Saturday, 6 January 2007

England's performance ratings

Having lost the series 5-0 at Sydney here are the marks out of ten for England's players:

Strauss - 4 Another two good starts, another two failures to progress. Again, he looked in form, but managed to get himself out when England needed big scores from him. It appears that throughout the series he has been unable to find the right balance between attack and defence, opting to play too many high risk shots and paying the price. The Australian bowlers expertly starved him of his favourite shot, the square cut/drive, and he has failed to find another way to score. Questions must also be asked of his attitude - did being deprived of the captaincy affect his game? Whatever the cause, Strauss, who batted and captained so well against Pakistan, and who has usually been Mr Dependable, failed once again at the SCG.

Cook - 3 Seemingly unable to judge what to leave outside his off stump, he was caught behind twice in this match. The Australian bowlers have had his number for most of the series and Cook has not been able to improve his technique. He will have to work on it if he is to score consistently against accurate bowlers. Though the Australian attack have been exceptional this series, particularly at Sydney, there are other Test bowlers who will have noted Cook's weakness and are ready to exploit it. A shame the young left-hander could not raise his game at the SCG, leaving England with weak foundations in both innings, as they have had all series.

Bell - 7 Batted well in the first innings, trying to give England a total that would put pressure on the Australians. It was a pity he fell short of the century his efforts deserved. In the second innings, with England under real pressure, he made an excellent start, fluently stroking boundaries. However, he played one shot too many and was unable to make the significant score that was needed. This left England in a perilous position, which they were never able to get out of. It would be unfair to criticise Bell too much for his second innings lapse, as he, unlike most of his fellow batsmen, made a score when it mattered in the first innings.

Pietersen - 5 An average performance by his own high standards, failing to convert two good starts. However, in the second innings he was left with the tail again and forced to dig in, a role which does not bring out his best. It is also clear that Pietersen played his best cricket when the series was still alive. Once the Ashes had gone he lost some of his focus and energy. In the last two matches he had the look of a man disappointed by those around him and by his own efforts to raise the team's performance. It is to be hoped that he can get over his disappointment quickly and find his old form in the one-day series.

Collingwood - 4 Showed his usual determination, but could not make a significant score in either innings. The Australians knew he would not hurt them with quick runs and were quite willing to wait for him to get out. As in the previous match there is a suspicion that his technique is not good enough against the best bowling on pitches that have a bit in them. In those circumstances a patient bowling attack knows it is only a matter of time before they get the player. Collingwood will need to either become more aggressive or improve his technique if he is to make more runs against better bowlers on faster and more difficult pitches.

Flintoff - 6 Saved his best batting performance for this match, striking his way to a wonderful 89 in the first innings. However, he threw it away when three figures beckoned and England could have got closer to 350, which would have made a massive difference to the outcome of the match. His dismissal in the second innings was a poor one, gifting Adam Gilchrist a stumping, with a lazy effort to get his foot back behind the line. It signalled the end for England and was a sad one for England's captain. His bowling was steady, without offering his usual wicket-taking threat, but his captaincy was below par, especially his field placings. Monty Panesar suffered particularly badly from this, as he was given fields which allowed Australia to milk singles, denying the spinner the chance to put pressure on them. Flintoff is an adequate captain, but should relinquish the job and go back to what he does best, being an inspirational allrounder.

Read - 4 Another fine display with the gloves, but he was brought in to bat at number seven, a task which is way beyond his ability. After showing some fight in the previous match, he reverted to type, his technique exposed by the accuracy of the Australian bowlers. Not knowing where his next run was coming from Read was a walking wicket in both innings and failed to do any better than his predecessor. The truth is that neither Read nor Geraint Jones are good enough to bat at number seven for England and a new keeper will need to be found for this summer's Test matches.

Mahmood - 3 Just eleven overs in the match and two woeful displays with the bat made me wonder why England had picked him. It was Perth all over again, except he did at least manage to take a wicket at the SCG. England's policy of playing five bowlers is just one of many errors in the series, blatantly shown up in this match. Whether Mahmood could have done better if some faith was shown in him and he had a newer ball in his hand is unknown, though he did much better at the MCG when he was given more overs. What is clear is that when the captain has no faith in his fifth bowler it would be better to strengthen the batting line-up. It is no coincidence that England performed much better against Pakistan with six batsmen and four bowlers, and that Mahmood did well as one of those four bowlers.

Harmison - 5 A decent spell from Harmison in Australia's first innings, but lacked the penetration necessary to rip through the batting line-up. Conditions should have been in his favour, but he struggled to find the right length and line consistently. Though it has been accepted that he has not been England's spearhead in this series, he should have been able to show more in what will be his last match for a while. His batting was very good - staying with Flintoff in the first innings and playing his shots in the second. Overall, though, he had the look of a player who was ready to go home, knowing he failed when he was really needed.

Panesar - 6 Bowled reasonably well considering the poor fields he was given by Flintoff. Two wickets was scant reward for his control and flight and his economy rate suffered badly, as Australia exploited the field placings, milking him for easy singles. Things could have been different for both Panesar and England if Shane Warne had been given out when he appeared to glove the ball to Read. However, it turned out to be just another example of Australia taking full advantage of a situation and England failing to create enough pressure on their opponents, as Warne blitzed 71. Panesar's improvement with the bat continued, so much so that he was given the job of nightwatchman. He applied himself well to the task, sticking around until he was run out by a superb throw from Andrew Symonds. It is clear that the young spinner has plenty of mental toughness, as well as boundless energy and a willingness to learn.

Anderson - 6.5 At last he showed glimpses of how well he can bowl, making good use of the new ball in Australia's first innings. Yet, he still served up too many poor deliveries, most of which were dispatched to the boundary, and inexplicably bowled back of a length, instead of full, which the conditions demanded and which he made his name doing. If he had been in better form and had more confidence, perhaps he would have pitched it up more and got more wickets. Either way he did a decent job of standing in for Hoggard, though I suspect the 'king of the swingers' would have enjoyed conditions immensely at Sydney. It was just another example of misfortune piling on the agony to an abject England team.

1 comment:

Tim Wigmore said...

Great piece Nick. I especially agree about the keepers - my choice would be James Foster or John Batty - and Paul Collingwood's lack of quality. I feel he'll be replaced when Vaughan returns.