Alastair Cook (20, 12) – He will be disappointed with his returns with the bat – but ecstatically pleased with every other aspect of his game. As captain, everything he touched turned to gold. Hackneyed moves, like giving the spinner an over before an interval, suddenly looked Brearleyesque, as the wicket magically arrived. Funky fields looked like good uses of data, as the ball went where the man stood, not least to himself as he spectacularly juggled a catch from Brad Haddin at silly mid-on (one of three good catches for the skipper in a much improved England fielding performance). All this good news for him should rub off on his batting, which needs to revert to its natural rhythm – not every match has to be won in four days. Still looks a little like a forty-something teacher at the prom, as his young charges delight in the relaxed freedom cultivated by Paul Farbrace and now Trevor Bayliss, but he is growing into the New England – and results like this one help!
Adam Lyth (6, 37) – He is another batsman who may be able to relax a little at Lord’s with England one-up, knowing that if he can block the good balls, he won’t have to wait too long for a four ball. Nathan Lyon’s combination of big turn and bounce is a notch or two above what he will have faced in domestic cricket, so he’ll need to work out a way of leaving as many balls as possible from the off-spinner to turn past his off stump, while keeping out the one that runs on with cut or jumps with overspin.
Gary Ballance (61, 0) – Came to the crease under personal and scoreboard pressure, but was in occupation as the first innings advanced from 7-1 (and 43-3) and on to 196-3, when he lost his wicket, predictably pinned LBW on the crease. He still has a lot of work to do to get his individualistic technique fully working again and he needs to deal with the short ball more securely at Lord’s, which will have a bit more pace in the track than was the case at Cardiff. His ticker though, is not in question, after what was the second most valuable innings of the match.
Ian Bell (1, 60) – In some ways, a similar report at Number Four to that of his colleague at Number Three. Bell was under the same kind of scrutiny as Ballance, needing runs to quell the doubters (never far away over his 100+ Test career). After his first innings failure, he was back at the crease with the scoreboard showing 22-2, with the lead just 144 and stayed until it was 292, giving licence to the late middle order to swing from the hip.
Joe Root (134, 60; 6-1-28-2) – Dropped catches happen to batsmen – it’s what the batsman does after the drop that marks them out as good or great. Having been reprieved by Brad Haddin on 0, the third Yorkshire batsman in England’s top five proceeded to go forward or back as required by length and defend or attack as required by line, as he seized control of the match. That innings had something of Michael Slater’s opening salvo in the 1994-95 Ashes, a knock that was worth so much more than the runs accumulated in the scorebook – so will Root’s 134 prove to carry the same weight? Added a useful 60 in the second dig, picked up a couple of wickets when England need them late on the fourth afternoon and then took the catch that finished the match. As compelling a case for Man of the Match was one could wish to see.
Ben Stokes (52, 42; 14-5-51-1, 8-2-23-1) – Bristled with channeled aggression that was put to good use with bat and ball, he’ll be well advised to hold on to the DVD of this match as I’m sure Australia will be much more “in his face” in the four Tests to come. Came to the crease in almost perfect circumstances in each innings: the platform constructed, but an proper knock needed rather than merely wanted. With Moeen being targeted by the Australian batsmen, his bowling too had the edge of necessity to it and his modest figures do not reflect its worth to the team. He maintains his happy knack of finding the best way to contribute to any match situation in which he finds himself.
Jos Buttler (27, 7; 2ct, 1ct) – A quiet match for one of England’s gamechangers, though he still outplayed his opposite number. With adrenaline coursing through the veins of the other 21 combatants, his calm presence was welcome, even if it led to two tame dismissals. His day in this series will come.
Moeen Ali (77, 15; 15-1-71-2, 16.3-4-59-3) – If last year he was learning to be a frontline spinner, this year he’s learning to bat with the tail – and, as usual, he’s rising to the challenge. His gorgeously stroke-filled first innings took England from the 200s into the 400s and gave plenty of confidence to the men who follow him in the order, particularly his pulling and hooking which (on this pitch) negated the bouncer attack Australia had planned for him. The Aussies went hard at him with the bat too, but, possibly buoyed by the fact that he had 77 of his own runs on the board before he came on for a bowl, he never flinched and counted Warner, Smith, Clarke and Haddin amongst his victims. A fine match for the all-rounder.
Stuart Broad (18, 4; 17-4-60-2; 14-3-39-3) – Unrecognisable from the bowler of a few months ago who delivered medium pace spells in the West Indies, the whole thing looking just too much of an effort for a jaded man. Fast-forward a hundred days or so, and this was Broad at his best, charging into the crease, bowling with rhythm and the accuracy to make the batsman play, as the ball moved just enough from side-to-side and up and down to make lining him up near impossible. He knocked the top off the Australian second innings just as England fans started to consult the history books for highest run chases and even chipped in to a 52 run first innings stand, showing that his valuable batting may just be on the way back.
Mark Wood (7*, 32*; 20-5-66-2, 14-4-53-2) – Played with a smile on his face and seemed to love every minute whether batting, bowling or fielding, Wood looks like a remarkable find by the selectors. His bowling is uncomplicated, holding the seam up, delivering the ball on or about a length with the bouncer and yorker as variations, all from a tight wicket-to-wicket line, offering no freebies. He has enough pace to bother set batsmen and his skiddy trajectory complements Anderson’s classical swing and Broad’s high arm perfectly. His happy knack of belting tired bowlers around the park is a handy asset too.
Jimmy Anderson (1,1; 18.5-6-43-3, 12-3-33-0) – Australians may jib at the description of England’s all-time leading wicket-taker is an all-time great bowler, but his swing and seam in home conditions is always demands respect. He bowled much better than his figures suggest, particularly round the wicket to Australia’s openers in the second innings. If he can make Chris Rogers play at balls we would prefer to leave from that line and induce David Warner to chase fuller balls outside his eyeline, a major Australian threat will be nullified and England’s attack leader will justify that moniker.