Posted by: tootingtrumpet | January 17, 2022

Ashes 2021-22 report cards: grading every England and Australia player

England

Joe Root: 322 runs, average 32; five wickets, average 47; six catches

By the hideous denouement, the trademark busyness with the bat required an almost visible force of will, while the interviews’ words said one thing and the eyes another. The captain may have been dealt a weak hand by English cricket’s mismanagement, but he both bears some responsibility for those decisions (especially selection) and can be accused (again) of failing to get the most from the resources available to him. With an attack not much inferior to his opposite number’s, it was much harder to discern history’s most experienced England captain’s tactics than it was Australia’s least experienced. There’s plenty of mitigation, but there’s plenty of underachievement too. Grade C-      

Rory Burns: 77 runs, average 13; two catches

It’s worth remembering (because the Aussies would have) that he scored a century and two fifties in the 2019 Ashes, but, since then the contortions required by to bring the bat down on to the ball in  a straight line appear to have overwhelmed his fragile technique. Even his usually reliable catching in the cordon deserted him. Grade E+

Haseeb Hameed: 80 runs, average 10; three catches

Probably needed warm-up matches more than any other player as he is only part way back to his best. His trigger movements collapsed downwards and backwards as his timing disintegrated under relentless Australian pressure. Grade E+ 

Zak Crawley: 166 runs, average 28; eight catches

Once his tour got going (can you really sit in judgment on a batsman sent out to open at the MCG without so much as a proper hit in the middle for months), he looked the part – at least when attacking. The decisive transfer of weight into his shots means that he go a little too hard at the ball, but his boldness stands out in a batting unit too often too timid. His introduction to the cordon improved the dismal fielding effort. Grade B- 

Dawid Malan: 244 runs, average 24; two wickets, average 31; two catches

He started well, showing that his reputation as a specialist on the higher bouncing wickets of the Southern Hemisphere was not mere hype, but he can take so long to get his feet moving that he is always a candidate to be pinned on the crease. It didn’t take long for the Australians to exploit that flaw. Grade C 

Ben Stokes: 236 runs, average 24; four wickets, average 72; three catches

He bristled as only he can bristle in this squad and his opponents still valued his wicket, but he was short of a gallop with bat and ball and it showed both in his contributions and his vulnerability to injury. In attempting to replicate Neil Wagner’s bouncer strategy, he merely showed how underrated the Kiwi is in the role and limited his own effectiveness. Grade C- 

Jonny Bairstow: 194 runs, average 49; one catch

After yet another recall, his emotional century in Sydney helped stave off the possibility of a whitewash and (perhaps) the end of his cherished Test career. He also added some much needed energy in the field. Grade B 

Ollie Pope: 67 runs, average 11; four catches

Not for the first time in England colours, the orthodoxy that sees so many runs scored for Surrey was buried by ticks and quirks that spoke of a mind thinking too hard, anxiety swamping talent. Everyone knows that there’s a Test batsman here, but that player is further away now than ever. Grade E 

Jos Buttler: 107 runs, average 15; 12 catches

The player selected as a gamechanger with the bat, changed games with the gloves, his dropping of regulation chances only partially offset by taking some blinders. After 57 Tests, the white ball wizard is surely now a red ball washout. Grade D-   

Sam Billings: 30 runs, average 15; five catches

He brought some much needed reliability behind the stumps, moving like a natural gloveman to the ball with feet as well as hands and looked like it was a privilege to wear the shirt – which really mattered by Hobart. Talks the talk, and showed more promise than most white ball operators that he might walk the walk in Tests too. Grade B-

Chris Woakes: 146 runs, average 24; six wickets, average 55; no catches

It’s so predictable, yet still so inexplicable, that the “top of off stump and just outside” approach that works so well at home (and is often called for by pundits) cannot produce the goods beyond England’s shores. As usual, his batting looked more fluent than most of the seven that went in ahead of him. Grade C-  

Ollie Robinson: 38 runs, average 5; 11 wickets, average 25; two catches

He took his straightforward approach to pulling the batsmen forward and then hitting the seam to the land of the men who purportedly slaughter his brand of 80mph trundling and succeeded – but not often enough, his conditioning not up to the rigours of the brutal schedule. He is a much better batsman than he showed. Grade B 

Jack Leach: 51 runs, average 13; six wickets, average 54; no catches

Humiliated by selectors ignoring him for so long, by batsmen climbing into him from the get-go and by a captain setting fields for bad bowling, he eventually found some rhythm in Sydney (and batted 15 overs for the draw), only to be dropped for Hobart. If only his talent were as big as his heart, he’d have 800 Test wickets too. Grade C- 

Mark Wood: 86 runs, average 11; 17 wickets, average 27; one catch

He was let down by batsmen who barely gave him a chance to recover between innings, by catchers who couldn’t make good on the chances he created and by some old-fashioned bad luck. But he never stopped trying, seldom dropped his pace and, like the quicks on the other side, showed that you can play aggressive cricket with a smile and not a snarl. He got his just deserts with his last chance. Grade B+

Stuart Broad: 42 runs, average 14; 13 wickets, average 26; two catches

He looked fit and ultra-motivated when confronted by the sight of a green helmet 22 yards away, with the huge advantage of the fact that the Aussies rate him. He moved the Kookaburra ball a little in the air and a little off the seam and gave few free hits – old school virtues that still work. Surely there was a way to get him into more than three matches? Grade B+

James Anderson: 13 runs, average 7; eight wickets, average 23; no catches

The Australians followed the now orthodox approach of blocking the master craftsman while scoring at the other end, so his figures do not reflect his contribution to the team. Bizarrely not picked for Brisbane, where he would surely have exchanged maidens for wickets and rebalanced his strike rate (78) and economy rate (1.8), especially if he had pitched the ball a metre or so further up.  Grade B 

 

Australia 

David Warner: 273 runs, average 34; five catches

He might not have the same ebullience of a decade or so ago, but he made runs when it mattered, not leaving the crease at Brisbane until his team were ahead by 48 runs and quashing any thoughts of pink ball carnage with 95 at the top of the order in Adelaide. Grade B+ 

Marcus Harris: 179 runs, average 30; one catch

Paid with his place at Hobart for early failures, but his willingness to bat time during the hard yards would see him walk into the England team. Grade B-

Usman Khawaja: 255 runs, average 85; two catches

If joining a side that had already secured the Ashes gave him a platform, taking his chance after seeing his immediate rival for a slot play so spectacularly well, showed real heart. He brought 11 on and off years of Test match batting to Sydney and, with his twin centuries, it showed. Grade A- 

Marnus Labuschagne: 335 runs, average 42; no wickets; five catches

Another whose work was done at the sharp end of the series and a rare example of a batsman who has adopted some of Steven Smith’s set up without losing sight of his stumps. Came into the series with a big reputation and delivered. Grade A-

Steven Smith: 244 runs, average 31; one wicket, average 10; 11 catches

A subdued series with the bat and a subdued one match stint as captain, the heartbeat of the side for the last decade or so may be retreating to elder statesman territory. He’s too smart to fail to notice that he left a lot of runs in the middle with some uncharacteristically soft dismissals. Grade B-

Travis Head: 357 runs, average 60; no wickets; three catches

A marginal pick, he embraced the pressure of Ashes cricket and Australian expectation with dazzling displays of counterattacking batting, only Covid pausing his assault on the bowling. His willingness to simplify batting into defending good balls and hitting bad balls very hard indeed, is something England’s batsmen could try. Grade A  

Cameron Green: 228 runs, average 33; 13 wickets, average 16; four catches

His brief with the bat is to turn good positions into match winning opportunities; with the ball, it’s to get set batsmen out; and in the field, it’s to catch at gully. At 22, the big blond lad has already done that across five Tests of an Ashes series. The “New Keith Miller” tag is premature of course, but Australia doesn’t produce many genuine all-rounders, so this may be a rare beast indeed. Grade A-  

Alex Carey: 183 runs, average 20; 23 catches

Given his chance in the aftermath of the Tim Paine (remember him?) debacle, the 30 year-old struggled a little to find his feet on either side of the stumps. But nothing helps a wicketkeeper like pacemen finding edges and the chances were never long in coming, as his 23 catches attest. Grade B-

Michell Starc: 155 runs, average 39; 19 wickets, average 25; one catch

Like his long time teammate, Nathan Lyon, whispers about his place in the side had begun to circulate alongside questions about whether he was really that good after all. He answered them with hostile bowling at the stumps and the body, allied to the physical resilience to keep charging in at full tilt. He went for a few runs, but if you bowl those lines and lengths, you do – it’s part of the strike bowler’s deal. Batted very effectively too. Grade A-

Patrick Cummins: 72 runs, average 14; 21 wickets, average 18; two catches

It shouldn’t matter, but looking like that at the toss must make your teammates feel like they start on 100-0, the Golden Boy who disappeared for so long now very much the Golden Man. Not as quick as in his tearaway youth, he’s a smart bowler who can move the Kookaburra with relentless accuracy and can still jar a splice or hit a helmet when required. To nobody’s surprise, his captaincy showed similar smarts, outskippering his opposite number to an embarrassing degree. Grade A+

Michael Neser: 38 runs, average 19; two wickets, average 31; no catches

The experienced man let nobody down subbing in for the isolating Cummins, but is now behind Scott Boland in the pecking order and might never add to his Adelaide debut. Grade B

Nathan Lyon: 76 runs, average 25; 16 wickets, average 24; four catches

Was he playing for his place after an extended period without a wicket? Australia had bowled 125 overs in Brisbane before the off / top spinner had his first victim, but he got another three on a seamers’ strip and the old confidence was soon flooding through his action. He even slogged a few runs. Grade B+ 

Jhye Richardson: 17 runs, average nine; 5 wickets, average 24; catches

Like Michael Neser, he came in and did a job in the day-nighter and, with time on his side, the lively quick might yet add to his three Test caps. Grade B

Scott Boland: 24 runs, average 12; 18 wickets, average 10; four catches

There was something of a “Who? Me?” look in the 32 year-old’s eyes as he prepared to take his bow in the Test arena. Unlike so many of his opponents, he appeared to have a very clear idea of what he wanted to do – which was to do exactly what he had done to get him his Baggy Green in the first place. He ran in, bowled at the top of off stump with the seam up and sent a procession of English batsmen back to the pavilion. And he kept doing so whenever his captain threw him the ball. Grade A+

Josh Hazlewood: No runs, average 0; three wickets, average 25; two catches.

His metronomic line and length, seasoned with the occasional splice-jarring lifter, were barely missed – which shows how well stocked the Australian pace battery is in home conditions. Grade B 


Responses

  1. This is shaping up to be a decent Australian team, but the real difference, in my opinion, was in the way the teams were led. Root was poor, Cummings inspired.

    • There’s a lot in that – I’ve gone in quite hard on Root, but he was very second best.

      But if you score that level of runs, innings after innings, you won’t win Tests.

      • Yes, the batting was weak in the extreme, and I’m not sure what’s to be done about it.

        • I think you have to start with getting more orthodoxy into the top seven either by picking different players or coaching the current ones to do so. Obviously, a bit of both will improve matters, but it’s such a low ebb.

  2. I’d never have imagined a series where my favourite player topped the England batting averages, Mark Wood bowled fast and stayed fit, and Australia’s erstwhile immovable objects had such average averages…. and yet everything went so horribly wrong. If it were a baking competition, there’d be a few crumbs of comfort but a very soggy bottom.


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