With the Tests now taking a ten-day break, it’s a good opportunity to assess how the players on both sides have performed so far. So here are the teacher’s reports on England after two days. We’ll look at Australia tomorrow.
Has received a lot of flak for his captaincy, particularly at Cardiff where he was a little too proactive with his bowling changes. He came under close examination in the fourth innings in Cardiff, but used Flintoff and Anderson when necessary, gave Swann the ball at the right time and led England to what was a comfortable victory. With the bat, he has played the most important innings of the series so far (not the best, but the most important) and one which ultimately led to England’s first victory over Australia at Lord’s in an age. He had a bit of luck on the way, but he took advantage of it.
Cook is blighted by the same problems as he has been for quite some time now; technical difficulties, planting his foot and missing the straight ball. He has made nice starts and not gone on with them, a problem he has had for a long time now. His place in the side was being whispered about before the series, he’ll hope for a hundred at Edgbaston.
Bopara has struggled so far. He was unlucky in the second innings at Cardiff where he got a poor decision, but the rest of the time hasn’t looked all that convincing. Did well to get to 35 in the first innings of the series where he was all at sea, but played an innings in the second innings at Lord’s that was practically a polar opposite, scoring at a run approximately every five balls. He deserves one more shot, and with Pietersen looking likely to miss a game somewhere down the line he may get a reprieve anyway, but he’ll need to do better and prove that he can score against quality teams.
Pietersen would get a higher grade if he was somebody else, but by his own standards he has been disappointing so far. Looked like he was in for a great summer on day one of the series then played one of the most bizarre shots of all-time, and hasn’t looked in good shape since. Pietersen is clearly struggling with injury and may have to miss a Test for the same time since his debut.
Three fifties in four innings in the series so far tell you that Collingwood is a batsman in consistent form. He played an absolute blinder in the second innings at Cardiff, and anchored the declaration chase at Lord’s well, allowing Prior and then Flintoff to tee off at the other end. He’ll need to convert these fifties into hundreds somewhere down the line though.
Two fifties and two failures for Prior with the bat so far. His quikcfire fifty at Lord’s was just what England needed and his partnership with Flintoff on the first day of the series was crucial in England posting a decent first-innings total. He has kept above expectations so far, with no real clangers of note. Recent history suggests his keeping tails off as a series goes on, but he’ll be hoping that won’t be the case here.
With the bat, Flintoff has looked better than in recent times, but has not threatened to return to his glorious performance levels of four years ago. With the ball, he had an indifferent start at Cardiff and then played a blinder at Lord’s. He was nigh on impossible to get away in the first innings, playing a huge role in allowing James Anderson to take four wickets. Then, in the second innings he bowled two amazing spells of fast-bowling, taking five wickets and securing a marvellous victory for England. This is Flintoff’s last Test series and he’s promised us the best is yet to come, Australia will be hoping not.
Broad had a shocker at Cardiff and had plenty of people calling for his head. He bounced back at Lord’s with an improved performance but there is still a lot of work to do. His spell after lunch on day four at Lord’s has been forgotten, but he removed Ponting with some lovely bowling and if he hadn’t, anything could have happened. He also took a couple of wickets late in the day in Australia’s first innings; had those batsmen stayed in overnight we would have been looking at a very different game.
Swann also had a very poor game at Cardiff, but then turned in a matchwinning performance at Lord’s. His contribution has been understandably understated in the wake of Flintoff’s glory, but Swann took four Australian wickets, including the key man and their best player of spin, Michael Clarke. He had a bit of luck with Clarke missing the straight ball, but he won’t mind that at all. He has chipped in with some useful runs as well.
Nasser Hussain referred to Anderson as a fantastic cricketer yesterday after a fine piece of fielding, and he wasn’t wrong. Anderson is growing in stature with every game. His bowling never really fired in Cardiff but he was a hero with the bat in both innings but most importantly in the second innings where he amazingly hung in there at the death. He took four top-order wickets in the first innings at Cardiff, a feat not to be underestimated. The ball which got Hughes wasn’t a beauty but how many times have we seen Anderson bowl much better than his figures have suggested? He’ll have been disappointed to go wicketless in the second innings though, and will want to get himself on an honours bad in the series soon.
Onions will have enjoyed his first big Test match, but ultimately he had a quiet one. The only top order wicket he took was that of Simon Katich in the first innings where in all honesty he had Stuart Broad to thank for one of the catches of the series so far, and he then added a couple of tailend wickets on Saturday morning, but they came at a time when England were struggling to dismiss the tail. He only bowled nine overs in the second innings and got hit around a bit, but seemed to be suffering from a niggle of sorts. His first-innings partnership with James Anderson with the bat is well worth a mention, mind you. He’ll hope to keep his place for the next game but it wouldn’t be a shock to see Harmison take his place.
Panesar may well not play again in this series, but he returned himself to the hearts of English cricket fans with a legendary rearguard in Cardiff. Even though he always looks like he has carrying a bat that weighs more than he does, he never really looked like getting out and helped to save the game. He never impressed with the ball though, and although Swann was out of sorts in Cardiff there is absolutely no doubt who England’s number one spinner is. If England win the Ashes though, Monty should take heart in knowing that his batting in Cardiff will have played a massive part.
That’s all for now folks. Check back tomorrow for CW’s thoughts on the Australian performances.