The Big Review (Part 1)


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England have regained the Ashes! Not that it was ever in doubt… A 3-0 scoreline does flatter our boys though, as I don’t think they were that much better than the Aussies. Here is my take on I think England performed throughout, with the Australian report following tomorrow.

Key (Batting): Average = average number of runs per innings; HS = Highest score; 50s/100s = number of half-centuries/centuries scored.

(Bowling): Average = average number of runs per wicket; 5wh = number of times they took 5 wickets in an innings; 10wh = number of times they took 10 wickets in a match.

England – 7/10

  • They may have regained the famous little urn with a hefty margin on paper, but on the pitch things weren’t so plain sailing. Not once did the team pass 400 in an innings, something that was a problem back in 2007 and 2008. The difference this time, though, is that the boys are strong enough mentally to overcome this. They are a unit who have been together for a good number of years now and have been through lots of experiences (good and bad) together. When one or two don’t perform there is always someone else who will rescue the team and that, I feel, is what meant that they won the series.

Alastair Cook (Runs – 277; Average – 27.7; HS – 62; 50s – 3) – 5/10

  • Since acquiring the captaincy Cook had found runs relatively easily to come by until this series. It was certainly a struggle for the captain with the bat, as he looked very scratchy at the start of the series before some serious determination saw him score more runs in the latter games. His captaincy at times was also very basic and predictable, but he did have a great time in the slips, despite dropping Shane Watson on 104 (he went on to get 176) in the final Test.

Joe Root (Runs – 339; Average – 37.66; HS – 180; 50s – 1; 100s – 1; Wickets – 3; Average – 11.33) – 6/10

  • The first blemish in the short international career of England’s new ‘golden boy.’ Moved up to open the batting at the start of the series, Root’s weakness on the front foot was exploited by Australia’s disciplined seamers. His 180 at Lord’s, though, was absolutely fantastic and, coupled with his 68 in the final match, proved that he can indeed flourish at this level. Was pretty handy with the ball too, picking up the crucial wickets of Usman Khawaja and Michael Clarke (both of whom had just passed 50) to set England on their way to winning the second Test.

 Jonathon Trott (Runs – 293; Average – 23.9; HS – 59; 50s -2; Wickets – 1; Average – 28) – 5/10

  • Like Root, this was Trott’s first really poor series since his introduction to the Test arena in 2009. He made plenty of starts (scores of 48, 58, 23, 49, 59 and 40 prove that) but could never convert those into ‘big’ scores. His dismissal in the second innings at Trent Bridge was controversial but, on the whole, Trott looked nervous every time he batted. He may have played stylishly but the furious gum chewing, walking towards the bowler and attempts to score at a run-a-ball were very unusual and showed how hard he was working to find his form of old.

Kevin Pietersen (Runs – 388; Average – 38.8; HS – 38.8; 50s – 3; 100s – 1) – 7/10

  • KP’s start to the series couldn’t have been more opposite to that of 2005 – three failures (including two single-figure scores) in his first four innings led to some fans calling for England’s greatest entertainer to be dropped from the side. He responded with one of his finest performances in the first innings at Old Trafford, ensuring England avoided the follow-on after yet another top-order collapse. That shut them up! He then hit two fifties in the final Test at The Kia Oval, the second of which (62 off just 55 balls) gave England hope that they could chase down the target set by the Aussies. The fact he was never at full fitness makes his performances that bit better and I think he’s silenced the doubters for a little while at least.

Ian Bell (Runs – 562; Average – 62.44; HS – 113; 50s – 2; 100s – 3) – 9/10

  • By far England’s best and most consistent performer, Ian Bell has to be the Man of the Series as well as their saviour. He became only the fourth Englishman to score hundreds in three successive Ashes Tests (including the last match of the 2010/11 series) and never looked like failing. His amazing stroke play was once again on show after what could be described as a lean patch over the last 18 months as the Warwickshire man stepped up to the plate when others struggled.

Jonny Bairstow (Runs – 203; Average – 29; HS – 67; 50s – 1) – 6/10

  • Was harshly dropped for the last game but showed the selectors what they were missing with a sparkling 62 for Yorkshire on the same day Shane Watson and Steve Smith were smashing England’s bowlers all over the place. It was a tough series for Bairstow, though, with plenty of cameos but no ‘daddy’ scores. He played some superb shots all over the wicket but just needs to score a hundred in England colours to prove his place in the team. His stats with the White Rose (8 first-class hundreds including scores of 205 and 180) show it is a matter of when and not if.

Matt Prior (Runs – 133; Average – 19; HS – 47; Catches – 18) – 4/10

  • If it wasn’t for his ‘keeping Prior would have received a lower score! His batting was shocking at times this series and the only person he can blame is himself. Most of his dismissals were the result of him giving his wicket away trying to be too aggressive. True, he likes to play his shots, but his supreme century to save the game against New Zealand in March shows he can also stay in for the long haul. However, a solid 47 at The Oval and awesome showing all series behind the stumps means Prior can head to Australia on a high.

Stuart Broad (Runs – 179; Average – 25.57; HS – 65; 50s – 1; Wickets – 22; Average – 27.45; 5wh – 2; 10wh – 1) – 8/10

  • A very good series for the lanky blonde, although not a controversial-free one. His decision not to walk in the first Test sparked rage, with Aussie coach Darren Lehmann being just one of many to publicly call him a cheat, but Broad let his bowling do the rest of the talking. He was, by far, the standout performer in the fourth Test at Durham, picking up 11 wickets in total, before securing another 4 wickets on the last day of the final Test. He may have liked a few more runs with the bat but it’s clear to see his form on that front has returned and, all in all, he has had a very good series.

Graeme Swann (Runs – 126; Average – 25.2; HS – 34; Wickets – 26; Average – 29.03; 5wh – 2) – 8/10

  • Swanny was definitely the workhorse of England’s bowling attack, bowling nearly 250 over in the series, and he deserved to be the leading wicket-taker in the series. Disappointing at Trent Bridge but almost single-handedly won England the second Test at Lord’s and didn’t look back. Some useful runs with the bat further proved how crucial he is to the side, although he did put down a couple of chances in the slips.

James Anderson (Wickets – 22; Average – 29.59; 5wh – 2; 10wh – 1) – 8/10

  • After his scintillating performance at Trent Bridge to give England the edge in an extremely tight encounter, Anderson never really replicated that form throughout the rest of the series. He bowled tight, disciplined lines but seemed just too good for the batsmen, beating their bats numerous times. A 4-fer in the final game, including a spectacular caught-and-bowled, will have elevated his confidence though and it’s certain the leader of England’s attack will once again prove himself a decisive factor in the return series starting in November.

Steve Finn (Wickets – 2; Average – 58.5) – 3/10

  • Finn just didn’t look right in the opening Test and I feel dropping him was the right choice. He needs to regain the form he’s lost and there is no better place to do that than county cricket. I do feel he or Tremlett should have been picked for the final game, however, and no doubt Finny will prove that he also thinks that should have been the case in the upcoming one-day series.

Tim Bresnan (Runs – 103; Average – 25.75; HS – 45; Wickets – 10; Average – 29.6) – 7/10

  • After replacing Finn for the second Test, Bresnan did a great job in the next three games before a stress fracture of the back ruled him out for the final match. It was great to see the big man back in form after a dodgy elbow caused him to bowl like a drain last year. His delivery to remove David Warner at Durham was first class and crucial runs with the bat yet again show that the most underrated player in the side is truly back to his best – let’s just hope he’s fit by November.

Chris Woakes (Runs – 42; Average – 42; HS – 25; Wickets – 1; Average – 97) – 6/10

  • It was very hard for Woakes, making his Test debut against Australia in an Ashes series. Despite the fact England were 3-0 up and playing for pride, making your first appearance in a game like this is still special and rather nerve-wracking. I think his performance with the ball was ok, nothing special, but if he can learn to move it off the pitch and become a bit more consistent then he will prosper on the international stage. A first-class bowling average of 25 proves that the talent is there. It was his batting that struck me, however – he played a glorious cover drive for four off the first ball of his Test career and was very positive in both innings. He may have tried to be too attacking in the end during his first innings but if the light had held out I think he and Prior could have won England the game in the second. I reckon he will become a world-beater in a few years.

Simon Kerrigan (Wickets – 0; Average – N/A; Economy – 6.62) – 2/10

  • Poor, poor Simon Kerrigan. Brought in for the final game as a result of Monty Panesar’s late-night shenanigans, the left-arm spinner had a performance many an international cricket has dreamt of the night before their debuts. He wasn’t helped by the fact he was told just 90 minutes before the start that he was playing and the nerves he hadn’t had time to control were there to see. He struggled to bowl two balls in the same area and Shane Watson carted him here, there and everywhere. I think Cook should have let him bowl on the second day but there you go. Definitely not ready for international cricket yet but hopefully we’ll see him in England whites again in a few years.
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