Yesterday I gave my opinion on the performance of the touring Australian squad during this summers recently concluded Ashes series, and today I’ll be doing the same for the England side who prevailed 3-0. The same grading system applies, A* being the top mark available and F being the worst.
Alistair Cook: C-
The England skipper enjoyed a fantastic time with the bat during his first series in charge in India, however since then he’s struggled to score as prolifically as usual. Cook passed fifty thrice during the series, but never made it past 62 and his captaincy also left a lot to be desired. It’s not so much the cautious field placings that I dislike, more Cook’s lack of initiative with regards to bowling changes and the batting order. Still, 3-0 is 3-0 and on the whole Cook will be more than satisfied with his first Ashes in charge.
Matt Prior: D
Prior averaged a meager 19 with the bat and at 31 may have shown signs he is beginning to decline. Prior’s glove-work also left a little to be desired, although he may have become a victim of failing to live up to his own high standards behind the stumps. His place in the team at number seven and as vice-captain is still secure, nonetheless.
Kevin Pietersen: C+
While KP registered three fifties and a ton during the series he averaged just 38, which much like the two men above him is some way below his usual output. Pietersen’s innings on the fifth evening at the Oval threatened the spectacular, and had he perhaps lasted another five overs the game may have reached a conclusion. Worrying injury doubts linger, and the return Ashes series this winter could be the 33 year-olds last against the Aussies.
Joe Root: C
English crickets ‘golden boy’ had an up and down series, striking an imperious 180 at Lord’s but adding just 159 more runs in his other nine innings. When the new ball nips around it appears to give him serious problems owing to his propensity to hang on the back foot and it’s an area of his game which he’ll have to tighten up if he wants to succeed this winter. His bowling proved useful as he picked up three wickets at 11 runs apiece, so it was rather surprising that he only bowled 16 overs over the course of the five matches.
Jonathan Trott: C-
A relatively poor series for England’s Mr. Dependable, who scored two fifties but also registered two ducks including his first ever golden in test cricket. Trott’s form has been worryingly poor for a while now, so he’ll be keen to perform as well this winter as he did the last time he toured Oz. Another aging member (32) of England’s core.
Jonny Bairstow: C-
I was very surprised to learn that Bairstow and Trott’s averages during the series were almost identical (29 and 29.3, respectively). Clearly Trott’s track record brought him a little extra time, while Bairstow was dropped for the fifth test at the Oval in favour of Chris Woakes. The fact that Bairstow keeps being given opportunities and keeps blowing them doesn’t bode well for his future, although he remains Prior’s understudy with the gloves.
Ian Bell: A
If Ryan Harris stood out for the Australians, Bell was comfortably England’s best player during this series. Three tons and two fifties helped Bell average 62 as at times he almost single-handedly carried the hosts batting and without his centuries at Trent Bridge and Durham the result would have been different. Bell had a fantastic home summer against India in 2011 and though he has struggled since then this summer reaffirmed his class and you could reasonably refer to the series as ‘Bell’s Ashes’
Chris Woakes: D
Woakes only had one test to impress and unfortunately he failed to deliver. His bowling was actually quite sharp and he managed to crack 85mph on a couple of occasions, but he failed to make the ball talk and his accuracy wasn’t up to scratch. His batting looked slightly better, but it’s difficult to see him in England whites again any time soon.
Tim Bresnan: B-
Big Bres had a solid series, although he wasn’t selected for the first test and missed the fifth through injury. He appears to have regained his sharpness with the ball and his ten wickets came at under 30. Bresnan’s batting remains a valuable asset, and there probably isn’t a better number eight in test cricket. Andy Flower will be hoping he’s fully fit for the winter to take advantage of the rumoured green wickets that are being prepared by the Aussies.
Stuart Broad: B
Broad had an excellent series highlighted by several spells of hostile short bowling directed at the Australian captain Michael Clarke. He was a different bowler to the one who was humbled by the South Africans in 2012 and after he missed the final three tests in the previous Ashes series through injury it was encouraging to see him sustain a high performance level for all five tests. His contributions with the bat were welcome, unfortunately they were overshadowed by his decision not to walk in the first test at Trent Bridge (a decision which I fully support, by the way).
James Anderson: B-
The Burnley Lara began the series with perhaps his finest game in an England shirt, holding his nerve as he took 10 wickets to deny the Australians victory on that tense fifth morning. That day there was only one man who looked capable of taking the three wickets needed, and Anderson didn’t let his country down. Unfortunately his marathon spell that day appeared to take its toll as the series wore on and his output suffered as a result, but his contribution at Trent Bridge really was one of the great England bowling performances.
Graeme Swann: A-
Swann led the hosts wicket taking charts with 26 dismissals, clocking up a mammoth 249 overs in the process. Tina turners were prepared for Swann’s benefit and he made sure the ground staff’s hard work wasn’t put to waste. He may find it harder in Australia this winter, but significantly his elbow stood up to his heavy workload and with no obvious understudy he is still, in my opinion, the teams most valuable player.
Steven Finn: D-
When I saw Finn at Lords last summer against South Africa he looked like the sides most threatening bowler and looked like a matter of time before he took the next step in his development and became a world-class quick. Sadly Finn hasn’t fared nearly as well since and with a host of young bowlers shining in county cricket he’d better buck his ideas up soon if he’s to fulfill his enormous potential.
Simon Kerrigan: F
As unfortunate as it was to see Kerrigan yip up at the Oval, you’re not going to last long on the big stage if you can’t perform. When you look back at majority of the sides debuts they shone immediately: Swann took a wicket in his first test over, Cook scored a ton, KP made two fifties at Lords in an Ashes contest and so on. Playing Kerrigan was a gamble that backfired on the England selectors; don’t expect them to be bitten twice this winter by taking him as Swann’s understudy down under.
Thanks for reading, and as usual if you disagree with any of the grades I’ve given you can leave a comment or tweet me @fredjstanley.