Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 29, 2013

England vs New Zealand – England Series Report Card

The only time you'll see Compton batting in The Ashes this year

The only time you’ll see Compton batting in The Ashes this year?

Alastair Cook (217 runs at 54) – Having got in and out three times in succession, he wasn’t going to miss out for a fourth time, and didn’t, making a century in the second innings at Headingley. Switching to his ODI mode in search of quick runs, he played plenty of shots without compromising his unfussy solidity – until hitting one up in the air on 130. Like his Ashes opposite number, he is pretty much the complete batsman these days. As a captain, he is far from the finished article, even if his job in this series was akin to that of a scrum-half playing behind a dominant pack. He had little to do at Lord’s, but attracted plenty of criticism for choosing not to enforce the follow-on and delaying the declaration at Leeds. He will point to the series result and move on.

Nick Compton (39 at 10) – Couldn’t stop scoring runs early in 2012; couldn’t start scoring runs early in 2013. England pick ’em and keep ’em these days, but Compton’s one-dimensional batting – good balls are defended and four balls, well, they’re often defended too – allied to an unhealthy intensity revealing itself in a set of nervous tics last seen for England when Owais Shah batted himself out of international cricket, does not bode well. Will breathe a sigh of relief when he pulls on his Somerset cap again, but will be wondering if he’ll be needing his England kit come July. Perhaps a century at Taunton and some sign that his timing, balance and coordination are back will save him.

Jonathan Trott (199 at 50) – Runs are the hard currency of batmanship and Jonathan Trott has delivered again. And yet, and yet… In the post-Waugh years, Test cricket moves at such a pace that the game situation can change in a session, so the Jonathan Trott Bubble of Concentration sometimes needs to be breached to let the match in. England will win plenty of Tests with Jonathan Trott’s output at Number Three, but they might draw some that they might win too, especially if he plays as he did on Sunday evening at Headingley – scoring as slowly as ever he has, when the match demanded the opposite. He almost made that 90 minutes worse by playing so beautifully the next morning.

Ian Bell (73 at 18) – Quiet series from the man who has enough credit in the bank to afford them these days. Though there were mitigating factors in both Tests, he needs to stop getting out to ordinary deliveries – especially with England’s next generation of batsmen beginning to prove themselves. Still averages a run more at a higher strike rate than the man he replaced in the Test XI, Graham Thorpe. Which just goes to show that context is everything.

Joe Root (243 at 61) – Will be tested by better bowling in the future, but could hardly have made a more convincing case to be inked into the England XI for the next ten years or more. Few England batsmen have demonstrated so much of Test batting’s complex skillset so early in their careers – technique, temperament, tactics, it’s all there. As if that were not enough, the 22 year-old Yorkshireman has something else too – that indefinable “at homeness” in the Test arena that reminds me of another Golden Boy who looked equally at ease equally quickly in the highest form of the game – David Gower.

Jonathan Bairstow (136 at 45) – Batted one notch below his county team-mate and, inevitably and unfairly, in his shadow too. Looks to play his shots with a strong bottom hand that has echoes of Graeme Smith’s closed face punching through the leg-side and muscular presence at the crease. Brings an athleticism to the field and urgency to the middle order, but selectors might not believe that he can bring quite enough runs just now to warrant retention when KP returns. But even if Compton stays up top, Bairstow will be back and likely sooner rather than later.

Matt Prior (43 at 14, 6 catches) – Picked up England’s Player of the Year Award on the eve of the Lord’s Test prompting plenty of (well-deserved) praising profiles. And then bagged a pair in an untidy match for England’s Mr Reliable. He was more himself at Headingley, which will stand him in good stead for the stiffer challenges, on both sides of the stumps, that await him in the next eight months.

Stuart Broad (26 at 13, 12 wickets at 16) – Not for the first time in his career, got himself going by flaying a few fours before carrying that confidence into his bowling at Lord’s, where he was close to unplayable at times during New Zealand’s second innings. Didn’t hit the same heights at Headingley, but kept asking questions and wasn’t afraid to rough up good batsmen.

Graeme Swann (32 at 16, 10 wickets at 15) – Having been largely surplus to requirements at Lord’s, he came roaring back at Headingley dispelling any lingering doubts about his effectiveness after his recent elbow surgery. There was the signature wicket in his first over, spin and dip derived from revs on the ball and all the old “Look at me!” brio. For all Swanny’s brashness, one of his best assets is his patience, though there were times late on the fourth day when he was tempted to over-attack forcing the issue with too tight a line and too full a length. He will have learned from that, as he has learned from every match he has played since he faced his opposite number at Lord’s, Bruce Martin, in the Under-19 World Cup Final in 1998.

Steven Finn (16 runs at 5, 8 wickets at 20) – Approaching 100 Test wickets, he remains something of an enigma, failing to shake off the kind of inconsistency that dogged England’s last genuine quick, Stephen Harmison, throughout his career. Bowls both sides of the wicket, leaks runs and sometimes needs 15 fielders, but also delivers unplayable balls, makes experienced batsmen hop about the crease like schoolboys and takes wickets when bowling badly (Lord’s) or well (Headingley). Looks a clear first choice as third seamer for The Ashes, having been a close call with Tim Bresnan at Lord’s after an indifferent start to the season

James Anderson (7 runs at 4, 9 wickets at 15) – Had match figures of 7-70 at Lord’s, which included his 300th Test wicket, but really deserved more, so wonderfully well did he control line, length and movement through the air and off the pitch. Never looked happy at Headingley, quibbling about the ball from the off and generally looking miffed to be on the wrong side of the Pennines. Fortunately, England have enough variety in their bowling to cope with their leader’s few off days and he could afford to watch his colleagues take 18 wickets at his least favourite ground. Trent Bridge next though!

You can tweet me at @garynaylor999


  1. Expect Finn to win at least one and possibly more Ashes Tests with his pace and bounce. Could be his year.

    • He’s got that something that so few have – and even when they do have it (like Harmison) it can go quickly too. I can see a 6-78 or two in amongst the 2-60s.

  2. Still think we’re being too easy on England’s last innings: too slow, too long. Had this been the second Ashes Test would we have been so easily understanding the night before?

    • Probably not Ravi – but you know what they say about who writes history?

  3. I think Bell has had a poor 2012 that was only salvaged by a ton to draw the match and win the series at Nagpur. He does have a lot of credit in the bank, but he’s in danger of using a lot of it up.

    • I’m inclined to agree with you. When one thinks of the ditching of a Slater or a RA Smith, one wonders if he fails in the first couple of Tests what might happen.

      • Not sure Bell has any credit at all. Saying his average is one better than Thorpe ignores the fact that he has made a lot of runs against Bangladesh. The Aussies will target him again.

  4. I think that the principle of selection continuity will keep Compton in the team provided that KP is not around. If KP is fit, the temptation to pick Bairstow, drop Compton and shuffle the order seems almost unbearable – even though Bairstow and Compton have very similar records. The interesting thing about Compton is that he does tend to bat long enough to weather the new ball – which is a considerable plus. However, he needs a some considerable help to sort out his mental and technicl failings at the moment. He is starting to remind me of Mike Brearley the batsman in 1979, when everyone was on his back for not being worth his place as a batter. Every time he comes out to bat he seems to have a new problem.

    • He may come good, but he’s all over the place right now. If he gets a score and looks right for Somerset, I’d be happy to see him retained. But Root and Cook are coming as a pair – sooner or later.

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