Wednesday, 3 September 2008

King Kev's bright new era

Here is how England's players rated in their 4-0 win over South Africa:

Ian Bell 6.5
His superb innings in the third game showed he has the ability to pierce the infield, and the game to be a very successful ODI opener. Still, the instances of a bewildering inability to assert himself - his 69-ball 35 being a case in point - remain too frequent.
Matt Prior 8
Thirteen catches - several of them exceptional - suggested an improved wicket-keeper, although the real challenge will come in Tests, when reserves of stamina and levels of skill are tested to the limit. He batted with intent and class at the top of the order, scoring at a strike-rate of 93, even if some dismissals were a little too reminiscent of Prior's last spell in the one-day side.
Owais Shah 7
Given the opportunity to bat in his county position of number three, Shah improved as the series wore on. His 44* in the fourth game was testament to what a fine limited-overs player he is, though it remains to be seen what is ultimately his best position. Credit must also be given for the improvements in his fielding, which will help his Test claims.
Kevin Pietersen 9
Moving back down to number four, where he is most comfortable, Pietersen did not bat like a man weighed down by responsibility. With his captaincy seeming inspired, and credited with reinvigorating Flintoff and Harmison, and his bowling crucial in the first game, journalists were incapable of writing a piece without reference to his "golden touch". And, so far, no one can argue.
Andrew Flintoff 10
After a run of dire batting form, the decision to promote Flintoff to five attracted some surprise. But it has always been his favourite position, for it allows him the time to play himself in; indeed, he has never been particularly adept at coming in during the slog overs. Powerful, destructive and yet calculated, Flintoff's batting looked back to his '04 ODI vintage. Add 10 wickets at less than 13 to his 187 runs for once out, and no one could argue that this was Flintoff's best ever one-day series. There is still a fear he unbalances the Test side, but in ODIs no such fears exist.
Ravi Bopara 4
His series amounted to two overs for 11 - and the doubts over his ability at international level persist.
Paul Collingwood 5
Essentially anonymous in his four games - but he is certainly a reassuring presence at number six.
Samit Patel 8
Marked his debut series with a five-fer and made a vital and composed 31 in his only innings. His batting oozes class; his bowling is canny but probably not as good as Graeme Swann's. Patel looks an international player, however. His selection may suggest bits n' pieces, but they are high quality.
Luke Wright 4
Another player who was inconsequential. The life of a non-bowling (apparently) number eight is fraught with danger. Wright offers destructive, match-turning potential, but should make way for the unlucky Swann in India.
Stuart Broad 8
His elevation to fourth in the official ODI rankings may seem a little hasty, but Broad's one-day bowling continues to improve, and his 5-23 may mark an important turning point in his career.
Steve Harmison 7

Showed the virtue of having hit-the-deck bowlers in the middle of the innings. While he is in this form, England are a much stronger ODI outfit for his return.
James Anderson 5
Anderson's miserable one-day international form continued, although at least his economy rate was more respectable. Still, Ryan Sidebottom and Kabir Ali will fancy his place, for all his tremendous improvements as a Test bowler.

The Verdict
A 4-0 victory over South Africa almost defies belief. There are certainly some significant caveats - like England in South Africa in 2004/05, the tourists put everything into the Tests and clearly did not care much for the ODIs, while their side suffered from imbalance and a weak batting line-up from five down. Still, England can claim a considerable degree of responsibility for this. Flintoff was obviously phenomenal, while Prior, Patel and Harmison also offered marked improvements on those discarded after the New Zealand defeat. The result of it all is England's one-day side has a pretty convincing look - the openers did well; numbers three to six have shown they are excellent players, while Patel and Swann complement an imposing four-man pace attack. If they can win in India, then the notion of England being second may no longer seem preposterous.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the looming possibility of the Stamford millions provided just the inspiration needed for Harmison's return and the team's remarkable form reversal.

Richard Lake said...

I was listening to TMS yesterday and Jonathan Agnew and Angus Fraser were discussing this. Apparently it is a well known fact on the circuit that Harmison was originally planning to come back on 2 November to limited over cricket, but was persuaded to come back to cover for Sidebottom for this series. He (Harmison) is also pretty uncomfortable about taking the place of Sidebottom for the big money match.

As for Tim's article, I'd have given Bell an 8 as I think he's set the tone for the batting performances. He doesn't always go big early, but there are times when conditions don't allow that. It's interesting that it has been pretty much a nine man effort, with little seen of Colly or Wright. Useful players to have in reserve!

Chrispy said...

I tend to agree with Richard regarding Bell, at least a seven is warranted if Shah is also worthy of 7. And I think Wright should be a 5, he did at least score a few quick runs when asked and fielded well. He did no less than Anderson and Colli and what he did do he did well.

It is nice to see a form county player in Patel given a chance though it is harsh on Swann who will doubtless be key in India. Now if only Kabir Ali/Tim Bresnan could get a chance then Anderson/Sidebottom would be under real pressure.

Much better!

T said...

I'd agree on Prior, for me he was great and has cemented his place; he took two stunning diving catches and played a good part with the bat also, contributing in three of the four games played.

Luke Wright really needs to be included and is underused, it's a great shame as i said at the time in my blog. To me he's class and should move up to seven, if only for the reason that Patel bowls. Also Wright could be a better batsmen than Patel, he's got a fifty for England (52) and more time could show the class i'm sure he has!

Anonymous said...

England win in India. Dream on.

Tim said...

Wright could be dynamite at 7 or 8 agreed - but so could the unlucky Mascharenhas, who is probably also a better bowler.