Last night saw the somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion of this summers Ashes, with England taking the series 3-0 to retain the little urn after a light affected draw at the Kia Oval. Below are my ratings for the touring Australians, with A* being the top mark and an F given to those who had a stinker, for want of a better word.
Michael Clarke: B-
Clarke had an inconsistent series with the bat and by his own lofty standards he’ll be disappointed with his final output. He scored 381 runs at 47, but those figures are inflated by two red inkers and his magnificent 187 at Old Trafford. His captaincy was enterprising and he tried his best to manufacture a result at the Oval, but ultimately the old adage that a captain is only as good as his players rang true.
Brad Haddin: C+
Named vice-captain before the tour, Haddin added a veteran presence and stability to a role that had previously been shrouded in uncertainty. With the bat Haddin didn’t perform as well as he might have, although his gallant 71 at Trent Bridge nearly produced a famous win for the Aussies. However despite normally being a bit suspect with the gloves Haddin’s keeping was excellent and he snared a test series record 29 dismissals, all catches. He should keep his position come the return series this winter.
Shane Watson: B
Having entered the series unsure of his place within the team and the batting order, Watson’s 176 at the Oval should earn him a run at number three this winter. His strike rate of 64 was impressive and aside from Clarke I’d reason that Watson is the one batsman Australia have with genuine world-class ability. His bowling was stingy, and the 85.3 overs he bowled at just 2.09 runs per over enabled Clarke to attack from the other end. He stayed healthy throughout, another positive for the all-rounder.
Chris Rogers: C
Rogers’ story is a nice one, and his return to test cricket after a five-year absence went better than most people would have predicted. Rogers averaged 40 over his nine innings and at the top of the order that’s a very solid return, especially with all the uncertainty surrounding the identity of his opening partner. I’d imagine Rogers will remain in the selectors plans for the foreseeable future, although he turns 36 next week.
Steven Smith: B
Not originally named in the touring party, Smith scored heavily in the warm up games to give Darren Lehmann no choice but to insert him into the suspect top six. Smith at times flattered to deceive and his technique is far from ideal, but his unbeaten 138 at the Oval was a thing of beauty. At just 24 he could be the closest thing Australia have to a future captain, and his world-class fielding adds to his value. Also picked up four wickets with his leg spin, including a three wicket burst at Lords on the first evening.
Phil Hughes: D
Unfortunately for Hughes he suffered through a third successive Ashes where he was unable to impact positively upon the series. The Aussies tour to India in the spring highlighted his weakness against spin and Graeme Swann exploited that happily during Hughes two tests in this series. He actually started well with 81 not out at Trent Bridge, but his next three innings mustered just two (!) runs. His test future looks bleak.
David Warner: C-
Whenever anyone mentions Warner and the 2013 Ashes in the same breath in the future, it’ll be impossible to not immediately think ‘Walkabout’ and ‘Joe Root’. Once Warner did eventually get on the field in the third test he showed glimpses of his potentially devastating batting at the top of the order, but his final average of 23 from six innings leaves much to be desired. If I’m being honest I think Warner lacks the necessary skill to open the batting in tests, although he’s worth persisting with when the alternatives are Hughes and Usman Khawaja.
Usman Khawaja: D
Like many of his compatriots Khawaja has a fatal flaw against spin. He actually looked very comfortable against pace, but his inability to rotate the strike compounds his flaws and he only passed fifty once in six visits to the crease. Once a very bright prospect, Khawaja is in danger of being overtaken in the pecking order by the likes of Shaun Marsh.
Ed Cowan: F
One test, two innings and 14 runs comprised Cowan’s Ashes. The 31 year-old struggled mightily at Trent Bridge and was immediately dropped. It’s difficult to see him getting another chance.
James Faulkner: B
The all-rounder made his debut at the Oval after the British public had to listen to Shane Warne bang his drum for two months, and he didn’t disappoint. His six wickets came in unusual circumstances with England pushing for a win before the light expired, but he did an excellent job of stemming the flow of runs with his canny variations and accurate yorkers. His batting looked explosive during his brief time at the crease, although as with his bowling it’s difficult to read too much into his performance because of the game situation. The one difficulty Faulkner should encounter as he looks to forge a test match career is that Australia already have an all-rounder in Watson.
Ryan Harris: A
Had Harris played at Trent Bridge the Aussies may well have won a test on this tour. The injury prone fast bowler picked up 24 wickets at just 19 apiece across four tests, staying fit throughout until he pulled his hamstring on the final evening of the series. The equation with Harris should be simple for the rest of his career; when fit he has to play.
Peter Siddle: C
Siddle was steady Eddie (or Peter) throughout the five tests, performing roughly as he was expected to. He averaged 31 for each of his 17 wickets and his economy was a good but not great 2.82 as he proved once more that he is Australia’s Mr. Reliable. Because of the rest of the attack’s fragility Siddle’s durability is probably his most valuable attribute.
Mitchell Starc: C-
The left-arm fast bowler was in and out of the side twice during the series, eventually playing three tests. His final statistics were a shade below the level of Siddle, but any southpaw who can crack 90mph on a speed gun retains great value. The slow, dry wickets didn’t suit Starc this summer, so look for him to be more succesful on faster surfaces down under during the winter.
Nathan Lyon: C-
Lyon appears to be just good enough to hold down a regular test position, but he also faces constant questions about his place thanks to his inability to skittle sides out on helpful surfaces. He reminds me a lot of Australia’s spinner on the 2009 tour, Nathan Hauritz.
James Pattinson: D
Pattinson disappointed before his tour was prematurely ended by injury, averaging a bloated 43 with the ball. He also went at 3.36 runs per over, although he demonstrated good pace. He could struggle to regain his place when healthy due to the performances of Siddle and Harris, although his natural talent will ensure he gets plenty more opportunities to pull on the baggy green. In a way he’s the Aussies version of Steven Finn.
Jackson Bird: D-
Bird played just the one test, at Durham, and didn’t make much of an impact as the tourists fell to another defeat. As with Pattinson the Austalians strength in depth in the pace bowling department will make life difficult for Bird as he looks to build on his three test caps.
Ashton Agar: C-
This was the most difficult grade to give, purely because of Agar’s incredible debut with the bat at Trent Bridge. He didn’t bowl well in either of his two tests, but time is on his side and if his bowling does develop he’ll have a future as a spin bowling all-rounder. Whatever happens, he’ll always have Trent Bridge.
So there they are, my final Ashes grades for the Australians. Let me know who you’d have graded differently in the comments, or tweet me @fredjstanley. I’ll be back with my grades for the victorious England side tomorrow.