frantically astounding day and were gracious in the face of the most marginal of defeats.

Without a doubt though, in England mind’s at least, this summer belonged to Stokes.

The Women’s World Cup

Many would be forgiven for thinking that we’d been spoilt with the highs of the 2018 Men’s World Cup - one of the very best in recent memory - with a genuine anxiety of over-privilege that would have meant feeling the subsequent summer would be slightly bereft of excitement.

Fear not, as heroes emerged when the Women’s World Cup rolled into France; record attendances and viewing figures, player of the tournament Megan Rapinoe literally sticking it to the man with her Donald Trump-baiting, the United States romping to their fourth championship, meaning they’ve won exactly half of all the tournaments.

The best team - by far - won, but Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze, Ellen White et al gave an impressive account of themselves, meaning England were treated to their second semi-final in a major football tournament in the space of a year. 

There were also highlights such as Brazil’s Marta becoming the first footballer to score at five World Cups, her compatriot Cristiane’s free-kick and headed goal of the tournament, and strong fan bases from the Dutch and Cameroon camps who helped to light up the competition.

Coco Gauff at Wimbledon

When it’s time to turn attention to the All England Club, a host of recognisable powerhouses usually command the spotlight; the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams have all blessed west London with their respective individual presence on a consistent basis to arguably make the last two decades of tennis the most fruitful in the sport’s history. 

But every so often, a new figure emerges. Step forward American Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff, Wimbledon 2019’s undoubted break-out star; the youngest player to reach the last 32 at Wimbledon since compatriot Jennifer Capriati in 1991. 

In 2018, Gauff was unable to reach the quarter-finals of the junior event. But this summer the 15-year-old was victorious over seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams, a player with 24 years’ experience on her.

Gauff’s journey ended with defeat to eventual champion Simona Halep; the teenager’s exceptional play and ecstatic celebrations mirrored by her almost as equally adored parents Corey and Candi, her “biggest supporters”. That all helped to provide her with a new legion of fans, lofty expectations for the future, and a mature head on a young body leaving the grass courts held high.

Shane Lowry at Royal Portrush

A fairytale ending is an oft-bandied cliche, but there’s no more apt description for what Irish golfer Shane Lowry accomplished at the 2019 Open Championship, the 148th edition of the tournament. 

Mullingar-born Lowry finishing ahead of England’s Tommy Fleetwood by six-strokes, becoming just the fourth player in the last 50 years to take a first major by more than five shots to pick up the Claret Jug.

Starting at a price of around 70/1 to win the championship, Lowry also became the first bearded winner of an Open since 1882. 

It also means Ireland - between the Republic and Northern Ireland - has produced 10 major victories in 12 years.

Lewis Hamilton 

No other driver in the history of Formula One has now been as successful at Silverstone as Lewis Hamilton. The Brit marched to his sixth victory on the famous track at the British Grand Prix in mid-July to take him past the tally of Jim Clark and Alain Prost, and power ahead in trying to win his sixth F1 World Championship.

The Brit superstar took home his seventh win of the 2019 season, finishing a good 24 seconds ahead of Mercedes teammate Valteri Bottas, who had started on pole, and giving the adoring crowd further cheer with a lap record on the final circuit

Notably Hamilton humbly thanked the “nearly 2,000 people who make this possible,” affirming that he’s “just a chink in the chain.”

Collective British spirit has most certainly been in the air.

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