Posted by: tootingtrumpet | February 20, 2009

The Wisden Trophy Third Test Report Cards

Antigua England West Indies CricketAfter the debacle at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antiguans should be walking tall today after preparing a pitch and ground that gave cricket fans a marvellous Test match. In the aftermath of the Stanford collapse, Antiguans will need plenty of that spirit  – The Trumpet and all at 99.94 wish them well.

Chris Gayle – Can look a million dollars at the crease, but, possibly understandably after the abortive Second Test, he struggled to summon the concentration to play a big innings. Was unusually diffident in his captaincy and will look forward to Barbados.

Devon Smith – As he has done throughout his career, he gutsed it out to see off the new ball, then failed to cash in. Will come under pressure from Lendl Simmons for his place, but his excellent catching may keep him in the team.

Ramnaresh Sarwan – Made 200 runs in the match, despite playing a foolish shot attempting to go to a first innings century with a six. Possibly in the form of his life and critical to his team’s success.

Ryan Hinds – Batted a bit and bowled a bit, but he is a bits and pieces player in a team that’s better than that. Might just be given a second chance in Bridgetown, but lacks Test class.

Shiv Chanderpaul – Doesn’t look fluent, but never has. Nearly four hours at the crease in the second innings rearguard was Chanderpaul doing his thing. Due a big one.

Brendan Nash – A quiet match for the hard man at 6. Nevertheless, underlined his reputation as Steve Waugh lite by gritting it out for three hours without ever looking in.

Denesh Ramdin – Went first ball in the first dig, then played a horrible cross-batted shot to a ball he should have let go to place his team in real difficulties in the second innings. Has no rival for the gloves, which is fortunate from his point of view.

Jerome Taylor – Came bumping down to earth after his heroics at Sabina Park. Showed the benefit of bowling straight by nailing Flintoff with a shooter.

Sulieman Benn – Found this pitch much harder work than Sabina Park’s but showed good temperament by plugging away. If he didn’t know before, he now knows that Test cricket is a hard way to make a living.

Daren Powell – Has pace, but is curiously unthreatening and was treated somewhat contemptuously by the batsmen. Batted for well over two hours as a nightwatchmen in the first innings, which stood him in good stead when batting to save the match in the fifth day’s gathering gloom – evidence, as if it were needed, that Test cricket rewards heart as much as skill.

Fidel Edwards – After a quiet match in Jamaica, his heart must have sank as he saw the usual Recreation Ground pitch. To his credit, he bowled fast and troubled all the batsmen. Will be a real threat once he has a pitch with just a little pace in it. Was coolness personified with bat in hand and eleven men all around him – 34 minutes of batting to deliver the draw that means England have to win both remaining Tests to clinch the series.

Andrew Strauss – After the debacle of Sabina park’s 51 all out, it needed a strong mind to blot out the lack of preparation time for the pitch and the football pitch markings intruding on to the strip. But Strauss has a strong mind and did so, to score a magnificent first innings century to inoculate England from defeat. Did he bat on too long before declaring (twice)? The Trumpet reckons 128 overs on a fourth and fifth day pitch should be enough for the bowlers – had Gayle got his eye in, 400 would have been chased down very quickly.

Alastair Cook – Looks a Test match batsman again, but two half-centuries showed that his weakness in failing to cash in has not gone away.

Owais Shah – Announced his return to Test cricket with some brutally well-timed stokes and booked his place for the rest of the series at the very least. Perished in the team’s cause second time around.

KP – Seemed out of sorts and unusually quiet throughout the match. Still made useful runs, but finished the match nursing a hand struck by a Daren Powell drive as England crowded the bat. Will come back strong, but a scan will tell us if that will be Bridgetown or not.

Colly – Another hundred, his third in the last five Tests, but build a position from which to push for the win. Probably doesn’t care what anyone thinks any more, rightly so.

Andrew Flintoff – Got an unplayable shooter first up, then groped around in the second dig to bag a pair. Again looked England’s most likely bowler, even when obviously in pain on the fifth day. Great heart, but why doesn’t he take more wickets and why is he so injury-prone? A scan will tell us if he will play in Bridgetown, but I suspect the IPL will be the next place we see him, flat out for four overs and biffing for thirty balls – his body should be able to match his heart for that workload.

Matt Prior – Let through plenty of byes on a pitch that would have tested Prasanna Jayawardene. Someone has told him to be quiet and concentrate on the core skills of keeping and batting – to his credit, he has listened and is developing into an English Brad Haddin, though not quite as good in either discipline yet.

Stuart Broad – Growing up into our Mitchell Johnson – not quite as quick (at least, not yet) but probably better with the bat when not running himself out. Will remember the match he snared Chanderpaul twice and Sarwan once. Can only get better which augurs well for England.

Graeme Swann – Bowled with imagination, courage and, critically, personality to deliver a great performance that came within a whisker of winning the match for his team. Offers less class than Monty, but so much more in all other departments. Seems to be Number One spinner already.

Stephen Harmison – Brought in because it was felt that the pitch would suit him, but it didn’t. Needed to show leadership with Flintoff injured and a Test win there for the taking, but couldn’t find the ball to break through. Tried hard, but is he trying hard enough?

Jimmy Anderson – Bowled well, but couldn’t find the edge nor force the batsman to miss a straight one. Did two shifts as nightwatchman and really should have cleared off much more quickly second time around. Must play the remaining matches even if Flintoff is passed fit.

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Responses

  1. nice test report mate

  2. Yeah agree with all that, nice one

  3. Despite the heroics that was a Test England should have won after scoring so heavily in the first dig.

    Hindsight is brilliant and with that light shining brightly in mind I think it is fair to say that the nightwatchman when 304 ahead with nine second innings wickets in hand on the third evening was a grave error of judgement.

  4. I think that’s a very fair point Nesta. England, of late, seem uneasy with the concept that they might be ahead in a game, and when your first instinct is to not lose, rather than win, you usually don’t win.

    And I have to agree with Toots – at some point, all the bleating about Andrew Flintoff’s ‘heart’ will have to stop and people will need to look at his results – I’m afraid a 31 batting avg and 32 bowling avg are rather undistinguished, and I don’t see these numbers improving. Unless a miracle occurs, I think Flintoff will be remembered as a decent allrounder who had some extraordinary performances in the middle of the noughties. In short, more Harmison than Botham, in performance at least.

  5. England had enough time to finish off West Indies in the second innings, I think playing half fit bowlers was their main mistake.

  6. Thanks for the replies.

    Nightwatchman? Possibly okay the night before, but should have hit out or got out the next day. One could argue that Powell’s nightwatchman knock saved the match for WI.

    With all the fitness stuff they do these days, why is it that so few pacemen seem to be able to play consistently once they get to thirty or so? McGrath, Hadlee, Curtly and Courtney (certainly esrly in their careers) didn’t have all the physios buzzing around them and they seemed to play every game .

  7. “Test cricket rewards heart as much as skill”

    beautiful explanation of why we love this game.

    i think its unfair to rag on flintoff, simply because judging him on stats alone is a great disservice. had flintoof been bowling knowing that harmy and anderson were being dangerous and getting wickets, he would have done a much better job. his spell when taylor and ramdin were in was fantastic, one of the best this year.

    the fault lies with anderson and especially harmison – how the fuck could they not dismiss the windies in 130 overs??

    at a talk on cricket in karachi yesterday with saad shafqat osman samiuddin (writers for cricinfo) one thing we mentioned was that pakistan really needs institutions in place to improve. but enlgand is a great example that even with the best institutions you can end up with a shit team. this is nothing like the england circa 2003-05, this is the old england which just doesn’t know how to win.

  8. karachi – The England team are a bit better than you describe, but your point about institutions is a good one. Perhaps Pakistan needs stability, rather than institutions.

    Anyway, I am very much looking forward to welcoming Pakistan back into Test cricket with a fascinating match vs SL in prospect. I hope the young opener Shehzad gets a spot and I hope you get to the ground to see a bit of it. I hope to write something on the green caps with the big stars over the weekend here and would appreciate any comments you might make.

  9. Fintoff needs a stock bowler at the other end. That Ashes ’05 team had Giles, Hoggard and Jones who bowled tightly (Hoggy & Jones dangerous too), with Flitoff and Harmison as the go-to chaps.

    No often you saw them bowling in tandem. It’s a different game with Broad or Anderson serving up a four ball every over at the other end.

    Broad will get better, but I’m continually frustrated by Anderson’s inability to bowl a consistent line when looking for swing.

  10. To be in position to be able to win and not to win in the end has been a regularity for England team. If you see above report card and compare both teams on the basis of how many performers each team had, England outweighs West Indies. Still, there is a lack of tactics, as seen in Anderson’s batting to save Shah’s wicket, possibly England need a better coach than Flower.

    Agree totally about Flintoff, it is time Flintoff, the injured Flintoff is dropped. Teams need morale boost and Flintoff gives it, but that is not the only thing a team needs. One Swann wicket can boost the morale. Another Broad wicket can boost it further. England needs to break the Flintoff shackles and search for other talents sooner.

    Harmison is awful, how many times does he get sick in a series? He is excellent at home, and that is where he should be considered for a squad, not even playing XI.

    Another point is, England desperately need an attacking opener at the top along side Cook or Strauss, either of them should drop one position down. Both of them play at same pace and if the opposition decides not to take their wicket(that is a joke, just thinking a absurd possibility), Cook finds it difficult to score, as he did in England’s second innings. There was a selfishness in that Cook innings which I totally hated to see.

  11. England had 128 overs to get 10 wickets. That should have been enough. I don’t think the timing of the declaration was the problem.

  12. Dropping a fit Flintoff would be madness. I admit there are fleeting moments when I’d like Ponting sent back to Tasmania to play under Dan Marsh but common sense soon returns.

    Flintoff provides more to the team than his stats suggest and he is a vital ingredient if England are to rediscover the secret of success.

  13. Crikfan – The need for an attacking opener is such that I feel counties should be instructed to play stokemakers in that slot to see who can do it. Malan is the best bet, but he is very inexperienced.

    Samir – I agree.

    Nesta – There’s a real question about whether Flintoff will ever be fit again. His ability to last three consecutive Tests is in doubt.

  14. Well that’s good news from an Australian Ashes retaining perspective Toots.

    Flintoff is regarded as the most dangerous English bowler by some distance as Justin Langer’s statements post international retirement and while playing for Somerset attest.

    Even on one leg he outbowled Harmison and Anderson and I can see the British press screaming and unfairly blaming the IPL when he breaks down again in your summer.

  15. Nesta – I suspect nobody will blame the IPL, though I may be wrong. Most will just blame Flintoff or say that it’s one of those things.

    Flintoff is our best bowler, but the evidence is there that he is not our most dangerous. As a spearhead, he is too easy to survive against (as an average of 32 and a strike rate of 65 shows (and these are not misleading figures). He is at his best as a third or fourth seamer banging it in, then reversing it, after more incisive bowlers have broken through at the other end. With an action built solely on strength and a firm wrist, and never having worked at his bowling (always claiming to be a batsman), he is vulnerable when his strength is compromised.

    The discarded Hoggard takes his wickets at 30, but at the significantly better strike rate of 56.

    It’s a strange thing, but Flintoff is such an alpha male, but really needs cleverer bowlers and batters around him. Botham, though hardly clever in the conventional sense, was a very clever cricketer with bat and ball – Flintoff doesn’t seem to be.

  16. There’s a faint silver lining, but it’s stitched together with too many ‘if’s. If Flintoff could stay fit, if Jones could get and stay fit, we might have a bowling attack worthy of the name, with Flintoff as 3rd seamer (behind Jones and Broad, and Swann providing a little more with both bat and ball than Giles (yes, I’m harking back to England’s ’05 vintage – memories are all I have). Four good bowlers.

    There’s a lot – 51 ao aside (please!) – about the batting to like. Neither Strauss nor Colly would get into any of the current top Test sides, but I like having them in ours. Cook’s almost there. KP doesn’t need me to argue in his favour. The major failing is the grit outweighs the flair. I think the commenters above who’d like a banger coming in first up are right. Failing that I like Shah to add pace to the batting, going with the 4 bowlers above.

    Trouble with that is all those ‘if’s. Fit-Jones, Broad, Fit-Flintoff and Swann might bowl sides out. But Harmison, Sideshow, Quarter-Fit Flintoff, Jimmy and Swann – we know they can’t, and there’s five of them. They can wag with the bat, but it leaves not enough up top.

    Toots, do you really think Botham was as smart as that with the bat? Ball, yes, squeezed everything out of it, allied cricket smarts to his talents very well. But he should have averaged more than 33.5 with the bat.

    He mostly batted, like Fred, at 6, and, like Fred, was one spot too high.

    He averaged 29.23 at 6, with a SR of 59.76, and 5 centuries in 94 inns.

    At 7, he averaged 40.27, SR 62.8, 6 100s in 36 innings. Just saying.

    I’m a fairly frequent visitor here, but first time commenting (I think). Love what you do, Nesta et al.

  17. Thanks Mac, I’m sure Toots will be along soon to argue in Beefy’s favour!

    If I may add a word or two about the current series, I think that England did very well to be within a whisker of victory in Antigua after losing by an innings in Jamaica. It would seem that they are headed in the right direction and even without the ifs they are good enough to give themselves a chance in every match they play.

  18. Mac – Good to see you here.

    I felt Botham made runs when he needed to – I’d have to look at the stats to back that up. Too much to ask too much of a man taking nearly 400 wickets to prop up the batting too!!

    Talent-wise, he should have averaged 45.


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