Though England were ostensibly only a wicket at Lord’s away from a drawn series, the fact remains they were outclassed for large portions of the final two Tests. Oddly enough, only Matt Prior had a genuinely poor series; England’s problem was they were seldom able to consolidate the initiative, with their batsmen prone to getting themselves when set, and their bowlers only at Lord’s bowling well as a unit.
Here are the series ratings:
Alastair Cook 6
Made at least 17 in each innings, yet never passed 61. Cook was continually dismissed attempting to play straight deliveries to leg – he could do with a few months to work on this fault, but his place is not under serious threat.
Andrew Strauss 6
Made 96 in the first innings of the series, and a fine 55 at Trent Bridge, before twice giving it away with an injudicious shot. Technically he looks ok; but not so mentally – and, if Andrew Flintoff is to bat at six again, then Strauss deserves to be the one to make way. He averages less than 30 in his last 12 Tests – and the feeling is this is more than a mere dip in form.
Michael Vaughan 7
The skipper made a magisterial hundred at Trent Bridge to confirm he is still worth his place as a batsman alone, although, like his team-mates, he is too often dismissed to a poor shot. His captaincy was also a touch below par.
Kevin Pietersen 8
Two fine hundreds including, pleasingly, his first archetypal match-saving knock, is testament to his increasing batting maturity, while his sheer excellence is epitomised by four Test centuries in the summer.
Paul Collingwood 6
Started poorly at Lord’s, but played important knocks thereafter, and was less culpable than his colleagues for failing to notch a truly big score. However, with talk about the side’s balance continuing, his fine bowling was particularly pleasing.
Ian Bell 5
Bell was under immense pressure coming into the final Test, but proceeded to make two fine 60s – only to fall disappointingly on both occasions, a familiar sight. There is a slight sense he is treading water, and, with Messrs Shah and Bopara waiting, he needs a match-defining innings soon.
Matt Prior 3
A score of three may seem a tad harsh, but Prior’s keeping – not to mention his sledging – looked below international standard, with the byes and drops mounting up. His batting is equally unproven: all he has done, yet, is score runs of a second-rate West Indian attack, and his two key failures against the second new-ball were of particular concern, though he scored a crucial 40 at Lord’s. Nonetheless, he is almost certain to play the first Test in Sri Lanka.
Ryan Sidebottom 7
Sidebottom’s figures belay his true worth, for he bowled marvelously to Sachin Tendulkar and suffered enormously through Prior’s gloves. With his ability to swing the ball both ways, aggression and good control, he showed he could trouble good players on good wickets and would be extremely unfortunate to be dropped.
Chris Tremlett 6
Had the best average of the four bowlers, though this was boosted by three wickets when the fate of the second Test was decided. He was terrific in the first two games, impressing with his control, bounce and seam movement, before, disappointingly, rather wilting at the Oval, when so much was expected of him.
Monty Panesar 5
Panesar was hugely disappointing at the Oval, unable to provide penetration or control, but he did adequately in the first two Tests and remains an automatic pick. However, his batting was desperately poor, totally bereft of the discipline which Duncan Fletcher helped imbue in his tailenders.
James Anderson 6
England’s official Man of the Series, though seldom can there have been a less deserving one. Anderson was superb at Lord’s and bowled with good heart at the Oval, but, as his economy rate of 3.40 testifies, he is still too prone to bowling four balls.
The consistency in the ratings bears out the fact most the side offered glimpses of their worth, before falling victims of ill-discipline. India were excellent, for sure, and England’s bowling depleted, so the real blame must lie in the inability of batsmen to bat for a day at a day, and their dogmatic determination to play their ‘natural games’ when, as in the first innings of Trent Bridge, resolute play is required.