Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 25, 2009

The Ashes – England report card and a competition

237x237_ashes_urnAndrew Strauss – England’s best player. Seized the initiative when it mattered on the first day at Lord’s and the third morning at The Oval. Captained by numbers at times, but his decision to throw the ball to Stuart Broad after the Day Two lunchtime rain in Kennington tilted the urn sharply in England’s direction. Not yet in Brearley’s class in terms of strategy, he is England’s most phlegmatic skipper since the man who inspired Botham in 1981. Vaughan had many more weapons in 2005, so no praise is too high for Strauss’ emulation of his feat in 2009, and a nation recognised that in the roar that greeted his award of the Compton-Miller Medal for Man of the Series.

Alastair Cook – Disappointing with the bat, but led the charge at Lord’s that replicated (nearly) the charge at Edgbaston in 2005 that was so critical to getting England back in the each series. Took the catch that won The Ashes.

Ian Bell – Recalled again, he gave England his usual mix of “looking good and getting out” and just “getting out”. Has played 49 Tests now, but you would never guess that if you watched him.

Paul Collingwood – Played with superhuman concentration and heart to help save the Test in Cardiff, then batted spiritedly at Lord’s before losing form and looking terrible everywhere else. Might concentrate on the shorter game now – might have to.

Jonathan Trott – Handed a tough brief on debut (okay, the toughest brief) he played with an uncomplicated technique and unflustered temperament. If he backs this up in SA, England have their Mike Hussey (2006 version) in this 28 year-old.

Matt Prior – Batted like a Number Six and kept like a ‘keeper. Concentrating on the game and not the gob has done wonders for his glovework and foot movement. Likely to play 100 Tests now after a period in which England keepers came and went like Mötley Crüe groupies.

Andrew Flintoff – In a microcosm of his career, he didn’t do that much, but what he did won the Tests that matter to England fans in just the way that England fans like them won. Broken body now and it remains to be seen how much cricket he has left in him – neither England’s ODI and T20 sides nor the IPL will see much of Freddie, I feel.

Stuart Broad – Still learning what Test match bowling is all about, but got it gloriously right to rip the heart from the Australian batting at The Oval. Can bat like a left-handed Vaughan at times and can already point to an Ashes series in which his averages were a tick under being the “right way round”.

Graeme Swann – Give him a bat and he’ll biff the ball around until he’s out, with a word and a wink for whoever wants it (and plenty that don’t). Give him a ball and he’ll turn a few, flight a few and skid a few. Makes things happen and over-achieves consistently for a man who is somewhere between a county pro and a Test player. Took the wicket that sealed the wins in both London Tests. Will probably captain the T20 side after Colly steps down.

Jimmy Anderson – Looked jaded at The Oval, but gave a glimpse of his control of swing in the first innings of the Third Test, with five wickets and some balls far too good to edge. Incredibly, he was to take just one wicket in the second half of the series. Batted like a man possessed at Cardiff to eek out a draw that felt like a win – maybe two wins.

Stephen Harmison – Just when it seemed that England had wasted a spot on Harmy, he ripped through the tail at The Oval and was an Ashes hero again. Like Flintoff, it’s probably his last act as a Test player.

Ravi Bopara – Unveiled some wonderfully crisp shots, but, if truth be told, it was a bit much for Ravi and he was fortunate to average 15. He’ll be back.

Graham Onions – Bowled a good “Alderman / Hilfenhaus” line and was a bit unlucky to miss out on two Tests. Will vie with Jimmy Anderson for one spot in the future I feel, as both bowlers need a bit in the atmosphere to help them.

KP – Two Tests, one leg and third in England’s averages. England missed him and it was a nice touch to see him hobbling round celebrating with a team that twelve months ago was his.

Monty Panesar – The rise of Swann and the irresistible claims of Adil Rashid may mean that Monty’s final act as a Test player was to block for a draw and be cheered to the hilt by fans who often tinged their support with cruelty. Needs to re-build his game over the winter and might come back stronger, but, alas, might not.


!cid_B8D50387-A612-4873-9CF4-F70195C32130The self-styled ’sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction’ at Philosophy Football have caught that passing bandwagon with the shirt pictured to the right. Every Englishman will wear it proudly and every Australian will have a perfect gift for an English friend or an Australian enemy!

The T-shirt is available from 99.94 has one to be won in our ODI competition, to enter simply answer the following simple question :

Which batsman will finish the ODI series with the highest strike rate (min qualification 50 runs)?

Email your answer with name, address and preferred T-shirt size to Entries close at Midday British Summer Time 4 September 09, no purchase necessary to enter, so get your predictions in quick!!

Good Luck!



  1. Good round-up and spot about Flintoff, his input was crucial but on a statistical level he didn’t appear to do a lot. Others did a lot statistically (Aussies in the main) but went missing when it mattered most.

    C Ferguson of Australia is my tip for the prize

  2. Cheers Lev. Interesting tip.

  3. Excellent stuff as always. A quibble and a question. I thought Bell did offer us something new. In fact, watching last Thursday I thought he offered two new things. First, early in his innings, a technical weakness against short pitched bowling with hands high to fend off the ball. Second, later on after some nusemaiding from Strauss, guts to correct the weakness, keeping his eyes on the ball and his hands down if not playing with control. If the former is a concern, the later may be cause to hope for more from a player often accused of having no backbone. The question is who, if not Harmisson, will bowl fast for England if Anderson and Onions are sharing a place? I guess he will go to South Africa and get at least a game.

    • Belgian – Thanks.

      Fair play to Bell, he did play the rising ball better, although I’m worried that a man in his 49th Test batting at 3 needed to work on it. I’m still unconvinced, but if he can play Steyn and co, then he can play anyone.

      Harmison? Hasn’t really bowled fast for a while. I’d like to see Chris Woakes given a go.

  4. Bell might be more successful in a stronger batting line up. With Pietersen and Trott, rather than Bop and Coll, his talent might get the protection from pressure it seems to need. He might be quite useful, even without the transformation many seem to have been waiting for.

    • Hmm… 105 after coming in at 300-4 is handy, but we need 105 after coming in at 1-1. I fancy Ravi is the better long term bet.

  5. Trumpet — you’re right about Bell of course, but I’d continue his defence like this. Noone seems to have noticed his technical weakness before, so maybe it was a particular response to MJ’s extreme combination of high pace, bounce and unpredictable line rather than a serious flaw. In that context, perhaps having the courage and composure to work on it in the middle in a high pressure game is a good sign and a net positive. As you say, we will prbably see because I think he’s more likely to stay in the side than Colly and playing both Rashid and Rav Bop would be a big risk.

    On Harmisson, was he ever really fast? I’ve only ever seen the odd ball from him at more than 90, but I’ve often seen him make batsmen uncomfortable all the same. Having said that, he looked to me like he was having to try harder than before at the Oval last week. Again, I wasn’t sure that was altogether a bad thing.

    • It might be a new dawn for Bell – Steve Waugh’s average wasn’t much after 50 Tests but he sorted out a technique that worked!

      Harmy? Too quick for county cricket and not quick enough for Test cricket? I think he’s had enough too.

  6. Much as it pains me to say it – it well done England.

    I would say however that Australia lost this series rather than England winning it (well I WOULD say that wouldn’t I?).

    The key to what happened was already shown in the last test match that Australia played before the ashes started – in Capetown – 1st innings total = 209 and second innings total = 422. That inability to get runs in the first innings was replicated in the 2 critical tests that England won, although I have to say things might have been different if the umpiring had been better (or there was the referral system).

    I think Andrew Strauss could go on to be a very good captain, although it will be interesting to see what happens to his captaincy when he runs into a poor stretch of form. (It will be interesting to see where that leaves the team as well – where would England have been without AS runs??). How good a captain he is will be measured when they defend the urn in Oz.

    As for Australia – they need to sort out some things fairly quickly, not least finding out what the hell has happened to Mitchell Johnston. When I saw him in South Africa last December I predicted mayhem when he got in about the mediocre English middle order. And lets face it, it IS mediocre. Johnston has the potential to be a brilliant bowler if they can get him back to his best – just ask Graeme Smith.

    PS – I love this blog – one of the best on the web.

    • Zico – how good a captain he is will surely be determined by how he does in upcoming series rather than one 17 months away??

      If the Ashes remains the only yardstick, then England are doomed, and no. 5 is as high as they’re going to get for a while. Australia treat every match seriously, and have reaped the rewards – time for England to do so too.

      • Rajesh,

        I agree that the next series will be every bit as testing (if not more so) than the next Ashes series – the SA team are pretty tasty. However, as an Aussie supporter I am keen to see how competitive England are next time they are Down Under. I think some of the current “heroes” will be found out and that will put AS under significant pressure. After all, Flintoff was expected to perform better than losing all 5 tests the last time, wasn’t he?

        • 2010 – 2011 will be a very tough trip for England, especially if they turn up undercooked after a two day practice match in Cairns or somewhere. We will need to post four first innings of 400, which means that either Strauss or KP will have to make a hundred and find another one to stay with them and do the same or that the Broad, Rashid, Swann axis at 7, 8, 9 really delivers. Then England will have to bowl with extreme discipline with the Kookaburra ball and catch absolutely everything.

          Even if that happens, if Hughes sorts some defence out and Punter is still playing (I’m sure he will be), Australia will have to bat badly for England to have a chance.

          I think I forecast this series at 2-2, with England in with a shout if everything went their way, but that translates to 3-1 minimum with home advantage to Aus. 2-1 (Eng) then 3-1 (Aus) is a fairish reflection of the sides.

  7. Zico – Cheers.

    263, 216 and 160 as first innings scores in a five Test series are the kind of numbers England usually put up. That England aren’t very good is proved by the fact that it was so close despite that!

    • It’s not often you can argue in favour of accuracy of the ICC great mace race, but credit where it’s due – 4 v 5 seems spot on to be honest.

  8. Actually I meant to say as well that I was really impressed with Trott – very organised looking cricketer. So with him and the middle order and KP back, the batting looks that much better for England.

    So am I allowed to say that the English South African middle order no longer looks quite so ordinary ! :-)

  9. We’re all a bit English and a bit something else here Zico, so it’s allowed!

    Trott was as good a call by the selectors as no Hauritz was bad. I didn’t see him coming, but there he is!

  10. Zico, sadly I have to disagree – I think England actually won it as much as Aus “lost” it. (Or almost as much.) I wouldn’t have thought they had the bottle to save the first test, nor the necessary consistency to bowl us out so often for low 1st innings scores.

    That said, I guess it could have been different with a bit of luck and an extra batsman. Still, it’s worth remembering the quantity of talent and experience that left the team in the last two years. I was expecting it to look like it does now, minus the triumph in SA.

    Curious to see how Eng develop from here.

    Thanks Toots for great analysis here and elsewhere, and for being a model of (relative) gloat-free-ness in these (for Aus) dark times.

    • GM – very decent of you.

      Get some young bowlers into county cricket (maybe batsmen too) and Aus will hasten their re-building. I know the Aus way is to say it’s soft, and it often is, but there’s more to county cricket than the competitive element. It’s a point I made months ago here, and I think it showed at key moments –

  11. GM England did indeed show some bottle at Cardiff – they also benefited from an entire session lost to rain if I recall correctly.

    The other thing you could say about Cardiff is that the Aus bowlers showed their inexperience by not being disciplined when bowling at the tail. And continuing to bowl Marcus North when wickets were badly needed…..

    I still think however that if Australia had put a 1st innings together at EITHER of the London venues then the Ashes would have been retained.

    Its only 2 years till the re-match – can’t wait.

    • Zico – Re first innings in London – Yes.

  12. Interesting to see Fred at mid off, rather than slip at the Oval. He spent a lot of time talking to the bowlers, presumably geeing them up, highlighting the batsman’s weaknesses.

    Strauss and Flower seem to have built a strong collective.

    Any idea what caused the pantomine when Hussey pulled out when Fred was into his run up? Fred carried on to the end of his full run, made a comment and had a natter that got under Hussey’s skin so much that the other batsman and Billy Bowden almost had to pull them apart.

    • I was there and I missed it! There’s often a bit of movement in the Pavilion at The Oval, so probably that.

      I did notice that Brad Haddin looks up later than any batsman I’ve ever seen – sometimes as the bowler is in his gather!

  13. Interestingly, all the hand-wringers in England fretting about giving Phil Hughes and Stuart Clark county exposure – I think I read the term Trojan Horse somewhere – can rest easy now. Apparently, some good deeds do go unpunished

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