Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 21, 2012

England vs South Africa – England Series Report Card

If Andrew Strauss were to join in, he’d have every right to do so.

Andrew Strauss (107 runs at 18) – Run of horror scores that terminated with a horror dismissal and a deathly silence around Lord’s. Few England captains bow out smiling, on their own terms, but few England captains have achieved what Andrew Strauss has achieved. Unlikely to be dropped, but can he deal with ever-increasing off-field distractions (and he won’t be short of them in India in the winter or during The Ashes in the summer)? Perhaps, even more pertinently, can we deal with top class bowling on the field? Will have a break now and then assess what to do next. He has earned the right to be the most prominent voice in any discussion of his future, but his won’t be the only one heard, and views may differ.

Alastair Cook (195 runs at 33) – Scored a century, because Alastair Cook scores centuries, but has developed another, less useful habit of falling in single figures (as all openers do) but also when set (twice at Headingley) which is a less common trait of those who have earned the right to be judged by the highest standards. He’ll want to be more decisive with his footwork to avoid being caught on the crease by the ball that swings back into him and to get fully across to the ball that’s angled away. In short, like his captain at the other end, he needs to get his head in the right place – though literally so in Cook’s case. He, like his colleagues, will be grateful to be away from South Africa’s high class seam attack for a while.

Jonathan Trott (217 runs at 43 and 0 wickets) – Got on with the job, but his game is suited neither to the South African bowling, nor the South African way of playing the game. With neither the weight of shot nor personality to dominate the game, Trott has to make his mark with big scores, and they’re just a little elusive at the moment.

KP (219 runs at 55 and 4 wickets at 23) – Hogged the headlines whether playing or not and there’s little more one can add to the KP soap opera other than to acknowledge that this series showed what England will be missing – a game-changing batsman without peer.

Ian Bell (144 runs at 29) – Never slipped the leash into the fluency so evident this time 12 months ago. Can cruise against weak to average bowling, but against those in the very highest class, he can be tentative, the impeccable footwork and imperious timing lost amidst what still, even now, looks like doubt.

Ravi Bopara (22 runs at 11, 0 wickets) – It all seems a long time ago now and Ravi has an enormous amount of work to do to get back into a side he may have left once too often.

Jonny Bairstow (149 runs at 75) – Having appeared frozen by doubt against the West Indies quicks’ short ball attack, his two innings at Lord’s dispelled any thoughts about his readiness for Test cricket. Deserved a century having batted under intense pressure for 95 runs against bowling that was good enough to see off most of his more experienced team-mates in the first innings, he then teed off to give England a sniff of a chance in the second dig. He proved critics, like me, wrong.

James Taylor (48 runs at 16) – Toughest of baptisms in Test cricket, but looked to have the tools, if not yet the application of them, to be in with a chance. Has the ability to make very big scores once he’s in and, with that bit of luck that all young batsmen need, might have a chance to get in earlier than he could have expected.

Matt Prior (275 runs at 46, 8 catches and 3 stumpings ) – The surprise that greeted his dropped chance at Lord’s off Amla and his own disappointment at the error revealed just how high his standards have risen behind the stumps. His cheeky stumping of Morne Morkel later in the innings showed that the naivety of his jelly beans and sledging days has been replaced with a hard-edged professionalism that doesn’t miss much. With the bat, he looked classy before getting out to poor shots – his dismissal at The Oval opened the door to an attack that needed no second invitation. Almost played the innings of his life at Lord’s, but the magic couldn’t last. When Cook does take the reins, he will make a good vice-captain – he even knows how to use reviews these days!

Tim Bresnan (37 runs at 19 and 2 wickets at 139) – Not the only bowler to run into the Smith / Petersen / Amla / Kallis steamroller, but always likely to be the one to be dropped when the call goes out for pace. Too good a cricketer to be out of the side for long and too good a team-man to sulk while he’s waiting.

Stuart Broad (70 runs at 14 and 11 wickets at 40) – Mediocre figures, but even they may be a little flattering as the snap seemed to go out of his bowling. As Steve Harmison showed, height can be a mixed blessing for a bowler, as the ball can appear to float from the hand to the batsman. Down on pace and catching a rhythm only intermittently, he’ll need to work on ensuring that he presents a consistent wicket-taking threat. As a regular in the ODI side and captain of the Twenty20 XI soon to defend their crown, I’m not sure when he’ll be able to do that work. If he bowls at 80mph in The Ashes next year, he’ll be milked mercilessly.

Swanny (100 runs at 50 and 4 wickets at 77) – Rested, dropped, rotated, whatever, he missed out on the most sympathetic strip for his work at Headingley, but he bowled well at Lord’s without luck. His economy rate of less than 2.5  is a testament to his accuracy, but a four man attack cannot afford to have even one bowler who takes four wickets in two completed Tests. Will have a lot of work in India and a lot of scrutiny too from batsmen and media who know a bit about spin bowling. Always at the forefront of congratulations when catches are held, he might want to hang back a bit on the admonishments when the catches go down – because it does happen.

Jimmy Anderson (30 runs at 8 and 9 wickets at 41) – Swung the new ball but never quite had it on the end of a piece of string as has so often been the case in recent years. In consequence, banged the ball in more often than at any time since his recall as a regular and it didn’t really work. At his best, he moved it as far as Philander and as late as Steyn, but their best was a far more frequent sight than Jimmy’s.

Steven Finn (10 runs at 5 and 10 wickets at 32) – On his recall to the colours, the management will have asked him to cut out the four balls, but still deliver those wicket-taking jaffas – and that’s just what he did. In a disappointing series for England, he was one of just two England men who enhanced their reputations (Jonny Bairstow the other) and can now expect to be a more regular member of the chosen XI – men who take a wicket every 46 balls are hard to ignore.

You can tweet me @garynaylor999

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Responses

  1. Check out my views on England vs SA and what gives SA the edge at http://steakchopz.blogspot.co.uk/

  2. Jonny Bairstow is one of those players who I want to be good. It’s not like I don’t want the other players to do well, but there’s something about Bairstow that makes me think “yes, him, he’s the one.” in a way I don’t about, say, Ian Bell or Stuart Broad. I guess the best way I can put it is that I like the cut of his jib. Steve Finn is another one.

    • There’s a kind of X-factor about Bairstow and Finn which suggests that when they have good days, they’ll have very good days indeed and produce match-winning performances. Broad has a few of those, but it looks a long way off just now. Bell? Needs a decent series in India.

      • That’s the thing, I don’t have a problem with Bell and Bro… erm… I don’t have a problem with Bell, I quite like him, he just doesn’t, how to put this, arouse the same sporting passion in me as Bairstow does. Call it a Sporting Crush if you will.

  3. Rethinking Philander at all Toots? You’ve seemed a bit harsh on him previously to me. Not that l think he is D.K. or anything but he’s a very disciplined and focused bowler.

    Penny for your thoughts on the whole KP thing or just not going there? l’m sure every opposition would be very happy to not see him walking out with the XI. Perhaps not quite as happy as the English XI though it seems! It seems to have spun unnecessarily out of control? As Warney said, have a beer, give him a clip and get on with it.

    Very good Bell summary l think.

    We’re enjoying the hagiography of Kerry Packer down here at the moment http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/how-good-was-zat-20120820-24h5q.html

  4. A fair summary; Swann and Broad both have a lot to do. I wonder how much a role fitness played with them both.

    • Fitness indeed. Broad looked 75% fit all series, which makes one wonder why he was playing with so many options for England.

  5. Whenever I read about the KP thing, the two words that spring to mind are Dean Jones. Not sure why other than I feel that if you overlaid the trajectory of Australia then and England now, the two selection quandaries have probably happened around the same point in time. One small difference, Deano had a whole state pissed at how he was treated, yet the selectors never looked back. Could England be so ruthless? If Bairstow does well, would there be many in England to cry for KP like the Vic’s did (still do) for Deano?

    • Bring back Deano! Bloody Bob Simpson :)


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