Martin Smith column: England Stoke up early hopes for summer of love

England's Ben Stokes
England's Ben Stokes
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Two hours.

That’s how long it took to turn the fag end of winter into glorious summer.

Two hours of Ben Stokes brilliance to convince us that maybe we can start to wean ourselves off our mercilessly addictive to football until August at least.

We may even have fallen in love with cricket again.

Or at least taken it back after some serious strain on our relationship that began when Mitchell Johnson’s slanting, swinging left-arm lightning bolts first tore in to England’s batsmen in Brisbane and had us at 91 for 8 in the first Test of the 2013/14 Ashes series that led to Australia’s 5-0 whitewash.

Now after almost two years of recriminations, sackings, back-biting, indifference, a terrible World Cup and umpteen versions of the Kevin Pietersen ‘thing’ there may be hope.

At least hope that we won’t have to watch the summer’s cricket from behind the settee.

Of course even acknowledging that hope leaves us vulnerable to agony but the confidence and aggression of Stokes, Joe Root’s consistent defiance and the flowering of Alistair Cook’s long-dormant form all started to mean something on Sunday at Lord’s.

Brittle and fledgling though the recovery may be, suddenly it was fun to watch England play cricket again. Who’d have thought THAT two weeks ago?

For most of us obsessed with the winter game we walk backwards into summer as we dissect, analyse and agonise over the past football season.

Suddenly we have a warm day, a quick century and fresh hope.

Along with those first swallows of England’s cricketing summer (while we’re on, the first real swallows of summer locally were spotted over farmland near Blyth, North Notts at the end of April - anyone beat that?) an early sighting of Geoffrey Boycott in full flight is always a welcome and significant occasion.

Suddenly the incomparable criticism, commentary and comedy of Yorkshire’s best-loved curmudgeon reminds us what time of year it is and why he is such a compelling broadcaster.

Brilliantly analytical, fearless, wonderfully articulate and endlessly bloke-at-the-bar entertaining.

With he, Mark Wood, Stokes, Cook and Root there’s hope of a decent spell ahead and, although we have been here so many times and laughed at our own folly in hindsight, it’s good to get that summer feeling

It might have taken a New Zealander kissing an England badge at Lords to remind us why we even care, but we do.

And we’re all the better for it.