Dubai: When Lewis Hamilton crossed the line to finish second to his Mercedes’ teammate Valtteri Bottas in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix, he put a smile back on the faces of English sports fans who had been enjoying an overwhelming summer of success.
It all began back in May when Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea created history when they became the first four clubs from the same country to contest the finals of the top two European football competitions.
Then Ben Stokes sealed his road to redemption when he helped England lift the Cricket World Cup on home soil in July.
The England rugby team marched to the final in Japan only last week — having thumped the mighty All Blacks on the way — but came up short against South Africa in Yokohama.
Hamilton had the last laugh on four wheels when he secured his sixth world drivers’ championship in Austin, Texas, thanks to another tactical masterclass behind the wheel of his Mercedes.
Let’s take a look back over the most English of summers in sport.
Having flirted with elimination in the group stages, both Liverpool and Spurs captivated a nation by overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds to reach the Champions League final. Tottenham had the two-legged game of their lives to ditch eventual English treble winners Manchester City in the quarter-finals. If anything, Liverpool trumped that by coming back from the dead against Barcelona to triumph in famous fashion — winning 4-0 in the second leg and 4-3 on aggregate over the two matches. A German boss in Jurgen Klopp, and a Belgian stalwart at the heart of defence in Virgil van Dijk, but this was a very English victory for a Liverpool side who had lost out in agonising fashion 12 months earlier to Real Madrid.
Three days earlier, the St George’s Cross flags were out in force with the dedicated fans from Spurs and Arsenal who took the arduous journey to Baku in Azerbaijan for the Europa League final. It was to be a last hurrah for Maurizio Sarri as Chelsea boss as he finally won his first trophy as a manager, thrashing Arsenal 4-1 on the night. He parted company with the club in the summer to allow local hero Frank Lampard to take over.
IT’S COMING HOME
Two trophies were safely back in England when football passed the baton to cricket and the World Cup, hosted in England and Wales in June and July.
Stokes became that rarest of things for the England fans, a ginger-haired poster boy — think Ed Sheeran but interesting — when his amazing shift in the final against New Zealand — an unbeaten 84, plus eight runs in the Super Over — meant England claimed the World Cup for the first time in their fourth appearance in the final. We also witnessed the revelation that was Jofra Archer. The young fast bowler had only made his England debut in May, but was a household name by July as he claimed 20 wickets in 11 innings for the host nation. He is fairly handy with a bat and has cemented his place in the Test team, too. Expect big things from this young West Indies-born Englishman.
BIG IN JAPAN
It seemed like the silverware parade could not stop as England pulled out one of their greatest performances to dispense with New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals. Eddie Jones and his boys were on a high, having steam-rolled Tonga, the United States, Argentina and Australia ahead of their mauling of the All Blacks. They went into the final against South Africa as the big favourites but, for once they were outplayed and out-thought by Rassie Erasmus and his men. It was a tough on to take for the fans of the oval ball in England, but they can take great confidence from their side’s performances to make it to the final and can be assured that it won’t be long before they get their hands on the Webb Ellis Trophy once again.
SILVER LINING FROM SILVER ARROW
The cloud did not linger over English sport for long as barely 40 hours later, Hamilton was celebrating at the chequered flag in Austin. Second on the day was good enough to give him an unsurmountable points tally with two races to go in Brazil and Abu Dhabi. His teammate Bottas won the race, but Hamilton’s run from fifth on the grid showed once again that he is the master tactician with the coolest head in the sport. The Englishman is now only one title behind the great Michael Schumacher and surely he can keep the party going in the UAE next year by equalling the German driver’s achievement.