Posted by: tootingtrumpet | December 23, 2016

India vs England Test Series: England Report Card

Captain Cook at Chennai.

Captain Cook at Chennai.

Alastair Cook (369 runs at 37) –

For such a consummate player of spin, he got out too often to the wrong shots, the bat coming cross the ball instead of meeting it straight down its path. Half of his dismissals were LBW or bowled, modes that are creeping into his game as he gets older. Perhaps, turning 32 on Christmas Day, his eyes might be tiring a little, tiny delays in picking up line and length leading to problems with foot movement and balance – and slip catching. His captaincy came in for much criticism and he could have attacked more at times (leg slip should have been posted for every delivery by a spinner) and he was often curiously reluctant to bowl Ben Stokes, but I’d suggest that any captain in the world, given this attack, would have gone down 4-0, so captaincy hardly mattered in the end.

Haseeb Hameed (219 runs at 44) –

Took on one of the hardest jobs in cricket and made it look… well, if not easy, then certainly natural, with a technique, attitude and temperament that appears to good to be true in a teenager. He can expect plenty of short stuff in the future, but has tenacity to burn and a dedication to improvement that will surely produce a method that works for him. There will be struggles to come, but he can take enormous confidence from a wonderful start to his Test career. It was also splendid to see him embrace touring, watching on from the stands with his family, a smile never far from his face.

Keaton Jennings (167 runs at 42; 5-1-20-0 average n/a, economy 4.0) –

Cashed in with a century after being dropped on 0 in his first knock and has backed that up by top scoring in two of his first four innings in Test cricket. Like most left-handers, he fancies it outside off stump and will need to learn to rein in that instinct for half an hour or so until the feet are moving properly and head is well across towards the ball. He’ll probably find himself at Number Three in the immediate future and might want to take a leaf from India’s Three in terms of adding strike rotating singles and a willingness to hit the bad ball very hard to his game. But a few scoreboards showing England 145-1 at Tea on the first day of a Test would be very welcome indeed.

Ben Duckett (18 runs at 6) –

Many of us wondered if he could survive with the game he showed in Bangladesh and we didn’t have to wait long for the answer. Should definitely continue to play T20Is and probably ODIs too, but has to find a way to get into Division One of the County Championship and then bat through at least two sessions against canny red ball operators. A few long sessions on the bowling machine with the single objective of playing every ball under his eyes would be a good place to start the long road back to the Test XI.

Joe Root (491 runs at 49; 16-2-57-2 average 28.5, economy 3.6) –

Got in and got on with it as usual and looked the class of the field when England were batting. Scores of 53, 78, 77 and 88 (and even his series opening 124) can hardly be deemed failures, but, in India, that means (more often than not) that another player has to better that score if the Test is to be won. The daddy hundreds really count on pitches like these, and he couldn’t go on to post any. Okay, that’s harsh criticism, but descriptions like “England’s finest post war batsman” have been bandied around about him, so the standards to which he is held are sky high – maybe unfairly so.

Moeen Ali (381 runs at 42; 188.1-21-649-10 average 64.9, economy 3.4) –

What a curio he is! He can bat like a dream, a David Gower resurrected, and then play a shot that would embarrass even him (and Gower knew a bit about getting out to crazy, lazy strokes). Bowling can go the same way – the jaffa suddenly turning up between the half volleys and long hops. Copped some unfair stick about some spells though, because the batsmen to whom he was bowling were pretty good and would simply make length (and sometimes line) their decision with positive footwork allied to extreme confidence. The sad fact remains that it seems unlikely that England will take wickets quickly enough on turning pitches nor control runs on flat tracks if Moeen is expected to deliver 15 overs or so per day. So is his batting enough to justify a role as a change bowler only? For such a wonderful player to watch and such a dedicated team man, one has to hope that it is.

Jonny Bairstow (352 runs at 44; 11 catches, 2 stumpings) –

Keeping wicket and batting with the expectation of scoring the runs of a specialist is a tough ask in India with so much standing up to spinners in heat and humidity. It is a testament to his fitness that, at the end of a long year of unprecedented success, he seldom looked tired (though he must have felt it). The keeping, for all the stats piling up, is still scrappy and there are too many relatively straightforward chances missed and too few hard chances taken. 4-0 is a time for home truths to be spoken and “You’re our Five Jonny, but Jos is getting the gloves and doing Seven” might have to be said if the team is to progress.

Ben Stokes (345 runs at 38; 106.2-16-357-8 average 44.6, economy 3.4) –

Scored 227 of his 345 runs in his first three innings and was underbowled by Cook throughout the series, especially when England needed to start sessions with a bang. Given his workload, he must have a few aches and pains, but was he carrying something more restricting? More than any other England player, he needs his workload managed with sympathy through rotation, not through extended periods in the covers – strangely, he was often not found in the slips, despite being England’s best man in the cordon since Ian Botham.

Jos Buttler (154 runs at 38.5) –

Looked a far better batsman than when he last played Test cricket, the feet less anchored, the defensive game more rounded. Surely this huge talent cannot be confined to white ball cricket only, but if he is to be a game-changer at Seven (his most natural position) then he pretty much has to take the gloves. Will that slay the golden goose that has been Jonny Bairstow in 2016? It’s a risk worth taking.

Liam Dawson (66 runs at 66; 43-4-129-2 average 64.5, economy 3.0) –

Showed great sang froid in dropping straight into a Test team and batting as if it were midsummer at the Rose Bowl with Hampshire 270-4, particularly after a second ball ear-ringer on the helmet. Bowled with discipline too, earning more respect from India’s batsmen than England’s other spin options. But there’s a reason why David Hussey never played a Test for Australia, and Liam Dawson is probably his inferior in batting, bowling and fielding.

Chris Woakes (70 runs at 14; 77-16-244-3 average 81.3, economy 3.2) –

The quicker he bowled, the quicker the ball arrived in the middle of the home team bats. After a golden run of form, he had neither the pace nor the movement to trouble the Indian batsmen on home tracks – hardly the first to learn that harsh lesson. He has enough credit in the bank to stay a crucial member of England’s fast bowling squad, from whom three or four will be chosen for each Test.

Adil Rashid (113 runs at 14; 232.2-19-861-23 average 37.4, economy 3.7) –

Suffers a bit for the profligacy of his team mates in that his (standard issue leg spinner) boundaries look worse because there are fours and sixes coming at the other end too. Took plenty of wickets (and not just tailenders) with sharp spun leg breaks and a mystifyingly underused, largely unpicked googly, but too often I found myself saying, “Well, I could have hit that for four”, the bad balls being really bad balls. Whether England can get Moeen and Rashid in the same XI outside the subcontinent is a tricky one to call – like setting a field for a long hop, it feels like a decision rooted in distrust, especially if Joe Root can fiddle a few overs when required. And, just when his batting gifts looked completely squandered in a series in which late middle order runs were crucial, he made a lovely 60 in Chennai to remind us what we’d been missing.

Zafar Ansari (36 runs at 12; 43-3-163-3 average 54, economy 3.8) –

For Surrey, he has played sometimes as a top order batsman and sometimes as a specialist spinner. Unfortunately, in his two matches in this series, he bowled like a top order batsman and batted like a specialist spinner.

Stuart Broad (44 runs at 11; 89-24-248-8 average 31.0, economy 2.8) –

England missed his nous and cutters in the two Tests he sat out injured and his figures do not do him justice in the three he played, he can take solace from the thought that he was the only England bowler not comprehensively outbowled by his opposite number. Seemingly out of the picture for white ball cricket, is there a chance that he might take the captaincy of the Test XI? It wouldn’t harm the gate receipts Down Under next winter for sure.

Gareth Batty (1 run at 1; 19.2-0-65-0 average n/a, economy 3.4) –

Not the new Shaun Udal after all. Did not embarrass himself by any means, but his captain didn’t seem to want to throw him the ball – as if he were a man who still hasn’t paid his subs in July.

Jake Ball (45 runs at 11; 41-7-140-1 average 140, economy 3.4) –

A tough gig for the wholehearted trier from Notts, the pitches not really suiting his “hit the deck” style, although he did try a few cutters (that we could pick on the TV screens). Ravi Bopara – eight inches shorter, 30 clicks slower, ten times as cunning – might have been a better option. Hells bells, if Gareth Batty got a game, why not Darren Stevens!

James Anderson (20 runs at 5; 79-17-214-4 average 53.5, economy 2.7) –

Got plenty of respect from the Indian batsmen, but seldom got the ball to swing conventionally or reversing and didn’t seam it much either. His 12 wickets in four Tests in 2012 looked a long time ago.

 

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Responses

  1. Some nice turns of phrase here Gary.

    And some interesting thoughts too.

    To for this.

  2. Claims that Root is England’s greatest post-war batsman seem a touch premature to me, to be honest. He’s a very good player, but despite what some say, converting good scores into match-changing ones is important, and he doesn’t do that anything like often enough.

    • I agree with you – but others have claimed it!

      • Indeed they have, incomprehensible as it may be.

  3. Love the Ansari summary.


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