Thursday, 27 March 2008

England Ratings

For the first time in over three years, England managed to win a Test series away from home, even if the quality of the opposition means the 2-1 margin is no more than satisfactory. Here are the series ratings:

Alastair Cook 5
A series of starts - but a top-score of 60 tells its own sad story. His temperament is not in doubt, and if he can tighten up outside off-stump a fine career awaits.

Michael Vaughan 4
The skipper struggled due to a combination of good new-ball bowling, a technical fault - to play too square on and, sometimes, slightly to leg - and bouts of rashness. His captaincy was fairly impressive, however, as he showed a willingness to use bowlers in long spells when they were displaying an aptitude for the fight. An equally poor series with the bat at home, however, and the vultures will begin to hover.

Andrew Strauss 6
Looked woefully out of form in the first five innings, as one would have expected from a man whose recall did not exactly espouse true meritocracy. A career-saving 177 was hugely admirable, but it comes with the major caveat of being on a supremely flat track against an understandably jaded and limited attack. Clearly, he still needs to prove he can score runs against the best which, mentally fatigued and with a technique bowlers had closely scrutinised, he painfully struggled to in the year before being axed.

Kevin Pietersen 7
Exploded into life with a magnificent hundred that saved England from a depressing defeat from the miserable depths of 4/3. Will be hungry to regain his consistency, and the Kiwis will be apprehensive about what he could do in the forthcoming Test series.

Ian Bell 6
His century in the final Test was an innings of supreme confidence and majestic timing, and could not have been in starker contrast to his passive 58-ball nine in the first innings, ended with a confused swipe at a long-hop. Has the ability to become a run-scoring machine if only he can find more of a relish for pressure situations and end his infuriating ability of failing to capitalise on sweet starts.

Paul Collingwood 7
Dependable and dogged, Collingwood may never look a truly Test-class batsmen but, while his determination and resilience are so strong, that won't matter. Add in five cheap wickets - his bowling has improved tremendously in the last year - and he is a vital part of the side.

Tim Ambrose 7
A good first series on all counts. Ambrose struck a crucial, momentum-seizing century in only his second Test, but his challenge will come when opponents learn not to feed his cut shot. With the gloves he was excellent, and a marked improvement on Matt Prior, even allowing for a couple of misses in the second Test.

Stuart Broad 8
Had a quietly brilliant Test in the decider, with five wickets earned from a sterling, marathon spell in either innings, complemented by 73 vital runs for once out and brilliant fielding to boot. His promise has long been known; England did not throw him in too soon, and should reap the rewards over the coming years. With his multi-faceted skills and improving accuracy on even docile tracks, already a guaranteed starter.

Ryan Sidebottom 10
Let us recite the raw statistics, for they do justice to the indefatigability, consistency, aggression, adaptability and skill he displayed all series long. Twenty-four wickets at an average of 17; a five-wicket haul in every game; a ten-wicket haul; and a hat-trick. And to think, dear Duncan would sooner pick Messrs Plunkett and Mahmood.

Steve Harmison 2
Under-prepared? Almost certainly. Lacking heart? So said many. Bereft of peace? Yes. Have most fans had enough? Yes. Has he? That is the great question, for if Harmison can allay the doubts over his mind and make some technical tweaks, there is no English bowler international batsmen would less like to face.

Matthew Hoggard 3
That imperceptible nip had gone, and he was discarded, somewhat unluckily, for the second Test. Hopefully it was merely a blip although, in his last 12 Tests Hoggard had taken 31 wickets at an average of 41.

Monty Panesar 7
Monty should learn from Vettori - his variations in pace, flight, angle and delivery. All that may be true, but Panesar is a more naturally talented spin bowler and, after eight Tests of contributing very little, delivered the match-winning performance I had hoped for.

James Anderson 4
Oh, Jimmy, Jimmy. How can you bowl so devastatingly - approaching 90mph, with devilish late swing outside off-stump, only to revert to bowling rubbish next game? Ultimately, his inconsistency is simply a liability: match figures of 1-153, in just 24 overs, when considering he also went for 7.4 an over in the ODIs, prove as much. Sadly, he may not have much of an international career remaining.

The Verdict
This was an enthralling series at times, and England showed admirable character to respond to their Hamilton humbling. But this was a tentative step forward at best. The run-gorging in the third Test should not disguise the fact England have had appalling collapses in each of the last four Tests. 81 all-out; 100 all-out; 79/0 to 136/5; and 36/4. These are not the batting stats of a side whose top-order is satisfactorily functioning, and the series win should not be allowed to ignore these uncomfortable figures.


Chrispy said...

Bell looks a much better player when he has freedom to express himself (ie batting at six, or in fairly dominant positions). Maybe he could excell at four if Kp moved to three.

Strauss worries me. Owais must have been thinking along the lines of bloody typical! And I think Ed Joyce is unlucky too, his s/r was the only real problem in ODI's.

Vaughan needs runs, but he and Cook look a promising double act.

Ambrose may get found out with the bat and is not to Prior's standard. But, he is a better keeper and deserves the home series against both NZ and SA. Prior for Strauss prehaps with his average??!!

Harmison, oh dear, well said, same for Jimmy, can only hope Hoggy gets back to form come April/May.

Good piece!

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Nick Gammons said...

Excellent analysis, Tim. England's series win against an average side cannot hide their frailties.

The bowling is a strength, with only the woefully inconsistent Anderson needing to be replaced. If Hoggard finds form again then all will be well.

However, the batting is not up to standard. Only Pietersen looks capable of dominating a Test attack, though he has lacked consistency recently. The rest have their days, but not enough of them. The comfort zone must end and these batsmen need to perform far better.

Ambrose looked very good with the gloves, though he did have a couple of lapses and you are right that his batting may be found out in time.

Vaughan had some moments of weakness in charge, but was good enough to galvanise the team and gave his young bowlers their head. His poor form with the bat is not a worry yet, but will be if it continues this summer.

Rob said...

I think 6 for Strauss is very charitable. Until his very last knock he had done nothing and his contribution in the 3rd Test was 0 and a dropped catch.

Vaughan's 4 also seems on the friendly side. He did little, not sure he captained that well. His career, possibly, was saved by Sidebottom's quality. Without he would have lost to lowly NZ and averaged 20...

As for Harmisson's 2 ... I have a frozen shoulder and could have bowled better... -1 more like :)

Tim said...

Cheers all. I agree that MV is now a little vulnerable - some fc runs before the first test would be very nice.

Richard Lake said...

Couldn't agree more with the last comment Tim. However, I do believe that Vaughan has sacrificed himself at times for the good of the team. He doesn't particularly like opening when captain and when opening, the attritional nature of Cook means he has to be more aggresive than maybe he would like.

River Taff End said...

I think it's now or never with Vaughan.

Personally, I think he should go now.

We are carrying him as a captain, as his batting rarely makes a significant contribution these days.

What may well save him is the lack of too many alternatives - Cook too young, Pietersen no, Bell not really, Strauss unsure of place, and you just wouldn't pick the keeper or any of the bowlers as skipper.

Collingwood is the next in line, but the more I write in this comment box, the less convinced I am that we have an alternative.

Vaughan needs runs this summer, else we could get to late August and be in a real quandry with India and Australia to play in a 9 month spell (gulp) - it may be too late to change captain then.