Posted by: tootingtrumpet | January 9, 2018

Ashes 2017-18: England Report Card

Hopefully, its not hemlock

Alastair Cook (376 runs at 47; 3 catches) – Just as the whispers were getting louder, he produced the monument that proved the doubters wrong, his timing, so awry early in the season, clicking into place as head, bat and feet worked together for 10 and a half hours as he carried his bat for 244 in the Melbourne bore draw. But the cruel truth is that England will not win longer Test series if Cook delivers only one score above 50, no matter how high that score is. He cannot possibly work any harder at his game – so maybe he should do less and relax into his play, waiting for the ball rather than thrusting towards it, playing across the front pad and leaving it outside off stump with the kind of positive intent that may avoid the edge from a bat held at 45 degrees.

Grade B-

Mark Stoneman (232 runs at 26) – Rocky lived up to his nickname with some brave performances against hostile bowlers with runs behind them. Started well at Brisbane (where he spent more time at the crease than any other opener), but the barrage of short balls chipped away at his technique and possibly also his morale and he was a spent force by Sydney.

Grade C

James Vince (242 runs at 27; 3 catches) – Bats like a man who knows everything about Mark Waugh except the fact that he has a brother who could bat a bit too. A player of great shots rather than a player of great innings, the Australian bowlers quickly worked out after his splendid 83 in the very first innings of the series, that, for the price of a couple of drives through the covers, you could buy England’s Number Three wicket cheaply. Looks like a man more comfortable playing white ball cricket without a slips cordon to worry about – and that might be his future

Grade C-

Joe Root (378 runs at 47; 2 wickets at 39; 2 catches) – The cheeky chappie wore an incongruously anguished look, eventually going so far into the red (mentally and physically) that his body rebelled in Sydney and illness overcame him. It would be contrary not to believe that captaincy concerns and duties did not affect his batting – perhaps he feels like he’s on 170 when he’s on 70 and that’s why he failed to convert any of his five fifties into hundreds. Denied his vice-captain and best player through no fault of his own, he was outgunned and outplanned, but to blame him for that would be like blaming the polar bear for the iceberg melting – his failure is just what we can see; the failures in the structure that supports him are the real reasons for Root’s disappointment.

Grade B-

Dawid Malan (383 runs at 43; 0 wickets; 4 catches) – Unlike pretty much all of his team-mates, the tall Middlesex man looked at home in the series, his relative inexperience offset by an unfussy technique allied to a slow heart-rate temperament and a willingness to learn from his mistakes. Crucially, unlike many asked to step up to the Test arena, he played with the knowledge that the match lasts five days and that all the momentum in the world means nothing if you’re sitting in the pavilion or conceding a first innings deficit yet again. Had some trouble with the short ball – very few in the history of the game have not – but stood tall (literally and metaphorically) and scored more runs and faced more balls (by a margin of 126) than any of his team-mates. Earned the right to be described as the one success of the tour. Bowled with the same unshowy concentration he displayed with the bat and could have been used more often.

Grade B+

Jonny Bairstow (306 runs at 34; 10 catches, 1 stumping) – The figures do not tell the whole truth, as he was left too often with a tail that would shame a Manx cat. After the infamous “greeting” to Cameron Bancroft, one of English cricket’s good (but possibly gauche) guys seemed slightly anxious with the bat, the bottom hand taking over a little too often, as it did early in his now 50 Test career. Probably his best series ever with the gloves, especially taking the ball down the legside – helped by the fact that the Australian batsmen didn’t let many of the spinners’ deliveries through!

Grade B-

Moeen Ali (179 runs at 20; 5 wickets at 115; 4 catches) – At his best in the disarmingly honest interviews we have come to expect because on the field, his form was disastrous. It is simply disingenuous (and not a little patronising) to still speak of him as a part-time off-spinner when he has 133 wickets in 49 Tests having bowled nearly 1500 overs – so he should be judged by the highest standards. The Australians, as he surely knew they would, targeted him with swift footwork and aggressive intent, making length in effect the batsman’s decision rather Moeen’s. But, possibly incapacitated by niggling injuries, he revved the ball far less than his opposite number, meaning that drift, spin and bounce were seldom in evidence. He has famously batted in every slot for England from 1 to 9: in this series, had Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Toby Roland-Jones been available for Sydney, he might have found himself at 10.

Grade D-

Chris Woakes (114 runs at 16; 10 wickets at 50) – Came alive with pink ball in hand for the second innings of the Adelaide day/nighter (a Test that looks like an anomaly in every sense) but was rendered toothless by flat pitches, the Kookaburra ball and a lack of his very best rhythm for which he is still searching after his injury blighted 2017. Did not deliver the runs expected, but often looked as well equipped as any England batsman at the crease, though there’s an element of the backhanded compliment in that phrase.

Grade C

Craig Overton (62 runs at 21; 6 wickets at 38; 1 catch) – Brought some much needed chutzpah to the England team with bat and ball, a bit of brawn from a man with a frame that wouldn’t look out of place amongst the lock forwards propelling the ball for Australia. At 23, one for the future, but he needs to play red ball cricket on hard tracks and neither county cricket nor half-arsed warm-up matches are likely to offer much chance of that.

Grade B-

Tom Curran (66 runs at 33; 2 wickets at 100) – Wholehearted, a real trier and, I’m sure, a great man in the dressing room. Unfortunately, not so great in the middle, where he looks what he is – a bowler likely to take plenty of wickets in Division Two of the County Championship. Might take his Surrey team-mate, Jade Dernbach’s, old role for England as the purveyor of liquorice allsorts in white ball cricket, with added biffs with the bat, but it’s hard to see him playing many more Tests.

Grade C-

Stuart Broad (136 runs at 16; 11 wickets at 48; 2 catches) – England’s veteran seamer did not bowl as badly as his figures suggest, but couldn’t locate a streak and too often was defended easily from a length and then picked off when too full or straying on to the legs. Kept going and did not display the disdain he would sometimes show towards team-mates in earlier days, but for a man with 399 Test wickets, he looked painfully short on threatening deliveries, never mind spells. Batting now comprises comedy thrashings, albeit with the same razor sharp eye that saw good judges once suggesting a future at Number 7, something that now looks like a cruel joke.

Grade C

Jake Ball (15 runs at 8; 1 wicket at 115) – It’s often said that the five mph between 82 and 87 makes a huge difference at Test level – and Jake Ball’s one Test rather proves that point.

Grade D

Mason Crane (6 runs at 3; 1 wicket at 193) – Promise shown through genuine turn and a fine attitude under fire, but asking a man to learn the art of bowling leg-breaks in overseas Ashes Tests is cruel and unusual punishment. If anyone can look at English county cricket’s structure and divine how a spinner can develop the skills required for Test cricket, they’re a better man than I. (Of course, picking those spinners who have succeeded against the odds in the domestic game might help).

Grade D

James Anderson (8 runs at 3; 17 wickets at 28; 2 catches) – Where would England have been had he chinned Ben Duckett after the beer throwing incident and found himself in the doghouse with Ben Stokes? Asked to shoulder a ridiculous volume of overs, he kept running in, kept asking questions with line and length delivered with just enough movement in the air or off the seam to keep them honest and, crucially, maintained the respect of opponents who were happy to see him off and score at the other end. His figures suggest that this was a middling series for him in a long career, but it was one of his very best technically, mentally and physically.

Grade A- 

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Responses

  1. Fair enough overall, but I’d give Anderson a B+ for effort. He needed 5 more wickets for an A of any sort, really.

    • As a one man band, I’ve notched him half a mark

  2. I think that like many, Curran could average no more than 30 with the ball in Tests in England but get too Oz and…

  3. Grade D for the selectors, saved from lower by picking Dawid Malan.
    Also a D for Trevor Bayliss, the showcase-your-skills approach has been brilliant for our limited overs teams, but needs more nuance to succeed in Test cricket.

    I wonder whether Jonny needs to find a bubble to bat in, as a young man who recently co-authored a part autobiography and part tribute to his dad, and had more emotional reminders on tour. I didn’t watch any of the series on telly, so you might be right that he batted anxiously; I was wondering if he just let too much emotion into his game.

    Proof that there are no scriptwriters in sport was his dismissal at the end of Day 1 at Sydney, which meant that he wouldn’t walk out to bat on the morning of the twentieth anniversary of his father’s death. I bet that was on his mind alongside the nightwatchman decision, and maybe contributed to the overcooked approach that evening.

    • I hadn’t realised that re 20 years, but it must have been on his mind.

      • He posted this picture later in the day before England took the field. I’m guessing at whether it affected his batting, which I suppose is pointless. He does overcook his shots from time to time anyway.

        • Nice to see that – must have affected him in some way. Good to see him in form with the white ball.

  4. It’s harsh, as everything you write about Jimmy is true, but I’d consider a notch lower for not being on the money for the first innings at Adelaide. Long may he lead our attack though.

    • Yep – but I think he earned the right for someone else to step up and take up the slack.

  5. Jimmy Anderson should have won the Adelaide test on his own. England lost Adelaide because he bowled poorly in the first innings and the series went downhill from there. Alec Bedser is considered great because he could contain Bradman (at least sometimes – 2 zeros). Jimmy, on the other hand, couldn´t do anything while Smith was rampaging on.


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