After ending 2018 on a major high Press Association looks ahead to what next year brings.
How historic was the 'historic' win clean sweep in the Test matches?
There's no escaping the statistical scale of the achievement. In series of three or more games, England had not completed a whitewash anywhere since besting India on home soil in 2011 and had only twice completed full-house victories overseas in their history. One of those came in the 19th century in South Africa, while the most recent came in New Zealand in 1963.
What were the biggest takeaways?
Joe Root's captaincy appears to have reached a new level, with head coach Trevor Bayliss admitting it felt like the Yorkshireman's side for the first time. There has been an influx of fresh blood – Sam Curran, Ben Foakes, Rory Burns and Jack Leach – and an overarching willingness to embrace Root's attack-minded methods. That this achievement came without the retired Alastair Cook and with cornerstones like James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Jonny Bairstow reduced to minor roles at times offered much optimism for the future.
How close are we to sorting out the top three?
Keaton Jennings and Rory Burns are sure to get another series to build their opening partnership in the West Indies but cannot claim to have locked down their spots yet. Jennings had a brilliant Galle Test but tailed off and remains vulnerable to pace, while Burns looked assured without getting the major score that would settle his nerves.
At number three Bairstow hit a brilliant hundred on his recall in Colombo and could be the answer to a vexed question. If he is, the solution will have arrived from luck rather than judgement, with Root, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes all tried ahead of him in recent months.
What are the aims for 2019?
First up is the West Indies, and the chance to go one better than the drawn series Peter Moores' England managed in 2015. The pitches are likely to suit the spin-heavy formula that served Root so well over the past month, while also offering more encouragement for Broad and Anderson. Really, though, the emphasis for the Test team is the Ashes at the back end of the summer. Reclaiming the urn would not only help heal some of the wounds from last winter's troubled tour Down Under, it could also put England back in the world number one spot for the first time since 2012.
Can we expect any new blood?
England's team has already undergone quite a shift in the past nine months but there will be a handful of players the selectors will be monitoring with interest. One-day opener Jason Roy has been discussed by the panel several times and his appearance in the Lions' four-day 'Test' against Pakistan A suggests he is getting closer. The next top-order vacancy could well be his.
Meanwhile the search for a raw pace option continues. Olly Stone made his one-day debut in Sri Lanka and stayed on with the Test side without being picked. He will have learned much from practising with the likes of Broad and Anderson and England will want to see him in action with a red ball sooner rather than later if he is the man to unlock a new aspect in their attack.