Posted by: tootingtrumpet | January 5, 2014

Fifth Ashes Test – The Report Cards

Alastair Cook fails to find respite on his farm.

Alastair Cook fails to find respite on his farm.

Alastair Cook (7 and 7) – A broken man with too much on his mind, he needs to regroup for the ODI series and then the somewhat less challenging prospect of Sri Lanka in late Spring. That a man with such reserves of mental fortitude should be so shell-shocked, is testament to the brilliance of his opponents and the shortcomings of his team. He will be back, as key batsman and captain, but he has a big summer ahead of him.

Michael Carberry (0 and 43) – Who might not be back, despite achieving slightly more success in this Test by trusting his natural game. No doubt his supporters will point to the fact that he was only 14 runs off being England’s top run scorer and to his dynamic fielding, but he looks a notch below Test class and, at 33, he’s unlikely to make that step up now.

Ian Bell (2 and 16) – His steer of a rare wide delivery from Ryan Harris straight to the man placed for exactly that shot, served as a coda to a tour in which he threatened to score big but kept finding a way to get out. With squad reconstruction underway, he is likely to find himself at 3 for the English summer, and will have a key role in integrating new batsmen into the middle order.

Kevin Pietersen (3 and 6, 0-17) – At his best, he belies his stature with fast, light feet and a wand of a bat that has brought over 8000 Test runs and produced some of England’s greatest innings. Weighed down in a beaten team, he looked heavy-footed and mechanical in outside-edging to slip and inside-edging to short leg. English cricket’s iconic player has ridden the rollercoaster of team and individual success and failure before and must hope that he is given the chance to ride high again. With Jonathan Trott unlikely to return immediately, England will need KP’s experience, despite (I’m sure) the howl of Twitter calling for him to pay the ultimate price for this Ashes carnage.

Gary Ballance (18 and 7) – He found himself in desperately difficult circumstances to attempt to get his Test career off the ground, but showed some ticker in wearing a Mitchell Johnson rocket that nearly lifted head and helmet off in one go. Got into a terrible position in failing to keep out a bit of a grubber in the second dig – so the word will already have gone out around cricket’s analysts: attack him with the short ball.

Ben Stokes (47 and 32, 6-99 and 2-62) – Undaunted by the chaos, he kept running in hard to earn his eight wickets in the match, carrying through his positive intent to his batting, a mix of considered defence and attacking strokeplay. The Durham all-rounder is suddenly crucial to England’s future, but is he good enough to bat at Six in Tests? If not, is he good enough to deliver 20 overs per day? He has bought himself some time to prove doubters (like me) wrong come the summer.

Jonny Bairstow (18 and 0, 4ct) – The Yorkie is now 14 Tests into his career, with just 4 fifties and no centuries and looked about as likely to improve on that record in this Test as Piers Morgan would be facing up to Mitch and friends. All but steered a catch directly to David Warner from his first ball in the second innings and was out thrusting hard hands at his third delivery, completing two terrible dismissals for a man who has played 12 of those Tests as a specialist batsman. If Matt Prior isn’t back for the summer, it’s unlikely to be Jonny Bairstow who takes his place.

Scott Borthwick (1 and 4, 1-49 and 3-33) – Last summer, he averaged ten runs more than Durham team-mate Ben Stokes, but looked more of a Ten than an Eight in his brief time at the crease. Took ten fewer wickets in 2013 than his county colleague too and one could see why. At 23, he still has a lot of work to do on an action that lacks the energy through the crease that generates the dip, spin and bounce that characterised his opposite number’s work.

Stuart Broad (30* and 42, 2-65 and 2-57) – He continues to look England’s best bowler, the only one who would be anywhere near a place in the Australian attack. Now switches his attention to ODIs and T20Is and will bowl a lot more overs before he’s back in the whites. With Swann’s retirement, he looks England’s most important player, required to attack and defend with the ball and score runs – in all three formats, that might be too much.

Jimmy Anderson (7 and 1*, 1-67 and 2-46) – He found conditions – for once – conducive to his sideways movement through the air and off the seam, but was outbowled again by Ryan Harris. Finishes the tour with 14 wickets and nobody saying that he is the second best bowler in the world behind Dale Steyn. He will be looking forward more than most to the two Tests on home territory against some chilly Sri Lankans.

Boyd Rankin (13 and 0, 0-34 and 1-47) – Was he fit? Cramp was the explanation for his first innings travails, but he looked down on pace and hostility compared to previous appearances in international cricket. Like another tall England bowler, Stephen Harmison, when he couldn’t bang it in, his only alternative was floating it up – neither mode of attack troubled the Australians unduly.

David Warner (16 and 16) – Two disappointing innings, curiously each comprising 16 runs from 20 balls with three boundaries, his mind probably already be turning to the limited overs stuff. Warner’s work was done in the first four Tests, earning his beers with over 500 runs and some dynamic fielding. He is also acting as a poster boy for the return of The Australian Cricketer, the mythical self-taught kid from the wrong side of the tracks who never takes a backward step. After John Buchanan and Mickey Arthur, we cam thank Darren Lehmann for that.

Chris Rogers (11 and 119) – There was the tiniest of sniffs for England in the Australian second innings with Warner, Watson, Clarke and Smith managing just 38 runs between them. But, at the other end, dear old Chris Rogers was playing like it was a Sunday afternoon testimonial – when he reached his century, he had contributed over half Australia’s total and England’s target was well out of sight. Before the series, I had speculated on how much I would enjoy a century from Rogers in the city in which he was born, but I thought that indulgence would be in the context of Australian consolation for a series defeat powered by Trott, Prior, Swann and co. At least I got the Rogers century bit right.

Shane Watson (43 and 9, 0-5) – Gave us an LBW for old time’s sake and dropped a sitter at slip, but all that is forgotten in the joy of the whitewash. Much tougher work awaits in the persons of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, but Watson, like Johnson, can legitimately bask in the glow of redemption after his struggles in England.

Michael Clarke (10 and 6) – Like his opposite number, captaincy in back-to-back Ashes series has taken its toll on his batting – but history is written by the winners and there’s not much talk of that in the media. No sign of fatigue in his on field decision-making, but he has siege guns at his disposal – and that always helps.

Steve Smith (115 and 7) – Found a partner in the redoubtable Brad Haddin and set about yet another Australian first innings rebuilding effort showing that his rustic technique, which built his Perth century with legside biffs, could be adapted to hit the boundaries through the offside. Just a few months ago, a drifting career was rescued by Darren Lehmann – and he now has three centuries in his last six Ashes Tests, two of them critical knocks under pressure.

George Bailey (1 and 46) – His second innings allayed any fears of Australian defeat and he caught well at short leg, but might be found out away from home in a side less dominant. He has some limited overs work to come before that, and might fancy his chances of clattering English bowlers halfway to Alice Springs in the pajama game.

Brad Haddin (75 and 28, 4ct) – First innings runs are the hard currency of Test batsmanship – Haddin has five half-centuries in five Tests. It’s worth recounting exactly what the Australian keeper has done in those innings; in Brisbane, he advanced the score from 100-5 to 295 all out; in Adelaide, it was 257-5 to 529-9; in Perth, 143-5 to 267-6; in Melbourne, 112-5 to 204 all out. Bowlers always owe a debt to their keeper, but it’s seldom as great as that which Mitch and his mates owe Haddin. He missed out on the Compton-Miller Medal for Man of the Series to the lefty quick, but there’ll be plenty of holders of that gong in the future who will have done much less than the man who delivered like Adam Gilchrist.

Mitchell Johnson (12 and 4, 3-33 and 3-40) – Under that ridiculous moustache, the smile kept breaking through as another batsman flailed about trying to get a bat on ball or themselves away from it. His 37 wickets were only half the story – he exerted a hold over all the England batsmen, but especially the lower half of the order, that took plenty of wickets at the other end too. What’s he going to be like if he rediscovers his swing? For now, he can reflect that the ghost of Harold Larwood must be wearing a wry grin now.

Peter Siddle (0 and 4, 3-23 and 0-24) – Bowled precisely to plans and backed up his colleagues perfectly. He’s a winner at last, after playing all five Tests in three Ashes series defeats – a reward for his wholehearted efforts and discipline.

Ryan Harris (22 and 13, 3-36 and 5-25) – A magnificent display of the art of fast-medium bowling on a pitch that gave him just enough help to trouble all the batsmen, all the time. An old-fashioned looking bowler bowled in an old-fashioned way, snapping his wrist at the point of release to provoke the zip and nibble off the wicket that, allied to hitting the length that cannot be played comfortably off front or back foot, proved much too much for England’s batsmen. Connoisseurs of bowling will be lining up to watch him, Steyn and Philander interrogate techniques and temperament in South Africa.

Nathan Lyon (1* and 6*, 1-57 and 2-70) – Though the figures don’t show it after some late biffing from Broad and Stokes, he bowled beautifully, extracting lift and turn from the revs his big wind-up and fast release action imparts to the ball. Just a few short weeks ago, England had a clear upper hand in the spin department: now Lyon has 19 wickets at 30 against his direct opponents’ 14 wickets at (avert your eyes now if you’re English) 64.

You can tweet me at @garynaylor999

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Responses

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    Good work, as ever, with the reviews, no doubt it was tough viewing through English eyes.

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