Monday, 12 February 2007

Collingwood and Flintoff restore some English pride

England somehow managed to revive a seemingly doomed tour by winning four consecutive ODIs and, in the process, winning their first major foreign tournament for almost a decade. Here are ratings for all the batsmen, as well as the 'keeper, who took part in the CB Series.

Ian Bell 6/10
Bell was a constant throughout the ODIs at number three. He consistently made 20s and 30s but only made two 50s (though both were in victories over Australia). There were whispers over the rate at which Bell scored his runs, as well as his running between the wickets, but, especially with his fine fielding, he was a qualified success and is in possession of a spot for the World Cup.

Ravi Bopara 6
Bopara played only one game, in which he made useful cameos with bat and ball, and helped to reinvigorate a struggling side. But has he done enough to earn a place in the World Cup squad?

Paul Collingwood 9
For his first six games, Collingwood looked as if his spirit had been shaken irrevocably by the events of the Ashes. But, after missing a game through illness, Collingwood returned in magnificent style, scoring two match-winning centuries and a 70 to re-emerge as a vital member of England’s one-day batting line-up; his industry, experience, running between the wickets and penchant for hitting boundaries make him an indispensable facet of the side. There was more good news for Collingwood: he bowled very steadily throughout, taking eight wickets and going at only 4.7 an over, overtaking Dalrymple as England’s fifth bowler in the process; meanwhile, his fielding remained superlative.

Andrew Flintoff 8
Flintoff has taken enough knocks to last a career on this tour, but he remained defiant till the end and earned some reward when his improving captaincy led England to victory in he finals. He only scored one fifty, but generally batted effectively at six, scoring important runs in the finals. Flintoff’s bowling seemed on the verge of collapse halfway through the series but, by the series’ end, he was back to his talismanic best, leading a vibrant side by example.

Ed Joyce 6.5
Joyce began the series unsure of himself and in the middle-order; he ended it with three failures, and several injudicious shots, as opener. But in between he scored a confidence-boosting 66 against New Zealand, then a superb century against Australia. He is an inherently elegant batsman whose square-of-the-wicket play is particularly effective but is also happy to use his feet and hit over the top during the Powerplay overs.

Mal Loye 6
Fans called desperately for his selection, thinking his idiosyncratic style would make an instant impact. He was certainly not overawed, and his slog sweep certainly got people excited; but he too often got out to rash shots outside off-stump, particularly against the left-armers. After a terrible decision in the first final, Loye played with more selectivity in the second, without overly diminishing his flair. But a mix-up ended his innings on 45, leaving his World Cup still up in air. Yet he is deserving of a place – on the short boundaries in the Caribbean, his characteristic shot could wreak havoc. If he doesn’t, who else can satisfactorily exploit the Powerplays?

Paul Nixon 6
His selection continues to seem ridiculous, but his ‘keeping was good; his experience, gift of the gab and value to team spirit immeasurable. The selectors picked him for his lower-order batting – and, though he too often failed when batting late on, he lead England home in the innings that most mattered.

Kevin Pietersen 8
Only played the opening game, and scored a typically belligerent 82; despite Collingwood’s recent innings, he is by far England’s finest ODI batsman. But he will be extra keen to prove it is no more than an anomaly that finals victory came without him.

Andrew Strauss 3
Only Steve Harmison’s stock fell more in Australia; Strauss did not make more than 55 in 20 international innings. His game has disintegrated, and it must be hoped the selectors recognise that Joyce performs the Strauss role better than he does currently, while Loye, statistically only marginally more successful, provides a whole new option.

Michael Vaughan 5
Came back amidst huge hope that he would rekindle the spirit of ’05. Alas, the hopes proved ill-founded, although England won two of the three games he played in. His captaincy was as canny as ever, but on batting alone he was patently not worth selection.

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