So, with the smoke cleared and the dust settled etc. on another Ashes series, England have the urn. But how did they do it? How did the individuals that make up the team perform? Here are Cricket Web’s ratings of England’s performers in this series. Australia follows tomorrow.
Strauss captained England to a series victory, topped the runscoring charts, and won the Miller-Compton medal. You might call that a decent series. With a top six faltering all around him, Strauss held the order together and led from the front, like any respectable captain should do. His captaincy came into some criticism for being too negative but he got the results he needed to with his methods, and his man-management seems to be working. The best example is probably the performance of Stuart Broad; he struggled early on so Strauss bowled him out at Edgbaston when the game was gone, allowing him to find his line and length. The result? Eleven wickets in the next two innings.
Disappointing. Cook has previously had issues with converting fifties into hundreds, in this series he struggled to get to fifty. Cook is blighted by technical issues and for the first time since he came into the side he finds his place being questioned; he should be relieved that there are no openers making huge waves in the championship. On the plus side of things he did bring the series to a close with his catch of Hussey, so it’s not all doom and gloom!
Bopara had a series that was reminiscent of Ian Bell’s troubled time back in 2005. He will have been devastated to have been dropped for the decider but there was no way he could be retained. The phrase ‘rabbit in the headlights’ has never been more apt. Bopara won’t look back too fondly on this series but hopefully will come out of it stronger.
It was pleasing to see Pietersen at The Oval to be with the team yesterday. His fans will say it shows he is a team man after all, his detractors might argue that he just wanted a slice of the glory. Whichever way you look at it, he’ll be devastated not to have been out there for the last three Tests, and he’ll have been disappointed with what he did contribute early on. He looked good at Cardiff before getting out with the oddest shot of the summer, and from there on looked shot to pieces. He hadn’t missed a Test for four years so it was bound to happen sometime, nonetheless Pietersen will be hungry to get back in the runs this winter.
Bell’s recall was not greeted with delight by England fans, and neither was his retention in the wake of the Headingley fiasco. He rode his luck at Edgbaston where the umpires gave him a couple of lives en route to a 50, and then failed at Headingley – but so did everybody else. He was retained and repaid the faith with the top score of England’s first innings, though he’ll have been mortified not to have scored a century, because it means the same old doubts will hang around. His second innings at The Oval won’t have helped to shut up his detractors either, as when he got out he left England in a spot of bother. He should have done enough to secure a free flight to South Africa, from there, we’ll see.
Collingwood was good at the start of the series, scoring three consecutive fifties. His typically gritty 74 at Cardiff was crucial in the context of the whole series, even if he couldn’t quite see it out. However since Lord’s he has barely scored a run, and serious questions are being asked about his place in the side, although he was still England’s second highest scoring specialist batsman (Matt Prior and Graeme Swann both scored more runs than him, however). To make things a little worse, his fielding seems to have lost a bit of its aura, he dropped a couple in the slips on the final day that you’d normally back him to swallow. Collingwood is a team man and played his part early in the series, but it certainly wasn’t one of his best.
There are dream debuts, and then there is Jonathan Trott’s debut. You would think that debuting in an Ashes-winning Test would be enough for most people, but Trott anchored England’s second innings with a beautiful and controlled century, this following an impressive 41 in the first innings where he was got out by a magical piece of fielding by Simon Katich. He also took a blinding catch to dismiss Michael Clarke in the first innings. He will learn sooner or later that Test cricket isn’t always this easy, but for now Trott should enjoy being the golden boy.
The doubts about Prior before the series were over his glovework, so it is very pleasing to note that there were no clangers from Prior. He kept well, most notably dismissing Marcus North with a fine catch at Edgbaston and stumping the very same batsman on the final day of the series from Graeme Swann’s bowling. He will probably be a little disappointed with his batting performances, batting at six you need to make centuries, especially when supported with a lower order as strong as England’s. He didn’t disgrace himself but will need to score more runs if he is to remain in the top six – of course, he might well move to seven anyway, given Flintoff’s departure. He can be very satisfied with his contribution to the series and should find himself awarded a central contract next month.
As an England fan it has been emotional to wave farewell to Andrew Flintoff from our Test side, but it is perhaps slightly comforting to do so in the knowledge that he wasn’t going to be able to do the magic anymore. Flintoff provided a world-class bowling performance in both innings at Lord’s (the second will always be remembered but the partnership with James Anderson in the first innings was probably more important in the context of the result) but it took its toll and his body clearly wouldn’t allow him to do so again. With the bat, he played with more freedom than he had done recently and the result was that he looked a lot better than in previous years. He played an enthralling innings at Edgbaston to set up a remote chance of victory for England but will have been disappointed to get out when a farewell century was there for the taking. Flintoff had a quiet career finale at The Oval but his run out of Ricky Ponting eased growing doubts in the England fans and was a fitting way to finish off.
Broad had a shocker early in the series, most notably at Cardiff. He improved at Lord’s but still appeared to be the weak link in the attack, and only when, as mentioned above, Strauss bowled him out at Edgbaston did he seem to find his groove. He was England’s best bowler by a country mile in the Headingley horror show, and clinched the series for England at The Oval with the finest spell of his career to date, winding up England’s top wicket-taker in the process. He contributed with the bat as well and will now cope with the tag of being the new Freddie Flintoff, but Broad won’t mind that. If people didn’t think that the progress made against West Indies didn’t really count for anything, they should take notice now.
It was a strange series for Swann; he took a respectable 14 wickets overall, yet went wicketless in two matches, and took eight in one. He stepped up on the final day of the series, bowling unchanged most of the day except for when England took the new ball, and even then he was back on after eight overs. He also played an understated role in the second innings at Lord’s, taking four wickets but being overshadowed by the Freddie Flintoff show. When he was good he was good, but when he was bad he really was pretty bad. That being said, his contributions with the bat were massive, only two of England’s top six scored more runs than him and his runs were never more significant then when he rammed home England’s advantage at The Oval. Swann is a great character to have in the team, the best spinner England have and a fine lower-order batsman; he will have better series than this one with the ball but he seemed to enjoy himself and will certainly not be disappointed with himself.
A strange series for Anderson. Disappointing at Cardiff, sublime in the first innings at Lord’s but subdued in the second. Immense in the first innings at Birmingham, but disappointing in the second. Poor at Headingley, and inoccuous at The Oval, going wicketless in both of the final two Tests. Anderson was so good when he was good that there won’t be too many questions about him yet, but he will know that he should and could have done better. Handy in the lower order with the bat, never more so than when he was an absolute star at Cardiff. He did lose his duckless streak though, sadly.
Shocking with the ball but utterly heroic with the bat. It is tempting to give Panesar an A*. He probably shouldn’t have been anywhere near the squad, but nobody expected him to stick out eleven overs yet he did.
Onions was hugely unfortunate to miss out on the series decider, he acquitted himself very well in the three Tests he played, most notably at Edgbaston where, in tandem with Anderson, he helped to skittle Australia out, with seven wickets lost in one session. It seemed that a fall guy was needed from the attack following Headingley so as the junior member of the attack it was Onions, but he will be back in the side soon enough. A decent contribution.
Another player whose place in the side was questionable at best, Harmison might well have played his last Test. He bowled a very good spell at Headingley, but unfortunately went to pieces from there. He worked that way in reverse at The Oval, where he wasn’t used all that much but cleaned up the Australian tail to get his own slice of glory; it is hard to begrudge someone who, for all his faults as a cricketer, is such a genuine and honest person. He never had a horrow show, nor did he bowl particularly well; probably what you would expect.
So, there you have it. No doubt plenty of you will disagree with the way we have rated the players; why not come and discuss it in the Ashes Forum?
Tomorrow, we look at Australia.