Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 26, 2013

Fifth Ashes Test – The Report Cards

Chris Woakes just before the umpires abandoned the match

Aleem Dar’s view of Chris Woakes at the crease just before the umpires abandoned the match

Alastair Cook – I think the word is “conflicted”. A lifetime’s ambition realised, but with the whiff of cynicism and a nagging sense of personal underachievement hanging in the air. He will claim that none of that matters, but look at his face in interviews as captain and when walking off having made another nothing score like 25. These details will fade as the history books are written (by the winners of course), but he can prepare for a few awkward personal questions in the long phoney war that precedes the First Test in Brisbane.

Joe Root – Was just about to lay to rest any criticism of his position in the order with a century when a dismal piece of shot selection (an understandable weakness in any young batsman) led to him being suckered by the improving Nathan Lyon. In the long run, those 32 missing runs may help him, as he still has some technical issues to work out and can expect another forensic examination in the winter from the magnificent Harris. Transferring weight across the crease is his main problem – he could do a lot worse than to speak to a couple of predecessors. Andrew Strauss had his problems with hanging a little on the back foot, before his career-saving 177 in Napier and Marcus Trescothick was about the best at getting to the ball with an economy of movement. Root is young enough, and talented enough, to work it out.

Jonathan Trott – Like Alastair Cook, he’s enduring a curious summer. Still moving around at the crease, but, on an Oval pitch about as ill-suited to his style as he could find, he struggled to find the fluency he had shown in cameos in previous Tests. Ten of his summer’s 14 innings have terminated in the No Man’s Land between 23 and 76 – that speaks of flawed technique, not just a run of bad luck and he might be spending a lot of time on the bowling machine before Brisbane.

Kevin Pietersen – The reticence of his celebration of his first innings fifty (and the contrast with the skunk-haired jubilation of his 150 eight years ago) said much about his opinion of the pitch and his inability to get going. But, as with all the England bats throughout the series (excluding Ian Bell is his annus mirabilis), much of the credit goes to the Australian bowlers, who have the imagination to come up with plans and the skills to execute them. Because you can’t keep a man with his gifts at bay for long, KP’s violent assault in the second innings showed what he can do. Will relish the ball coming on to the bat – as it surely will in Brisbane in just three months time (where he will bring up a century of Tests). Took a tremendously difficult catch to dismiss Shane Watson and was good in the field – not bad for a senior statesman on a wonky knee.

Ian Bell – Quiet end to the series of his life. English cricket, and English cricket fans have invested much in Bell since he was a boy – Ashes 2013 was their, and his, reward.

Chris Woakes – A pleasing action with good rhythm got the ball to the other end more quickly than many had thought possible. But, as is often the case with a bowler short of express pace who does not make the ball swing or seam consistently, his mid-80mph bowling merely hastened the impact of the ball on to the middle of the bat. Hit the ball hard in both knocks and showed clarity of thought in the cauldron of the second innings chase. At 24, he showed the potential to play the role of fourth seamer, but how often will England want that balance to their side?

Matt Prior – His arrival at the crease to be met with light meters and Australians hastening back to the refuge of the dressing room rather summed up his underwhelming 2013. In the race for quick runs in the first innings, he showed a little of the strokemaking skills that brought him the England Player of the Year Award 2012. Will go back to Sussex now and prepare for Brisbane in November.

Stuart Broad – As so often this series, his first innings figures belied his hostility and craft with the ball, offset a little by cheap second innings scalps. Bowled fast and used his bouncer well, showing that he’ll have plenty of ammunition when the entire nation follows Darren Lehmann’s crass rallying call to get after him Down Under. If he can stay fit – and his role in Twenty20 cricket must surely be attenuated to that end – he should be at his peak in the next three years. If he gets a bit of luck, he will be a real handful and be up in the 300 club by the end of the next English Ashes.

Graeme Swann – Snared a couple of lefties at the top and bottom of the order, but lacked a little of the fizzing snap that characterises both his bowling and his personality when in peak form. With runs coming apace at the other end, had to block his and did so, to good effect. Simply astonishing that he was allowed to spend two Test matches with Ashton Agar as his opposite number instead of the impressive Nathan Lyon. Ended the series having biffed 126 handy runs at almost a run a ball – those runs may be more crucial in the return series.

Jimmy Anderson – Used helpful conditions to run through his repertoire of inswing and outswing, the ball on a piece of invisible string. With a little more help at the other end, he might have got more than his five wickets, but would probably have settled for that after some lacklustre performances since his huge effort at Trent Bridge.

Simon Kerrigan – Maybe he was as surprised as everyone else by his shock inclusion, but he should not have been surprised to see Shane Watson looking to hit him off a length. Bowled all but one of his deliveries to Watson (176) and Steve Smith (138*), so it was a tough baptism, The crowd recognised that with a wonderful reception when he came out to bat, though his confidence will need a careful reconstruction after a chastening first taste of Test cricket.

David Warner – Missed out back at the top of the order, but charged about in the field and looked part of the Australian furniture – the tiresome boos have gone too. Another one (with Nathan Lyon) who missed the vital first two Tests – a self-inflicted wound, but no less painful to the cause for that.

Chris Rogers – Another two hours at the crease, with less fluency than at Chester-le-Street, but he was hardly alone in that. If, as seems likely, he will spend time batting with strokemakers pretty much all the way down to Nathan Lyon, his low risk, no backlift style will be crucial in balancing the order come the return series. Might be the last of dying breed – he even looks like that.

Shane Watson – Modified his technique by standing a little further towards the offside and presenting the front pad more alongside the line of the ball (rather than on it). That allowed him to use his power to swing through the line and not across it. 176 runs at first drop was his reward, with his first morning of ODI scoring the highlight. One can’t help thinking that he’s still itching to get the ball through midwicket, but if he can resist, he’ll be a real asset to this still fragile batting order. Quite why it has taken five Tests to address so obvious a flaw is unclear, but at least he has done so, and the long, long apprenticeship may, at last, be over.

Michael Clarke – Perhaps taking some criticism from home to heart, he was uncharacteristically unsmiling at the toss and an angry sledger in the field. There may be much to be said for taking a more aggressive approach, but playing against type isn’t easy – especially with plenty else to think about – and the strain may have shown in his missing a good one to be bowled (again) in the first dig. Copped a lot of praise for his declaration, but tea was the latest he could declare, so I’m not convinced it’s warranted.

Steve Smith – The fewer the twitches and quirks, the more the runs flow. Unlike contemporary Philip Hughes, he has always looked more likely to score runs consistently and, now the head is still at the point of contact, he’s beginning to use his dead fish eye to smack the ball out of the middle of the bat. He was endearingly proud of his maiden century in his post-play interview – and why not? Though not in the original selection for this tour, despite playing well in the shambolic Indian series, he now looks likely to be a fixture in the middle order for some time.

Brad Haddin – Came in and got on with it, timing the ball as well as any on the slowish pitch. Kept taking catches too, eventually bagging the record number of dismissals in an Ashes series. Is it enough to retain his place for the return series when, back home, his steadying hand on the tiller may not be so necessary? Having played well in three consecutive losing Ashes series, he probably deserves it.

James Faulkner – With much talk about the impact of the Big Bash on Australian batting, he came to the crease twice and played two Twenty20 style innings – which was the unselfish thing to do, especially on debut. Rather like fellow newbie, Chris Woakes, it’s hard to see him as third seamer unless he develops more pace or movement, but a useful man to have in a squad and has the heart to build on some already impressive contributions in the one day stuff.

Peter Siddle – Demanded respect with a lovely line and length that pulled batsmen forward but was never quite there to drive. Looks a lot like Ryan Harris through his delivery stride, but nags rather than dazzles batsmen and, as such, is an ideal foil. Some senior bowlers might sulk at such usurping (not least after having bowled so well over the series) but Siddle, as his empathic nightwatchman batting (and stealing of the strike) showed, is a team man above all else and has been a delight to watch. Curiously underbowled by his captain in the second innings.

Mitchell Starc – Might he, like Mitchell Johnson with whom he shares more than just a first name and a left-arm over actions, be destined to be a raw quick, always mixing up the unplayable with the ordinary? Got one to straighten to nail Trott LBW first time round and was rather gifted another wicket by KP. Will always get batsmen out, but will never look entirely confident about exactly where he’s landing it – in other words, those same problems that are keeping Steven Finn out of England’s XI.

Ryan Harris – Another magnificent exhibition of fast bowling from the British passport holder, who charges in, gets in a full shoulder turn and snaps the wrist to pitch the ball on the proverbial sixpence. Lured Alastair Cook into another prod outside off stump first time round and stopped KP from winning the match second time round. He has charmed English crowds with his craft and his world-weary looks after another play and miss – looks that say so much more than Pattinson’s and Faulkner’s sledges. The best of the Aussie spirit made flesh, the game will be diminished if he isn’t fit for his home series.

Nathan Lyon – Those who saw him in India knew he could get dip and turn and had control of his variations – quite why Darren Lehmann couldn’t, and preferred Ashton Agar might rank with England’s selection of Darren Pattinson in the more eccentric choices in Test history. You need balls to be spinner and Lyon has shown plenty in taking the humiliation of Trent Bridge and Lord’s in his stride and getting on with the game once the ball was in his hand. Knowing that Root had been boxed up in the first innings, he tossed them up and induced a poor stroke – an excellent dismissal of a set batsman with an old ball. Kept his head when KP and Trott were taking the game away from Australia on Sunday evening.

You can tweet me at @garynaylor999


  1. hi terri. this will be my second comment after the hokkien mee post. i only found your blog when i set google alert to sabah eltnieoc. you can use google alert to alert you on various subjects. it’s easy, once you try.i think in your recent post, you mentioned something abt US election, so probably you got more American readers. anyway, great blog and keep it up!

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