Jason Roy found his axing from the England team during last year's Ashes series "heartbreaking" but he remains determined to earn another crack at Test level.

Surrey batsman Roy was one of the stars of England's Cricket World Cup triumph on home soil, with a blistering semi-final 85 against Australia one of four fifties alongside a century in a competition he concluded with an average of 63.28.

Despite his lack of experience at the top of the order in red-ball cricket, those performances increased the clamour for Roy to open in the Ashes that followed in a congested English summer.

Faced with Australia's imposing pace attack, the 29-year-old endured an ordeal that was halted after a drop down to number four in the fourth Test defeat at Old Trafford failed to bring about a significant change in fortunes.

"I've worked very hard to try and crack Test cricket and for it to get taken away from me that quickly was heartbreaking," Roy told reporters, with his average of 13.75 against Australia meaning he was omitted from England's restorative victory in South Africa and the subsequently aborted trip to Sri Lanka.

"I'm going to be trying my hardest to get back into the side and prove myself. Scoring a weight of runs in white-ball cricket and then not being able to do that in Test cricket was upsetting, because I really felt like I could. I still feel like I can.

"Everyone wants to be a Test cricketer. I’ve been selected but I want to succeed."

Roy conceded the emotional swing from his World Cup high was a tough one to handle.

"The Ashes series was a very tough time," he added. "It was absolutely ridiculous — I've never felt so high and so low in such a short period.

"It brings back some strange emotions now even thinking back to it, but it is part of being a professional sportsman. You’ve got to overcome these sorts of bumps."

Ben Stokes has described Australia legend Steve Smith as both "strange" and a "genius".

The two are international rivals, with England all-rounder Stokes on the opposite side of the bitter Ashes divide.

However, they are team-mates with the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League and Stokes sees the same qualities in Smith whether he is playing with him or against him.

"He is still strange to play against and he's still strange to play with, and the best thing about it is that he admits it, he knows it," Stokes told the Rajasthan Royals Podcast.

"But I feel to be a genius you have to be a bit strange and you know he's certainly both.

"Even though he plays for Australia, biggest rivals of England, you've just got to hold your hands up sometimes to players like that and say, 'Yes, you're on a different level when it comes to batting.'"

Smith enjoyed a stunning Ashes series in England last year, scoring 774 runs in four matches at an average of 110.57.

Stokes was the hosts' star performer, his 441 runs coming at an average of 55.12, but he considers himself a fundamentally different type of batsman to Smith, who he says is "on all the time".

"I could never be like that," said Stokes. "Personally, I could not think about cricket in the way that Steve does when it comes to batting.

"Obviously, he's on all the time. That's why he averages 60 [62.84] after whatever he does in Test cricket. But that's not for me. It is for him, [and] who's to say who is right or wrong."

Pat Cummins has revealed how a difficult team meeting the day after Ben Stokes' Headingley heroics helped Australia get their Ashes campaign back on track in 2019.

After victory at Edgbaston in the series opener was followed by a draw at Lord's, Australia appeared set to retain the urn when they seized control of the third Test, bowling their rivals out for just 67 on the second day.

Set an unlikely 359 to win in Leeds, England's hopes looked to be over when they slipped to 286-9. However, aided by last man Jack Leach, Stokes smashed the hosts to an astonishing one-wicket victory.

The all-rounder finished up on 135 not out, though only after surviving a strong lbw shout against Nathan Lyon, who had spilled a simple run-out out opportunity to dismiss Leach from the previous delivery.

As shown in the Amazon Prime documentary 'The Test: A New Era for Australia's Team', head coach Justin Langer called the squad together the following day to watch back footage of the fourth day's play, a move Cummins thought was a risk as emotions were still running high.

The fast bowler told the Guardian: "The feeling around the group was, ‘What's he (Langer) doing? He's got this one way off'.

"I remember getting the message and I thought, ‘C'mon, we’ve all gone through this, just give us a day off.' 

"Everyone had played it over in their head a hundred times that night. I just remember thinking it's better if we sleep on it, have a good day off, forget about it, and come together once we've all mellowed down a little bit.

"It was literally 15 hours after the last ball, so emotions were still high. That was the context of the meeting, everyone was still hurting."

Australia went on to win the next match in Manchester and while England claimed the finale at The Oval, a 2-2 result made sure the tourists' grip on the Ashes remained.

"We all left that meeting thinking, 'You know what, if we did the same thing a hundred times over, we'd win 99 times out of 100'," Cummins continued.

He [Stokes] just had a day out, played incredibly well. We had a couple of chances we missed but, do you know what, in the end it was just that last bit where someone had a day out and it came off."

Ben Stokes admitted all those involved with the England team will never forget what happened at Headingley in 2019 after he re-watched the dramatic conclusion to the third Ashes Test.

With the global coronavirus crisis shutting down the cricket schedule, Stokes and Test captain Joe Root joined Sky Sports pundits Rob Key and Nasser Hussain to view the final stages of the famous game against Australia last August.

As the footage played out in full, the all-rounder provided a unique insight into what was going through his mind as he dragged his side to an improbable one-wicket triumph, aided by one not out from number 11 Jack Leach.

Stokes, meanwhile, finished up unbeaten on 135 as the hosts reached a victory target of 359, an astonishing achievement considering they had been nine down in their second innings with 73 runs still required.

"It's always going to be great memories, one of the great days – not just out on the field but memories we will always have together as a group," Stokes said on Sky Sports after the moment was aired of him hitting the winning boundary through the covers.

"The changing room is sacred as a cricketer – that evening after this day was just sensational.

"Us, as a group of players, the support group and team management, will always be able to look back at that day, on the field with what happened and then also memories we created in the changing room. It's awesome, so good."

Both Stokes and Root admitted they were sweating while taking in the action despite already knowing the outcome, though the former had to look away at the moment when Australia missed the chance to run out Leach with two runs needed.

Nathan Lyon had been unable to claim the throw but thought he had redeemed himself with a loud lbw shout in the same over, only for umpire Joel Wilson to turn down the appeal. The tourists had already used up their final review too, denying them the opportunity to challenge a decision that would have been overturned with the aid of DRS.

"Joel Wilson will always have a special place in my heart for that moment," Root joked.

Stokes, however, remained convinced it was always missing, adding: "Going down leg, mate. It doesn't spin."

Asked to recall his thoughts immediately after the victory, skipper Root - who contributed 77 in the successful chase - replied: "Relieved. Extremely proud of Ben as well.

"The journey he had been on the year before, for him to be the centre of everything was perfect for him. He's a massive part of the team and the dressing room and I couldn't have been prouder of him."

Australia lost in Leeds but still went on to retain the Ashes in the next game, beating their rivals at Old Trafford. The series finished 2-2, England victorious in the final Test at The Oval.

Ben Stokes has been named the leading cricketer in the world for 2020 by Wisden.

Stokes ends India batsman Virat Kohli's three-year reign in possession of the honour and becomes the first Englishman since fellow all-rounder Andrew Flintoff to be considered the best player in the global game by the esteemed publication.

The body of work amassed by Stokes over the course of an outstanding 2019 made him an obvious frontrunner for such recognition.

He top-scored with an unbeaten 84 as England took the World Cup final into a super over, where Stokes and Jos Buttler scored 15 before the hosts won on the boundary count back rule at Lord's.

Remarkably, that was not Stokes' finest hour of the English summer, as he went on to score 135 not out to seal an enthralling one-wicket win over Australia in the fourth Ashes Test at Headingley – an innings to rank alongside the all-time greats in cricket's longest format.

Jofra Archer, another standout performer in England's World Cup and Ashes campaigns was named as one of Wisden's five cricketers of the year for 2019, along with Australia duo Marnus Labuschagne and Pat Cummins.

Labuschagne's introduction to the series came as a concussion substitute when Steve Smith was struck by a brutish Archer bouncer and he went on to make the number three position his own, averaging 112 in the Australian summer that followed.

Cummins underlined his status as the number one pace bowler in the world with 29 wickets against England in an urn-retaining 2-2 draw.

That is a standing Archer can certainly aspire to, having claimed 55 wickets across all formats in his breakthrough international year.

Wisden's five cricketers of 2019 were rounded out by Simon Harmer, the Essex spinner whose 83 wickets gave him 12 more scalps than any other bowler on the way to County Championship glory, and Ellyse Perry.

Perry was Australia's leading run-scorer (378) and wicket-taker (15) in the 2019 Women's Ashes and was also named the leading women's player in the world.

West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell is the leading T20 cricketer.

Reports in the UK this week suggested there is growing support to void the current Premier League season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin admitted the 2019-20 campaign might have to be scrubbed from the records, after Euro 2020 was moved back 12 months.

Although the likes of runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool would understandably despair at such a prospect, there are other clubs enjoying seasons to forget who might enjoy the escape clause.

With that in mind, we took a look back at the teams and individuals who might like to expunge an ignominious season or period of time from history.

 

MANCHESTER UNITED 2013-14

The seven years since Alex Ferguson's retirement have not exactly gone swimmingly for United, but that ill-fated first season remains the real low point. 

David Moyes lasted just 10 months as Ferguson's replacement as the reigning Premier League champions finished seventh in 2013-14, suffering truly humiliating defeats to top two Manchester City and Liverpool along the way. A wretched 2-0 loss at Moyes' former club Everton proved the final straw.

At least they won the Community Shield in August 2013. 

NOVAK DJOKOVIC 2017

When Novak Djokovic defeated familiar foe Andy Murray to win the 2016 French Open, the modern-day legend was in possession of all of tennis' grand slams. The question was, who can stop this man? Well, the answer was actually himself.

A round-three exit at Wimbledon followed a month later and, although he reached the US Open final that year, a barren 2017 followed. Djokovic did not go beyond the quarters at any slam that year and reached just one final at the Italian Open, which he lost. Djokovic rediscovered the winning habit in slams at Wimbledon in 2018, beginning a run of five triumphs in the past seven at tennis' big events.

DETROIT LIONS – 2008

The Lions secured an unwanted place in history when they became the first NFL team in the 16-game season era to go 0-16. They went 7-9 in 2007 and were then undefeated in preaseason, meaning few would have thought a historically bad campaign was on the cards.

Detroit started three QBs over the course of the campaign - Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky and Daunte Culpepper - all of whom struggled with form and injuries despite the presence of star receiver Calvin Johnson, but worst of all was their woeful defense, which gave up 517 points.

Team president and CEO Matt Millen was fired after four weeks, while head coach Rod Marinelli was shown the door at the end of the season and has not led a team since.

TIGER WOODS - 2014-2017

Tiger Woods' standing as one the greatest, if not the greatest, golfer of all time is in no doubt. By the end of 2013, Woods was standing again atop the world rankings after winning five times during the year, earning the prestigious PGA Tour Player of the Year award. 

It would take five years for Woods to win again as the American great endured a horrendous time with debilitating back injuries and loss of form. At one stage it looked as though he may have to retire and his world ranking had plummeted to a scarcely credible 1,199th in December 2017. But just a year ago Woods was back in major-winning form as, at the age of 43, he became Masters champion for a fifth time.

BARCELONA 2002-03

Years of drift since the 1999 LaLiga title came to a head in 2002-03, as Barcelona endured a miserable season that saw Louis van Gaal sacked as coach and led to the departure of president Joan Gaspart. 

Barca ended up sixth in the league – their worst finish in 15 years – as the Real Madrid Galacticos ruled. They also exited the Copa del Rey in the first round and lost in the Champions League quarter-finals. 

After that season, in came Joan Laporta as president, Frank Rijkaard as head coach, and a certain Brazilian called Ronaldinho. And things got a bit better. 

ENGLAND – 2013-14 ASHES

England made it three Ashes victories in a row with a 3-0 home triumph in 2013 – the first time they had enjoyed such a run of success against old enemies Australia since 1977-1981. However, a rejig of the international cricketing schedule meant a swift return Down Under. The Mitchell Johnson-inspired hosts exacted brutal vengeance on their way to a 5-0 whitewash as a great England team fell to pieces.

Off-spinner Graeme Swann retired mid-series and Kevin Pietersen's tempestuous exit from the international stage was set in motion, while Andy Flower – the head coach he despised – stepped down. Of the XI that started the concluding 281-run loss in Sydney, Pietersen, Michael Carberry and debutants Scott Borthwick and Boyd Rankin would never play red ball cricket for England again.

REAL MADRID 2008-09

In Spanish football's great rivalry, Real Madrid or Barcelona doing well is only half the deal. Success is truly sweet if the other half of El Clasico's enduring grudge are having a tough time. Madrid won LaLiga in 2007-08, with Barca a distant fourth as the Rijkaard-Ronaldinho era disintegrated under the weight of its own excess.

However, the tables flipped spectacularly next time around – Barca stormed to an unprecedented treble under rookie coach Pep Guardiola, Lionel Messi leaped from exceptional talent to generational superstar as Madrid were walloped 6-2 by their sworn foes at the Santiago Bernabeu and a dynasty was born.

Madrid finished a distant second, were thrashed 5-0 on aggregate by Liverpool in the Champions League last-16 and coach Juande Ramos followed predecessor Bernd Schuster out of the exit door.

PAULA RADCLIFFE – 2004 OLYMPICS

After setting a new world record in London in 2003 and having won the 2004 race in New York, Radcliffe was favourite for marathon gold at the 2004 Olympics. 

However, after struggling badly to continue, Radcliffe withdrew 23 miles in and was taken for a medical check-up. She later competed in the 10,000 metres but again retired.  In a tearful appearance on British TV, Radcliffe refused to blame the heat and humidity in Athens and admitted she was "desperately trying to find a reason for what happened". 

A year later, she was back winning and breaking the world record at the London marathon - despite a brief toilet break by the side of the road - before taking gold at the World Championships in Helsinki.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 2019-2020

After a fifth straight NBA Finals appearance in 2019, things went rapidly downhill for the Golden State Warriors. All-Star duo Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins left in free agency, while 'Splash Brothers' Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have been out injured – the latter is yet to play this season. 

The Warriors sit bottom of the Western Conference and have the worst overall record in the NBA at 15-50. An improved chance of getting the first pick in the 2020 draft is their only solace.

MANNY PACQUIAO 2012

After losing to Erik Morales in 2005, Manny Pacquiao went on sensational 15-fight winning streak that established him as an unprecedented seven-division world champion. The Morales loss was twice avenged via stoppage, with the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto similarly dispatched. A mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr awaited, only for the wheels to fall off in 2012.

Timothy Bradley halted Pacquiao's streak when he was – somewhat farcically – awarded a split-decision verdict over the Filipino great. Juan Manuel Marquez knew all about scorecard controversy from his previous three meetings with Pacquiao and duly took them out of the equation, chillingly leaving his rival face down and motionless on the Las Vegas canvas that December. The Mayweather bout had to wait until 2015, but that is one of only two losses suffered since by Pacquiao, who reigns as WBA welterweight champion at 41.

CHELSEA 2015-16

Chelsea won the Premier League title in 2014-15 and 2016-17. What came in between was nothing short of a complete shambles. Jose Mourinho had returned for a second spell in charge and collected a third winners' medal in England's top flight but the Portuguese's famously abrasive tendencies then appeared to wear his players down at an alarming rate.

Beginning with the 2-2 draw against Swansea City that ignited Mourinho's sapping spat with club doctor Eva Carneiro, Chelsea won only one of their opening five Premier League fixtures. That form was far from a blip and they were 16th when Mourinho was sacked in the wake of a 2-1 December loss to would-be champions Leicester City. Caretaker boss Guus Hiddink restored a modicum of respectability with a 10th-place finish before Antonio Conte arrived and the Stamford Bridge faithful were soon wondering if it had all just been a bad dream.

SERENA WILLIAMS 2006

Williams started the year by losing her Australian Open crown with a third-round exit to Daniele Hantuchova, before injuries forced her to miss tournaments in Tokyo and Dubai. Come April, she had dropped out of the WTA top 100 for the first time since November 1997, and it came as little surprise that she competed at neither the French Open nor Wimbledon. 

After a fourth-round exit at the US Open, Williams ended a title-less year 95th in the world. It meant she returned to the Australian Open in January 2007 as an unseeded player. She won it. 

England captain Joe Root has been inspired to "do something special" during the next Ashes series against Australia after watching 'The Test'.

Root, like the rest of the United Kingdom, is in lockdown in a measure aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

With plenty of downtime, Root has started watching the Amazon docuseries 'The Test', which follows the fortunes of Australia's cricket team across eight episodes and culminates in the 2019 Ashes in England.

That series ended in a 2-2 draw, resulting in the tourists retaining the urn, and Root is now even more fired up for the next Ashes between the two countries in 2021-22.

"I resisted watching it for a good while but, having exhausted a lot of the shows I wanted to watch, it has come around," Root said on a conference call with reporters on Monday.

"It has been a good motivator to get back on the bike and incentivise myself.

"It goes without saying that the World Test Championship is very important and each game holds a huge amount of weight as we try and get into that final [scheduled for June 2021]. But a lot of things we do revolve around planning for that Ashes series.

"We have around 17-20 games until we go there and play - if all are played - and we have to use every opportunity to be ready for what those conditions throw at us, what Australia throw at us on and off the field.

"We need to use this time to ready ourselves to do something special because we know how challenging it can be to play there."

England were due to be in Sri Lanka now for a two-Test series, but they returned home as sporting events started to get cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Root's team are due to face West Indies and Pakistan in home Test series in the coming months, though they would appear in doubt too.

There have been reports that the Sri Lanka trip could be rearranged prior to England's five-Test tour of India in 2021 and Root is mindful about burnout for his squad.

"It would be a very tough winter, a huge amount of workload, especially on the multi-format players, but we have had some tough winters in the past and found ways to get through them," he added.

"It would be interesting to see how they would fit it in looking at the schedule right now but if it was to go ahead, we would have to be able to adapt, look at the squad sizes we take over and make sure guys weren't blown out and overworked."

Mitchell Starc spent little time worrying about his Test future after the Ashes, despite playing a minimal role for Australia in England.

Left-arm seamer Starc is playing in his 54th Test against Pakistan in Adelaide, yet his Ashes involvement was limited to the fourth match at Old Trafford, taking four wickets to help the visitors retain the urn.

The 29-year-old returned to star with seven wickets in the first-Test win over Pakistan and has impressed again this week, his match figures 7-76 at the end of day three.

Victory now appears a formality for Australia, and Starc said after Sunday's play of his role: "It's not really come into my thought process.

"Playing a bit of Shield cricket and the T20s [before the Pakistan series] was the focus to begin with, and [then to] see how the Shield games played out and if I was selected in the Test squad, then go from there.

"It was never really a worry or a focus. I was just looking forward to playing some games for New South Wales and playing some white-ball cricket."

Yasir Shah made an unlikely 113 for Pakistan, but they were forced to follow on as Starc continues to excel with the pink ball, boosting his total in day-night Tests to a still world-best 33 wickets.

"I still think it's more like a white ball than a red ball, so that's probably playing in my favour there," the bowler said.

"It still went soft for us on that wicket, as we saw through the early afternoon session today where it didn't move around much at all and the wicket was quite flat.

"When it's going through those stages, it's trying to control the scoreboard. We did that fairly well at times and then Yasir got away from us a fair bit."

Ben Stokes' claims that comments from David Warner helped fuel his Headingley heroics during the Ashes are just a way to "spike book sales", according to Australia captain Tim Paine.

England all-rounder Stokes played a knock for the ages in the third Ashes Test to salvage an unlikely victory after the hosts were bowled out for 67 in the first innings, delaying Australia's retaining of the urn until the fourth match at Old Trafford.

Recalling the events of the day in his new book 'On Fire', Stokes suggested some choice words from Warner, playing a first Test series after being banned for his role in the Newlands ball-tampering scandal, focused his mind.

But Paine believes Stokes' version of events is merely a ploy to shift books off the shelves.

"I was obviously standing next to David the whole time and you are allowed to talk on the cricket field," Paine said.

"But by no means was he abusing him or sledging him. It just seems to be a common trend in England that they like to use Davey's name to spike book sales. So good luck to them."

In the book, Stokes claimed he would have accepted sledging from any other player.

"I had extra personal motivation due to some things that were said to me out on the field on the evening of day three when I was trying to get through to stumps," Stokes wrote. 

"A few of the Aussies were being quite chirpy, but in particular David Warner seemed to have his heart set on disrupting me.

"He just wouldn't shut up for most of my time out there. I could accept it from just about any other opponent. Truly. Not from him, though. 

"The changed man he was adamant he'd become, the one that hardly said boo to a goose and even went as far as claiming he had been re-nicknamed 'Humble' by his Australia team-mates, had disappeared. 

"Maybe his lack of form in his new guise had persuaded him that he needed to get the bull back?"

However, Paine said Warner deserved credit for the way he dealt with the taunts from the home crowd in England.

"I was standing right next to him, I had absolutely no issue," Paine added. "The way David handled himself during the Ashes was excellent. 

"Particularly given the fact he wasn't scoring a hell of a lot of runs and I'm pretty sure he was on the end of a fair bit himself on and off the field in England. 

"So, I thought he did a great job of handling that and held himself really well throughout the series. They write books to sell and they have to get headlines to get sales."

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