Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 28, 2022

England vs New Zealand report cards: grading every England and New Zealand player

England

Ben Stokes (194 runs at 48.5; three wickets at 75.0; five catches)

For ten years or so, Ben Stokes played cricket with a snarl and a swear, but McCullumism has transformed that expression to a grin and a giggle. Of course, that’s easier when you’re winning, but it’s a start beyond anyone’s dreams, last month’s grumbling about the captain and coach’s lack of experience now a very distant memory.

As is the case with his batting and bowling, Stokes doesn’t always attack in the field, but when he does, he attacks hard with bowlers supported by close fielders and batters given plenty to think about. He also trusts his instincts when it comes to bowling changes, with no set hierarchies about new balls or choices of ends and a evident willingness to spring a surprise with early spin. 

His bowling lacked some of its threat (perhaps the workload over the years is catching up with him) and his batting veered between the sublime and the ridiculous (sometimes within the same over), but his impact as captain has covered all that and more. Grade A-

Alex Lees (169 runs at 28.2; two catches) 

There was a glimpse or two of the batter he could become, the occasional thump down the ground bringing forth misty memories of Marcus Trescothick as his most imperious. But the hard currency of batting is runs and he’s getting out on both sides of the bat, which suggests that there’s some technical work to be done on properly lining up the ball. Grade C

Zak Crawley (87 runs at 14.5; four catches)

The promise of that incredible double century two years ago has receded so far that I suspect even he is finding it hard to summon the memory. Everything looks out of kilter – movement, balance, shot selection, most of all, the clarity of mind required to succeed Test cricket. He probably needs to spend as much time as possible at the crease now in any format of the game available and reacquaint himself with the fundamentals of batting – he won’t be able to do that against Jasprit Bumrah and co at Edgbaston. Grade E 

Ollie Pope (267 runs at 44.5; three catches)

Asked to seize the poisoned chalice of the number three slot, the silky strokemaker produced a mixed bag of looking as good against ordinary bowling as he looked ordinary against good bowling. That’s reflected in two big scores and four failures, but that would certainly have been accepted as success when the experiment began. If he can play with some of Kane Williamson’s ego-free, compact, soft-handed approach early on and be satisfied with five or so off his first 50 balls, the gap between his Test average and his first class average will soon narrow. Grade B+  

Joe Root (396 runs at 99.0; one wicket at 77.0; four catches)

Isn’t it great to have the schoolboyish half-smirk back, the burdens of captaincy (to which he was not suited at all) mercifully lifted? All skittish action at the crease, but the dancing is all in service of getting head, hands and feet into perfect alignment for the bat to hit the ball where he chooses (and he’s choosing some hitherto inaccessible places these days). He’s sustaining a peak so long it’s becoming a plateau, the surprise not limited to when he gets out, but also to when he doesn’t hit the ball for runs. He does lose half a grade for inexplicably poor catching in the slips. Grade A-

Jonny Bairstow (394 runs at 78.9; eight catches)

At Lord’s, he was bowled in the first innings to leave England on 100-6 and bowled again in the second innings, 208 still to get with just the all-rounder, keeper and a long tail to come. Quite why England picked a longstanding unconvincing Test batter fresh out of the IPL against the world champions had eyebrows arched. And then things changed.

Not since Ian Botham backed up his 149 with 118 can two such transformational innings have been played in such close proximity. As in 1981, the first was the flashy surprise, but the second a display of complete domination on a pitch that always had something in it for the bowler. Coaches often talk about their philosophy (although I suspect Brendon McCullum has a more down to earth way of putting it) but seldom does one see the phrase made flesh so irrefutably. Grade A 

Ben Foakes (107 runs at 35.7; 12 catches)

Not quite the smooth operator as advertised, especially standing back, and must bear some responsibility for England’s often fallible work in the cordon, but batted well to get England over the line at Lord’s and Trent Bridge. Needs to work on his reviewing, especially if the captain is stationed square of the wicket. Grade B-

Sam Billings (one catch)

Answered the call and let nobody down. Grade B-

Jamie Overton (97 runs at 97.0; two wickets at 73.0)

Asked to jump from domestic T20 (in which he did not always bowl his full quota) to a debut Test and then required to bowl two length – swingers and bouncers -it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see that he struggled to find his early season rhythm. He still hurried up good players (watch the batter not the speed gun) and looked built for pace bowling across five days.

His batting has impressed for while and he now has a share in the ninth highest partnership for the seventh wicket in 145 years of Test cricket. Nobody would be completely shocked were his name to be added to the list of one Test wonders, but it would be a shame if so. Grade B 

Matthew Potts (Four runs at 2.0; 14 wickets at 23.3 three catches)

A strong young man with a repeatable action who hits the deck hard, takes the ups and downs of top level sport in his stride and gets results – quite the impression to have made in his first series. Sharp enough (in England at least) and almost visibly learning how to get batters out, his future looks bright, especially if he listens to Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad observing and emulating their subtle variations and developing their psychological and physical resilience. Grade A  

Stuart Broad (60 runs at 20.0; 12 wickets at 35.3; one catch)

He bowled much better than his figures suggest – had even the regulation slip catches been held, his wickets column would have been boosted. At times, especially against left-handers, he had the bolt upright seam, the wobble seam and the cutter on a piece of string, batters being set a new challenge almost ball-by-ball. Did some effective work with the bat too.

At 36, he can’t play every match, but he’ll probably overhaul Glenn McGrath to go second amongst seamers on the Test wickets list, maybe forever. We’ll miss him when he’s gone. (But not the endless whinging about the ball culminating in banging it into the pitch in a fit of pique. losing half a grade). Grade B-  

Jack Leach (Eight runs at 8.0; 13 wickets at 30.2; one catch)

At Trent Bridge, figures of 2-140 and 1-86 reflected both New Zealand’s targeting of the spinner and his own lack of variety, the ball fired into leg and middle with little in the way of drift or dip and not much overspin to generate bounce.

At Headingley, with some grip available off the surface and a captain and coach backing him after a disappointing match, he found a confident attacking line and the revs to present a challenge in the air and off the pitch. Both edges of the bat were threatened by the one that turned, the one that skidded on and the one that jumped. Thankfully, we heard a lot less dismal talk of “holding an end”. Successive fivefers were both well-deserved and (one hopes) portents of the future. Grade B+  

Jimmy Anderson (16 runs at 16.0; 11 wickets at 18.6)

Got a helter-skelter series underway by removing both New Zealand openers in the first half hour at Lord’s and just ran in on rails for two Tests before having an enforced break. Whether he can do two out of three Tests in the future remains to be seen, but many would argue that one out of three Tests is fine for a thoroughbred like him. Grade A- 

Matt Parkinson (8 runs at 8.0; one wicket at 47.0)

Rushed from contemplating back garden to contemplating the Rose Garden due to Jack Leach’s Lord’s concussion and showed he could beat the bat, picking up a wicket in what was little more than a cameo. Grade B- 

 

New Zealand

Will Young (133 runs at 22.2)

Out twice early at Lord’s and Headingley, but made useful contributions at Trent Bridge in a series that showed that he is one of many openers around the world with a technique just a little too loose to deliver consistent starts. Grade C 

Tom Latham (121 runs at 20.2)

Rescued a poor run of scores with a well constructed innings in the third Test that was ended by the first ball after a break. A better batter than he showed, but stepped into Williamson’s captaincy boots at Trent Bridge with the same undemonstrative decency. Grade C

Kane Williamson (96 runs at 24.0; two catches)

With little time to prepare before the series and a bout of Covid within it, one of the world’s great batters struggled to find his timing, his balance just that tiny bit off in a role that punishes marginal flaws. His captaincy is an ornament to the game, indeed to sport more generally, showing that good guys can lead, even in these benighted times. Grade B-

Devon Conway (151 runs at 25.2)

A touch of reversion to the mean after an extraordinary start to his Test career, he still looked a class act at times, but maybe was a little too keen to impose himself on the bowling and feel bat on ball. Grade C+

Henry Nicholls (59 runs at 14.8)

His biggest contribution to the cause was contracting Covid and getting Daryl Mitchell into the side at Lord’s. Thereafter, he couldn’t get going at all. Grade D

Daryl Mitchell (538 runs at 107.6; no wicket; six catches)

Pretty much defined what it is to seize one’s chance by making three centuries in three matches. His method was simple – block or leave the good ones, hit the not so good ones and occasionally advance down the track and belt it back over the bowler’s head. That said, all the basics needed to be right and, rarer than ever these days, they were. Oh, he also had a bit of luck with dropped chances and reviews – but it’s what you do with it that really matters. 

Fallible catching drops a him half grade. Grade A

Tom Blundell (383 runs at 76.6; 10 catches)

Just got on with the job whether wearing the batting gloves or the keeper’s gauntlets, he swept, cut and pulled effectively and calibrated his aggression to the match situation, complementing Mitchell in a series of big stands. Though very different in character, he’s probably vying with Rishabh Pant and Mohammad Rizwan for the title of leading wicketkeeper-batsman in Test cricket. Grade A+

Colin de Grandhomme (42 runs at 42.0; one wicket at 27.0) 

A decent innings at Lord’s, Joe Root’s wicket, a dozy run out and then he was gone, injured. Grade C+

Michael Bracewell (96 runs at 24.0; five wickets at 57.0)

One from the long tradition of Kiwi bits and pieces men (though one might have said the same about Mitchell), his bowling looked a little green and his batting a little hurried, though it was effective at times. Underlined what his career to date suggests – that he is a little short of class to be a genuine all-rounder at this level. Grade C-

Kyle Jamieson (21 runs at 5.3; six wickets at 27.5)

His brand of Garneresque controlled swing and seam showed why it had been so successful in the last year or two with six relatively cheap wickets at Lord’s but couldn’t repeat the trick at Trent Bridge. A big miss for New Zealand when injury forced him out of the second Test. Grade B  

Tim Southee (86 runs at 14.3; 9 wickets at 59; four catches)

The old warhorse ran in as hard as ever, but largely beat a tattoo on the middle of the England bats, despite picking up useful wickets here and there. He may not be back for another tour, so it’s time to salute a fine tourist who always played the game the right way and will never be short of friends on and off the field in England. Grade C- 

Matt Henry (18 runs at 9.0; two wickets at 97.5; one catch) 

Ran into Pope and Root and then Storm Bairstow at Trent Bridge to discover that bowling in Tests in England was an altogether more dangerous occupation than bowling in county cricket Grade D

Neil Wagner (4 runs at 2.0, two wickets at 54.0)

Unlucky to get picked only for the third Test, his blowhard, bowl hard, bodyline attack could work its magic. If only he’d held on to a sharp return catch from Bairstow on 27 in the first innings at Headingley. Grade C 

Ajaz Patel (11 runs at 5.5; no wicket)

Hit out of the attack by Ben Stokes at Lord’s and not required again. Grade D-

Trent Boult (55 runs at 18.3; 16 wickets at 28.9; three catches)

The pick of the New Zealand attack, his swing in and angle away consistently knocked over top order batters, but England kept attacking and runs came at the other end with even his technically perfect left-arm spells getting a bit of tap by the end of the series, such was the power of the onslaught he faced and the pressure of being the only effective weapon his captain possessed. Grade B+


Responses

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