Alastair Cook (89 runs at 22) – With his record on the subcontinent, not many would have predicted that England’s captain would be dismissed three times by a teenager, but Mehedi Hasan’s impeccable line and length on “spin or skid” pitches proved too much, even for Cook. There were signs that he was finding his celebrated batting rhythm in the second innings at Dhaka, when the four balls went to the boundary and his strike rotating pushes and prods kept the scoreboard moving. As captain, he never seemed to know quite what to do with his bowlers, for whom he needed a couple more fielders due to their inability to bowl one side of the wicket. Clearly dissatisfied with his spinners, but curiously reluctant to go to Chris Woakes, who bowled just 25 overs in the series at an economy rate well under three.
Ben Duckett (92 runs at 23) – The David Warner of English cricket? Not yet, for sure – but his chutzpah, his fearless deployment of white ball shots in tough red ball conditions and the marmite reaction he provokes in pundits and fans alike recall the Australian biffer when he broke into the Test side in 2011. In his fifth Test, Warner made an astonishing 180 off 159 balls at Perth against India to silence the doubters, and, before tea on the tumultuous third day at Dhaka, Duckett looked like he might do something similar. But how long can you last in Test cricket premeditating so many shots (even, it seems, the leave)? How long can you last in Test cricket with a front leg that appears to “clear” towards midwicket even defending balls outside off-stump? How long can head, hands and feet get into such extraordinary non-alignment and bat hit ball? If you were to ask me, I’d say that he will make one glorious century in India and nine scores less than 30 – time will tell.
Joe Root (98 runs at 25; 2-0-5-0) – Busy as usual at the crease, but LBW three times out of four as the bat missed the ball – was he watching it closely enough? Lasted just six balls in England’s two second innings, a trend that he will have to rectify in India as the impact of his dismissal seems to have the effect of two wickets going down.
Gary Ballance (24 runs at 6) – That impact is, of course, largely the result of the wretched form of Gary Ballance, who looks wracked with anxiety at the crease and has neither of the two options batsmen often turn to in such circumstances: he can neither hit his way back into form, nor rely on a solid defensive technique to work his way into a bit of nick. Good balls are getting him out, but bad balls will do too, as his dismal cross-batted shovel that could only edge a skier to Tamim in the Dhaka disaster showed.
Moeen Ali (92 runs at 23; 74.5-13-252-11; average 23, economy 3.4) – Perhaps Garry Sobers might have found it a stiff ask to bowl the most overs in the series for his team and bat at 5 – and Moeen, though sharing some of the great Bajan’s aesthetic qualities with the bat, is no Sobers. In the first innings of the series, he spent over three hours guiding England from 21-3 to 194-6 to keep his side in the game, so he is certainly not the most culpable of England’s batsmen, who collectively failed in unfamiliar conditions (ie against spinners who could rip it and land it). With the ball, he bagged a fivefer and took wickets in all four innings, but, despite an impressive average of 23, he was milked for crucial strike rotating singles and smacked to the fence when fractionally off line or length. An impressively phlegmatic character on and off the pitch, who stepped in to calm down Ben Stokes at the right moment (the short-fused all-rounder might owe him a bit of the 85% of his match fee he retained in Dhaka). India will be a definitive examination of his credentials to be in the side as the long term first choice spinner in helpful conditions.
Ben Stokes (128 runs at 32; 48.3-14-111-11; average 10, economy 2.3) – Played the best innings of his career at Chittagong reining in his natural game (because, no matter how often the pundits tell us that the “natural game” is the only way to go, sometimes batsmen and bowlers need to play the match situation and conditions). His three hour 85 took England from 46-4 (and we now know from Dhaka how perilous a position that is) to 197-7 and what everyone believed to be a comfortable winning lead. It’s worth noting that before he hit his first six in that match-turning innings, he had faced 47 balls for his 17 runs. With the ball, he sought (and sometimes found) reverse swing, but even when it wasn’t going, the snap of his wrist and an upright seam produced a smidgeon of movement in air and off the seam and his bouncer and variations kept the batsmen honest. Cook, mindful of November, underbowled him in October – lay that at the door of the ICC. For all his later, good-natured bantz on Twitter with Shakib Al Hasan, his verbals on the field at Chittagong (and, especially, his disdain for both the umpires’ and his captain’s advice to calm down) were unedifying and wasteful of energy.
Jonny Bairstow (126 runs at 32, 7 catches, 1 stumping) – Batted (as we have come to expect) like a Number 5 at Number 7 in Chittagong, but couldn’t repeat the trick at Dhaka where there were signs that the old failing of an overly strong bottom hand pulling the bat across the line, was creeping back into his game (though he was not alone in his desire to play horizontal bat shots on pitches that demanded the straightest of vertical bats for 11 balls out of 12). Difficult conditions in which to keep, but too often the gloves moved late to the ball when it lifted off the surface, though much of his work down the legside to the spinners was effective. That England’s fielding was below par must surely be (psychologically at least) down to so many untidy gathers of returns from the outfield – they don’t produce overthrows, but the ball continually squirting out of the gloves looks terrible and does not set an example to follow.
Chris Woakes (110 runs at 55; 25-8-68-3; average 23, economy 2.8) – I have argued before that Chris Woakes’ batting record for Warwickshire in recent years made him a fringe candidate for England even if he did not bowl, and that was borne out in his relative comfort in dealing with the spinning ball, playing straight, watching the ball from hand to bat and waiting patiently for the long hop or half volley to put away. Amidst all the talk of how England can shuffle the batting order to deal with Ballance’s inevitable dropping, nobody has mentioned Woakes at 6, but he now averages nearly 35 in Tests, which is more than Ben Stokes or Andrew Flintoff. Quite why Cook was so reluctant to turn to his bowling, which offered him control and a wicket-taking threat, asking him to deliver just 11 overs in the second Test, remains a mystery.
Adil Rashid (79 runs at 26; 54.5-4-209-7; average 30, economy 3.8) – In the side to whip out the tail and score a few runs down the order and did so often enough, but outside that narrow remit, the long hops and full tosses were just too frequent between the jaffas and the occasional “stock” delivery. With India likely to bat Ravindra Jadeja at 9, there isn’t much of a tail for Rashid to bowl at on the forthcoming tour and little to suggest, ten years into his career and after nearly 4500 first class overs, that the four balls can be eliminated. Perhaps if England go two down with three to play, he could come into a must-in match, but he looks too much of a risk to me, even turning the ball away from India’s phalanx of right-handers.
Stuart Broad (23 runs at 12; 23-6-43-2; average 22, economy 1.9) – Appeared almost surplus to requirements before his marathon nine overs spell at the end of day four in Chittagong applied pressure through dot balls and wickets to drag England back into a game they were losing. Was actually surplus to requirements in Dhaka when rested, a poor and disrespectful decision to the hosts – will he really be less knackered by the fifth Test in India, if he has played the other four?
Gareth Batty (4 runs at 4; 34-4-116-4; average 29, economy 3.4) – A few years ago, you would have got Leicester-to-win-the-Premier-League odds on the ruddy-faced Surrey captain opening the bowling for England, but that’s what happened in the first Test but he was more Leicester 2016-17 than Leicester 2015-16 in his first spell. He settled after that and picked up four quality wickets without ever suggesting he is more than the good county pro that has been on the circuit for years. Unlucky to miss out in Dhaka on the dubious pretext that England needed a look at county colleague Zafar Ansari – but blame the schedule as much as the selectors for that one.
Zafar Ansari (13 runs at 7; 25-0-112-2; average 56, economy 4.5) – His figures do not do him justice, as he created plenty of chances in a long spell on the third morning at Chittagong, risking being clipped to leg by attacking the stumps. But that just showed up his dilemma – is he an attacking wicket-taker or a man to tie down one end? If England think such a spinner exists in the domestic game, they may spend a long time searching for the next Graeme Swann.
Steven Finn (0 runs at 0; 11-1-48-0) – In contrast to Ansari, Finn’s figures do reflect his performance.