Posted by: tootingtrumpet | January 7, 2011

The Ashes Series – England Report Card

How things started... and how things stayed

Andrew Strauss (307 runs av 44, sr 52) – Such is the measure of his achievement that he is now the first England captain to retain The Ashes against a full strength Australia since Sir Len Hutton in 1954-55. His captaincy revolved around three key elements: detailed planning off the field within a rock solid relationship with coach Andy Flower and bowling guru David Saker; attritional defensive cricket on the field, aiming to bowl maidens and build pressure; and an approach to the Tour which treated each match as a event in itself, to be won as intensity built. He showed again his ability to rally his men after bad days and matches when leading from the front at The Gabba, setting the tone for England’s extraordinary second innings with 110 from 188-1 (that became 517-1) and then, after the WACA flogging, inserting Australia at the MCG and seeing his strategy pay off with a close of play day One scoreboard that showed Aus 98, Eng 157-0. As with so many outstanding players, he made the excellent look ordinary and now has his place in the record books forever.

Alastair Cook (766 runs av 128, sr 53) – Records-busting run orgy in the most important slot in the order. With some judges, even some good ones, calling for his head, he went back to the technique that got him into the England side at 20 and found that his head position and front foot were just right and his balance returned. His extraordinary mental strength had never left him and his concentration and fitness allowed him to bat and bat, often under pressure, especially at The Gabba. Man of the Series

Jonathan Trott (445 runs av 89, sr 50) – England’s best Number 3 since David Gower and may prove to be even better than him, if not quite so good to watch. He concentrates hard, so hard that he seems unaware of anything other than the next ball – if it’s a bad one, he’ll hit it for four and if it’s a good one, he’ll leave or block it. It’s an uncomplicated approach that can leave opposition players and fans exasperated, but delight team-mates – he’s a kind of batting version of Glenn McGrath. Is due a fall back to earth, which may have started with his failure at the SCG, but will come again and be a fixture for years to come.

KP – (360 runs av 60, sr 64) – Just one monumental innings to set up the win that laid the ghost of Adelaide, but chipped in elsewhere and even got a wicket, catches and a run out. Australia’s pundits prior to the series saw him as England’s kingpin, but he’s more solid than spectacular these days. Will be very pleased to be at the heart of an Ashes win after missing out at the sharp end in 2009.

Colly (83 runs av 14, sr 47) – A series too far for a man whose technique – never completely reliable – deserted him completely before the end. As ever, he found a way to contribute with his work in the field, catching spectacularly at times and snaring Mike Hussey off the inside edge at the SCG. Has been granted the rare privilege to retire from Test cricket on his own terms in joyous celebration.

Ian Bell (329 runs av 66, sr 56) – In a stellar batting line-up, he often looked in the best nick of all, but was compelled to waste much of that form as so much scoring had been done by the top order. Looks at ease with himself, fit and strong physically and mentally, and knows that he has much work ahead of him, not least vs India in the summer.

Matt Prior (252 runs av 50, sr 78, 23 catches) – Athletic and confident when standing back, his keeping showed the benefit of a lot of hard work, but he was much less at ease standing up, fluffing the odd stumping chance that Swanny created. His batting recovered after its nightmare start as part of Siddle’s Gabba hat-trick, signing off with a century that flogged a defeated team. Needs to improve his approach to the use of the UDRS.

Tim Bresnan (35 runs, av 19 sr 32, 11 wickets@20/2.6)  – Must think Ashes cricket is easy, and cricket is easier for a bowler if he hits an awkward in-between length as consistently as the big Yorkie does. Won’t ever look like a thoroughbred, so will only be one poor performance away from calls to drop him, but will be in the England squad for years, bowling tight when the captain wants it. Classic team man.

Swanny (88 runs, av 22 sr 89,  15 wickets @40/2.7) – In some ways, the series his Australian critics expected: after all, better finger spinners than Swanny have failed on the hard wickets Down Under. In other interpretations, his ability to tie down almost every batsman except Mike Hussey allowed England to play the four man attack they favour and build pressure. He also has the undefinable quality of making something look like it’s about to happen even if it doesn’t. Loving every minute and why not?

Jimmy Anderson (24 wickets@26/2.9) – So he could swing the Kookaburra after all. Gave Strauss an option with the new and ageing ball which he controlled with the best wrist in cricket (alongside Dale Steyn and Zaheer Khan). Showed the priceless ability to dismiss good batsmen when they were set and remained fit for all five Tests, despite going home for the birth of his first child. Attack leader status earned.

Chris Tremlett (17 wickets@23/3.2) – I had seen a lot of Chris Tremlett at The Oval this summer and he surprised me – but not as much as he surprised the Aussies. Ran in with a lovely rhythm and then hit a length that drew batsmen forward reluctantly, because they feared bounce, a little swing and a little seam movement. At times far too good for batsmen to edge and a constant threat. Transformed descriptions like “quiet” and “lacking in heart” into “gigantic” and “awesome” while still appearing to be the same, rather unassuming character that played his first three Tests back in 2007. Very likely to be a first choice come the summer.

Steven Finn (14 wickets@33/43) – His dropping after the WACA defeat raised eyebrows, but the two Andies strategy did not have room for a man leaking 4.3 runs per over, even if he was taking wickets. As has been the case throughout, the Andies were right and the pundits wrong. Has learned a lot and will come again as a member of as strong a squad of English seamers as I can remember.

Stuart Broad (2 wickets@81/2.3) – Poor numbers… except that economy rate of 2.3, which showed how hard he was to get away and how rigorously England would stick to plans to bowl “dry”. Will play in plenty of Ashes Tests in the future.

The Tooting Trumpet, whom you can often find at Testmatchsofa.com and on Twitter at @garynaylor999 and @Fakeadil.

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Responses

  1. Nice one Toots, been waiting all day for this. Your analysis is a solid as England’s tour so nothing to add except congratulations. Your daily one over spells have been outstanding.

    • You’re very generous Nesta. At times, the overnight commentating has made me as ragged as Mitchell Johnson!

      • Yeppppppppppppppppppppp…………..Bugger….Can only agree with Nesta. It’s a wonderful effort to create the environment you do in here. Pleased for you at least :)

        An excellent side that played with great discipline, skill, class and collective spirit. A fine tour. Very impressed with the bowling down here. Onwards and upwards?

        • Japal – thanks as ever for the generous spirit of your comments.

          We rather thought onwards and upwards after 2005, but the bowlers never played together again as a unit (and SP Jones not at all), so the future is, deliciously, as unpredictable as ever.

  2. Harbajahan has 9 wickets in 4 tests in Australia (average 73 s/r 126)
    Murali has 12 wickets from 5 tests (average 75 s/r 131)

    Swann can hold his head high, his catching in the slips wasn’t too bad either…

    • Not taking anything away from Swann but if Murali played against the current Australian team the damage would be severe.

      Harby will get his chance next season and his stats will definitely improve if he bowls as well as he did the other day at Newlands.

      Swann did his job and did it well but he’ll be remembered, in Australia at least, more for his sprinkler than his bowling.

    • I agree with you Dirk. Swanny didn’t pull up any trees, but he was ultra-disciplined and didn’t let his head drop. He may be flattered by his Number 2 status in the rankings, but he’d walk into any side in world cricket with the possible exception of India (and once in, he wouldn’t be dropped).

      • They were disciplined. It was the great theme of the English squad. What discipline does is helps and lifts every other player in the team. Andy Flower has created a fantastic ethos and groundplan for them.

  3. Thanks for all the Ashes coverage, Toots. I especially like your approach in the over of the day posts.

    Needless to say, I have come to depend a lot on 99.94 for the insightful coverage, and the opportunity to voice my opinions and be sure to find sympathetic and knowledgeable readership.

    Are we doing any thing special for the ODI world cup? Either here or at Test Match Sofa?

    • As an Australian the World Cup is very important. And we still have hope, however forlorn, of a fourth consecutive title.

      We certainly won’t be ignoring it Kumar and with the English bullish and World T20 champs they probably fancy themselves too. Hopefully, we’ll have some Indian input as well.

      My tip at the moment is Sri Lanka but up to 6 teams have a realistic chance of taking the trophy home.

      Hopefully, the Australian selectors will use the upcoming series to fine tune their squad and they can get some hard match practise against a top team before heading over to the sub-continent.

    • Kumar – Thanks for your kind words. Much of what is good at 99.94 happens below the line from a worldwide group of knowledgeable cricket fans prepared to see through the hype and the partisanship that characterises much of the media, but also understand that one can support one’s team too.

      I know Test Match Sofa will be covering the World Cup with at least one game every day and I hope to get go on the mic at some point over there! I’ll be doing a Final Over of the Day whenever I see enough cricket to gather the material it requires (and finding six “balls” in an ODI is much harder than finding six “balls” in a session of Test cricket). There’ll be a Report Card or two and a Strauss Tapes from me too and Nesta will be along with his inimitable take I’m sure. Rajesh’s work here is always a pleasure too.

  4. Good work Toots, and thanks to both Toots and Nesta for top quality writing throughout the series. 99.94 is the first site I check for cricket writing each morning.

    Looking forward (in a sort of masochistic way) to the Australian report card …

    • Tomorrow Jason. Toots deserved first dibs. To the victor the spoils.

      • I’m looking forward to the Report Card Nesta! Thanks.

    • Jason – Thanks for the support and flattering words. I suspect that an Aus Report Card will be along soon.

  5. Always followed you over at the Graun but it’s my first post here:

    Great stuff. I have the impression to judge from various posts at Cricinfo that you have to be English to truly appreciate what a doughty cricketer Collingwood was. No wonder Warne sniped at him so much: he was the supreme competitor.

    • Thanks Abdullah. Colly had heart and a superb work ethic and just enough technique to make it as a Test player. If the likes of Umar Akmal had a tenth of Colly’s heart, he’d be talked of as the next Javed Miandad. if Chris Gayle had half of it, he’d have Sehwag’s numbers. If Sachin had all Colly’s heart, he’d be, well, he’d still be Sachin.

  6. Suspect most of the Aussies will be lining up for the cuts when their report cards are released.

    England just too good and Toots has summed it up perfectly. Well done.

    • Thanks Lev – I think you called it from Brisbane ball one, as did Nesta.


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