Alastair Cook – Usually the coolest customer in the hottest circumstances, did he suffer from nerves in his first Ashes Test as captain? Played an uncharacteristically loose shot in the first innings and, having done the hard work in getting to a crucial second innings fifty, gave it away with a low percentage force against the spin. Captained the side well, especially the wayward Steve Finn and change bowler, Joe Root.
Joe Root – Got a ball that would have dismissed Bradman in the first innings and then failed to call for a saving review in the second dig. He’ll be a better batsman for his first experience of Test opening (and in an Ashes Test to boot). Showed that indefinable star quality by snaring Ed Cowan with a tempter in the second innings.
Jonathan Trott – Either positive or skittish according to taste in the first innings, but still top-scored. Sawn off by a poor decision in the second, but might reflect that punching across the line, first ball, is asking for trouble.
Kevin Pietersen – Showed signs that he didn’t rate this Australian attack and clearly feels that there might be a very big one coming soon. Having played little cricket this season, he’ll be pleased to have scored fifty more in the second innings than he did in the first and will eye a similar improvement in output when taking guard at Lord’s.
Ian Bell – A good, but not great, ball dismissed him in the first dig and that was enough to get all the old doubters chattering again. A great, and not merely good, innings silenced them on Friday. Bell weighed up the pitch expertly and was happy to deflect and push for runs all the way to a ton. The faith shown by England in the eight years since that callow youth played his bit part in 2005 has paid off perfectly in a mature performance of the art of Test match batting.
Jonny Bairstow – 37 and 15 are nightmarish scores for a specialist batsman – in and then out, just when a decent knock beckons. His lack of time in the middle recently may have led to the development of an exaggeratedly strong bottom hand grip. He has work to do on his return to the venue of his hugely impressive 95 against the South Africans last year.
Matt Prior – A firm advocate of playing his natural game, he came unstuck first time round, slapping a wide one straight to point when he needed to assume senior partner status with Jonny Bairstow, who was just settling at the other end. Out again to a very attacking shot in the second dig, but his keeping (and his contribution to DRS reviewing) showed all his experience.
Stuart Broad – Temporarily incapacitated after failing to deal with a short ball, he was lucky that Jimmy Anderson took his share of first innings wickets. Snared two big Aussie wickets in the second innings, but his biggest contribution came with the bat – 171 runs were added while he was at the crease. He was scratchy, had some outrageous luck, but, not for the first time, he delivered the Number 8 role perfectly.
Graeme Swann – He wasn’t always at his ebullient best, but, once he found his rhythm and spied lefties at the other end, he started to go through his dipping, spinning, skidding variations. He took only 14 wickets at 40 in 2009 – he’ll expect to improve on those numbers this time round.
Steven Finn – Got two top order men out in the first innings, but went round the park, being especially profligate during the Ashton Agar show. His captain did not really trust him after that. The balance of Finn’s cost/reward relationship – after 23 Tests – is still not settled.
Jimmy Anderson – Attack leader Jimmy lived up to his moniker. Bowled lots of good balls, the occasional magic ball, and very few bad ones. Ten wickets in the match was exactly what he deserved, as was the Man of the Match award. For all the runs and star quality of the captain and KP, he is the most important player in this England team and England needs him fully fit and firing at Lord’s on Thursday.
Shane Watson – A curious player whose contribution in this match exemplified his play these days. Bowled within himself to do a wonderful job for his skipper, restricting runs and building pressure – smart play. Conversely, his batting over-reaches his talent, attacking like Viv Richards, giving the bowler plenty of chances – not smart play. He’s Darren Lehmann’s man for the start of the innings – but he’s never really in – so England will fancy their chances with him over the course of the series.
Chris Rogers – Impressive on his recall to the colours, his compact technique a stark contrast to many of his colleagues. Showed Test quality skills and temperament in the second innings before giving it away a little on the walk.
Ed Cowan – Looked like even he thought he was out of his depth in this company and paid the price with two soft dismissals. Undoubtedly a great man to have around the dressing room, but Test cricket is an unforgiving school.
Michael Clarke – Couldn’t do much with Anderson’s wonder ball, but edged a regulation delivery to Prior second time around. Missed tricks in the field with his reviews and his refusal to post a Third Man. But on the plus side, after injury worries, his movement was free, particularly when taking a brilliantly athletic catch to see off his opposite number.
Steve Smith – Still a bundle of nervous energy at the crease, but the head, hands and feet are more aligned than when last we saw him in England. Will be happy with his first innings fifty but was the second of two wickets in two balls when failing to deal with Swann’s spin just when the second innings needed steadying. Wouldn’t have found a place in the Australian Second XI as recently as ten years ago, but is a vital cog in this batting unit.
Phil Hughes – Surprised his legions of doubters with a mature and crucial first innings knock in the shadow of boy wonder Agar, but was back to his worst second time round with some extraordinary footwork against Swann. It’s all well and good to find an individual technique that works, but when it doesn’t? Well I suppose 81* and 0 is still inconclusive.
Brad Haddin – Missed a tough chance with the gloves early on and failed to get his head down in the first innings. Showed the renowned Aussie ticker in the second dig – and that’s why he was recalled. No praise is too high for a knock that fell agonisingly short of legendary status. He didn’t deserve to lose, but Australia can’t win Tests with real contributions from not much more than half the team.
Peter Siddle – The usual wholehearted stuff was supplemented by no little skill to get another five-fer. With a phalanx of highly rated Aussie seamers in the wings, his place might have been under threat, but he looked much the best of the bunch on this showing.
James Pattinson – Charged in, snarled a lot and sprayed it around too much. Five wickets is no bad return, but the Aussie spearhead did not look as threatening as his fledgling career stats suggested. If he can be more consistent, with no drop in pace, and gets a bit more in the wicket to work with, he could still be a big influence on the series. Batted magnificently in the second innings.
Michell Starc – Five wickets too for Pattinson’s opening partner and some swing for the lefty. Looks a little down on pace, possibly the result of not driving fully through the crease in his delivery stride and on into his follow-through. Though he offers variation, his place might come under threat from the quick and hostile Ryan Harris.
Ashton Agar –
Brilliant batsman and part-time spinner. Spinner learning his trade who settled into his work and will always have the 766 runs man (Cook 2010-11) as his first Test wicket. Batted like Brian Lara. Yes, he batted like Brian Lara!
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