Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 11, 2017

England’s Test Summer 2017 – Every Player Rated

Alastair Cook (572 runs at 44.0, 12 catches) Grade B-. Looked more comfortable back in the ranks and out of the spotlight and produced another Cook Monument at Edgbaston with a ten hour 243, an innings that gained lustre as the series progressed and the expected walkover failed to materialise. Earlier, against some very classy new ball bowling from Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, he made a contribution in all four Tests, but faded as the compresses Test summer stretched into September. Caught, but also dropped, plenty at first slip, which suggests that he might not be sighting the ball quite as early as he used to as he approaches his mid-thirties.

Keaton Jennings (127 runs at 15.9, 1 catch) Grade D. Nobody thinks opening in Test cricket is easy, but Jennings made it look very difficult indeed. In 2016, everything clicked for him as he piled up the runs for Durham, but one year on, his timing was just that bit off, enhancing the natural vulnerability of the left-hander to nicking off. Many batsmen need a period out of the Test XI having had some early success, but Jennings looks more likely to join the likes of Adam Lyth as a solid county pro than return to the England fold and thrive as Joe Root did.

Mark Stoneman (120 runs at 30.0) Grade C+. Just the one half century, but has the virtue of improving as he settled into the rhythms of Test cricket. After an inconclusive start to his Test career, he’s stuck in the curious position of not doing enough to nail down an Ashes slot, but delivering sufficiently to make dropping him both harsh and a step back towards the disastrous hokey-cokey selection policy of the pre-Duncan Fletcher days. Might find a slot at three, with Haseeb Hameed’s right-handedness favoured as partner to Alastair Cook.

Gary Ballance (85 runs at 21.3, 2 catches) Grade D-. A rejoinder to the pundits’ cliche that you should “play the game that got you selected” when a batsman steps up from the county game. Ballance had been scoring runs for fun for Yorkshire, but, back in international cricket, he looked wracked with anxiety, the game anything but fun. Cricket has plenty of room for esoteric techniques and Ballance has the tools to make shedloads of runs in the future – not for England though.

Tom Westley (193 runs at 24.1, 0 wickets 1 catch) Grade C-. Another batsman whose technique has yielded runs in the county game but looks ill-suited to deal with bowlers who have the extra nip or movement to beat a bat coming round the front pad as straight balls are worked into the leg-side with a dominant bottom hand. His good start, displaying the kind of temperament England look for in a player, floundered on a series of low scores and he looks more likely to go on a Lions Tour than an Ashes Tour in the winter – because Cummins, Starc and Hazelwood would surely have him on toast.

Joe Root (729 runs at 60.8, 0 wickets, 9 catches) Grade B+. The burden of captaincy affected his game not a jot as he rode his luck to make a series defining 190 at Lord’s in his first innings as leader, a knock that rescued England from 76-4, the kind of score that he sees too often from the vantage point of the middle. He is so busy at the crease and so adept at putting away the four ball that it’s hard not to think that he should make even more runs than he does, but, if he didn’t get out when set, he’d be averaging 99.94 at a strike rate of 99.94. Busy as a captain too, with lots of bowling changes and well stocked slip cordons, but froze a little when Shai Hope played one of the all-time great Test innings at Headingley. His (some might say hubristic) declaration was perfectly acceptable, as that approach will turn far, far more draws into wins than into defeats – but I don’t think he’ll do it again, one up with two to play.

Dawid Malan (189 runs at 23.6, 0 wickets, 0 catches) Grade C+. From the Marcus Trescothick school of batting, a big man who moves his weight over rather than across the crease, and can drive balls only just full of a length. His 61, compiled at Headingley in just under a five hours in which he never looked fluent, took England from a deficit of 75 to a lead of 143 and that is the very acme of toughing it out in the middle order. Play that kind of knock twice Down Under and he’ll justify his selection.

Ben Stokes (527 runs at 43.9, 16 wickets at 31.3, 16 catches) Grade A. England’s gamechanger changed games with both bat and ball and in the field too. Like many a big hitter, his pyrotechnics are launched from a solid base of a straight bat presented with a high elbow, an approach from which his colleagues could learn much. That orthodoxy allows him to make deceptively tough runs on tricky pitches and when matches are in the balance. At times underused by Root, his bowling never takes a backward step, risking the drive for the late movement at pace that dismisses the best batsmen when set. More fallible than has been the case in the field, but doesn’t miss much though he does get carried away when throwing at the stumps. Goes into the Ashes as the lynchpin of the side, but (pending the ODIs and T20Is) just one demerit point away from suspension – so he needs his mouth shut, surely not an impossible ask of a man of 26 years of age.

Jonny Bairstow (389 runs at 32.4, 26 catches, 2 stumpings) Grade B. Not quite the output with the bat that has spoiled us over the last couple of years, but his punchy style still made plenty of runs delivering on his “take the game away” brief. His keeping is much improved, particularly his footwork on the legside, where he does enjoy an appeal off the thighpad, though the glovework still can look shoddy at times, especially taking throws from the deep. Retains his boyish joy to be playing for England, with plenty of smiles for teammates and the public earning him a wholly deserved popularity. It’s great to see an good guy doing well.

Moeen Ali (361 runs at 32.8, 30 wickets at 21.3, 4 catches) Grade B+. Though his numbers don’t quite bear it out, he seemed to be everywhere: batting, bowling, fielding and, memorably, celebrating an Oval hat-trick with uninhibited delight, the photograph of the summer. Got a bit of help from the pitches in the South Africa series, but used it beautifully with an attacking line of hard spun off-breaks, the wicket-taking balls more than compensating for the loose ones that still betray his origin as a batsman who bowls. Looks comfortable at Number 8, where his feline grace and Goweresque cover drives can be deployed against tiring bowlers and a second new ball that pings off the blade. Speaks eloquently with candour to the media, a man comfortable in his skin and at ease in the team.

Liam Dawson (18 runs at 6.0, 5 wickets at 33.8, 2 catches) Grade C-. The Lord’s pitch had turned sharply for Samit Patel in the Royal London One Day Cup Final a few days earlier, so it made sense to have a second spin option in the (delayed) First Test of the summer and Dawson justified his place with four wickets, including that of Hashim Amla. It was a curious decision to retain him at Trent Bridge, but he was no more blameworthy than anyone else in a terrible Test for the team as a whole. Dawson is a solid county pro who might offer enough to play some international white ball cricket, but, with Mason Crane identified as the latest Great English Wrist-Spinning Hope, it’s hard to see Dawson getting another Test.

Chris Woakes (84 runs at 84.0, 2 wickets at 61, 0 catches) Grade C. Would he have played his single Test of an injury blighted summer were an Ashes Tour not a few months away? As it was, he looked undercooked with the ball, down on pace, lacking rhythm and in need of a gallop. His batting was as classy as ever, preposterously low at Number 9 armed, as he is, with a much better technique than the Number 3!

Toby Roland-Jones (82 runs at 20.5, 17 wickets at 19.6, 0 catches) Grade B+. Translated his county game into the Test arena seamlessly, running in a long way but with lovely balance, then hitting the pitch hard to extract any seam movement that might be available. He has all the attributes to be a fine addition to England’s seamer squad – and that’s what you need with so many Tests being played with just a few days between them. Showed the kind of positive strokeplay with the bat at Number 9 that characterised Stuart Broad prior to his grilling by Varon Aaron.

Mark Wood (34 runs at 8.5, 1 wicket at 197.0, 1 catch). Grade D-. Charged in with his usual enthusiasm, but just couldn’t get everything lined up and working smoothly after his injuries. Recently got back on his horse for Durham and took a few wickets, but might be destined to go in and out of the side as injuries and rotation permits.

Stuart Broad (129 runs at 16.1, 20 wickets at 33.9, 2 catches) Grade B-. A strangely quiet season for Broad who failed to deliver one of his trademark streaks, possibly because he always seemed to be just that bit too short, his fear of the drive with ball in hand almost as great as his fear of the bouncer with bat in hand. That said, his figures would have been much improved by better catching, a priority for improvement as a team and for Broad himself. His driving, slashing batting won’t deliver the big scores he once looked capable of making from Number 8, but the occasional thirty-odd at 10 is fine given England’s wealth of all-rounders / bowlers who bat.

Jimmy Anderson (27 runs at 9.0, 39 wickets at 14.1, 5 catches) Grade A+. At 35 years of age, his game is pared back to the minimum, the run up defining efficiency, the delivery defining the repeatable action for which pacemen strive, the ball swinging this way and that, the conjuror bamboozling any batsman unwilling or unable to watch the ball every inch of its passage from cocked wrist to straight bat. Had conditions in his favour of course and, if he was occasionally ever so slightly showy going that few feet short to create big booming swingers particularly past left-handers, well, as Root isn’t DG Bradman, Anderson isn’t SF Barnes – not that there’s any shame in that. England’s record-breaker will have a Kookaburra ball in hand soon, as he seeks to catch Courtney Walsh and Glenn McGrath, and the atmospherics and pitches won’t be as amenable to his style either, but he’s equipped to bowl anywhere these days and will eye Australia’s fragile middle order with a gimlet eye. Probably still England’s second best fielder too – a testament to his skills and the work his colleagues need to put in, because dropping Warner or Smith at Brisbane or Adelaide could be as good as dropping The Urn itself.

 

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Responses

  1. Very fair grading, meaning there are a couple of holes in the Ashes starting 11.

  2. Comprehensive roundup there, fabulous.
    Agreed with pretty much everything on there, it’s been a really interesting and compelling summer of cricket. Roll on winter!

  3. Much more perspective than most have shown, since they tend to fall for the old human trait of considering the most recent performances as most important. You perspective has been a proper summer-long one.

    Not to your address, but too many have been considering the two series as though they are part of a continuum, but the fact is that performances against South Africa, particularly batting ones, count for more, I think, than those against the Windies (as their board has now officially dubbed them). I am looking, of course, at positions 2, 3 and 5.

    Apart from that, my only niggle is that I would have given Moeen an A- as opposed to B+. Can’t disagree with anything else though.


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