Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 12, 2022

England vs South Africa report cards: grading every England and South Africa player

England

Ben Stokes: 149 runs at 37.3; 10 wickets at 15.7; one catch

If he threw his wicket away too often, when he really needed to build an innings, he delivered the best knock of the series with a superbly constructed century at Old Trafford. At times, he was unplayable at second change, a ferocious strike bowler swinging and seaming an old ball and a parsimonious stock bowler, maintaining a threat while choking off the runs.

Lest we forget, he also engineered a 2-1 win from the wreckage of an innings defeat at Lord’s and has earned the right to meet criticism of his all-out attacking philosophy and loyalty to his players by simply directing his critics to the scorebook. Grade A

Alex Lees: 96 runs at 19.2; one catch

The becalmed batter of the Caribbean now has a shot for every ball in his eagerness to get with the programme. His longest innings was still less than the equivalent of a single session and you need more than that from an opener, even when Tests are played on fast-forward. Grade C-

Zak Crawley: 134 runs at 33.5; two catches

Quietened, if not quite silenced, his critics with a barnstorming assault on what was, truth be told, a beaten side in the gathering gloom at The Oval. This was the prize that England can see, still frustratingly just over the horizon: the weight of shot; the clarity of thinking; the transfer of pressure on to the bowlers. Grade C+ 

Ollie Pope: 179 runs at 44.8; two catches

In at three behind two unreliable openers, he embraced the responsibility mixing glorious boundaries with scurrying singes. In a bowlers’ series, he top-scored twice in England’s three first innings in suggesting that the long apprenticeship may be approaching its completion. Grade B+

Joe Root: 46 runs at 11.5; five catches

He was due a poor series and, sure enough, one turned up, the product of perhaps the only fault is in his game – a stepping across the border between busy and skittish. Grade D

Jonny Bairstow: 67 runs at 22.3; three catches

Having lived by the sword with such extraordinary success earlier in the season, the cricketing gods reminded him of his mortality. His 49 at Old Trafford set up the key partnership of the series. Grade B- 

Harry Brook: 12 runs at 12.0; one catch

The best county batter of the Spring got his chance in the Autumn and unveiled the powerful drives that has had the Yorkshire fans purring. Suckered out in the deep by Jansen, he might be a little more judicious in his shot-selection next time. Grade C 

Ben Foakes: 133 runs at 44.3; 14 catches

Though less than his silky best standing back with the gloves, his 173 runs partnership with his captain at Old Trafford turned the series and earned him a second Test century. Grade B

Stuart Broad: 77 runs at 19.3; 14 wickets at 15.6; one catch

Now unequivocally relegated to first change if Robinson is fit, we saw the Broad smile, his silent movie star expressions of disbelief at his misfortunes and the infamously optimistic reviews, all done with the knees pumping, the blood up and the ball on or full of a good length. For a bowler known for his streaks, Broad was consistent in his work and very effective in a growing leadership role, on and off the field, in support of a captain who believes in him. Grade A- 

Ollie Robinson: 20 runs at 10.0; 12 wickets at 15.0

Back in the team and looking at ease with the new regime, he underlined his class by beating a tattoo on that awkward length where the best tall bowlers reside, on or about an off stump line. That much we knew. What was encouraging for the future was the leaner physique and the willingness to keep running in stopping the gun in the mid-80s mph. England may still be searching for Alastair Cook’s successor as an opening bat; they already have James Anderson’s successor as an opening bowler. Grade A- 

Matthew Potts: seven runs at 7.0; two wickets at 39.5; one catch

Ran in with the same sunny optimism he had in the New Zealand series, but had to toil for his wickets as he discovered that Test cricket can be a hard taskmaster. Likely to take his place in the pool of pacers required for the international game these days, but may be in and out of the side rather than a regular in the future. Grade C 

Jack Leach: 26 runs at 8.7; two wickets at 44.5

Often not required, so good were the seamers, so incompetent the batters, but the old questions, partially answered with his twin fivefers at Headingley in June, surfaced again. Is holding an end and being a great team man enough to justify a place as a specialist spinner? That lack of penetration did not cost England in this series, but there will be more expected come the winter tour to Pakistan. Grade C-

James Anderson: one run at 0.5; 10 wickets at 16.6; one catch

One could detect, even through the almost caricature weariness of his now fully crafted persona, a slowing in the trudge back to his mark whereupon he could take a breath, decide which of the many deliveries at his disposal to deploy, and run in, on rails as usual at 40 years of age.

It’s all so familiar now – a little in and little out, a little wobble seam and a little cross-seam, a tentative exploration in search of some reverse – but batters are none the wiser as to how to play him. The feeling persists that he would gain a little more success were he to pitch the ball slightly further up, but his figures are mainly diminished by batters settling for keeping him out. Grade A- 

 

South Africa

Dean Elgar: 107 runs at 21.4; four catches

The captain and best batter in an inexperienced order did not make a half-century, perversely omitted Marco Jansen at Old Trafford (arguably his team’s best bowler and best batter) and failed to review his own poor LBW decision when the third Test was in the balance. It was a disappointing farewell to these shores for an admirable Test cricketer. Grade D

Sarel Erwee: 127 runs at 25.4; three catches

The opener got his side into credit before his dismissal at Lord’s and always put a high price on his wicket. The 32 year-old late bloomer held his own, but did not push on after working very hard for his starts. Grade B- 

Keegan Petersen: 122 runs at 24.4; three catches

Three 20s and one 40 in five innings speaks to a series in which the stylish batter threatened to go on and define an innings but failed to do so. Grade C+

Rassie van der Dussen: 76 runs at 25.3

Injured for the third Test, the elegant right-hander also flattered to deceive consistently getting out at the wrong time. Grade C+

Khaya Zondo: 39 runs at 19.5

Drafted in for the third Test, he showed some grit, but anchoring a floundering batting order in only his second appearance proved too great a task. Grade C

Aiden Markram: 36 runs at 12.0; three catches

The one-time golden boy of South African cricket just could not generate any momentum against England’s high class seam attack. Grade D

Ryan Rickelton: 19 runs at 9.5

Given something of a hospital pass by being drafted into the number four slot for the third Test, the wicketkeeper predictably dropped the ball. Grade D

Kyle Verreynne 61 runs at 15.3; eight catches

The wicketkeeper-batter is still feeling his way into the considerable shoes of Quinton de Kock and that provides mitigation for some ordinary work on both sides of the stumps. Grade D

Wiaan Mulder: 17 runs at 8.5; no wicket for 11 runs

One of the form players of the county championship failed to make the step from Division Two to the Test arena in a single bound. Grade D

Marco Jansen: 82 runs at 27.3; nine wickets at 13.1

Very tall, very promising left-arm quick who swung the ball at pace and also made it bounce alarmingly at times. He also benefits from getting in close to the stumps and snapping his wrist at the point of release. The 22 year-old showed all-rounder potential with the bat, some of his driving positively dreamy. 

He’s too young to remember Wasim Akram, but I’m not, and the comparisons may be too early, but they’re not outlandish. His omission for the second Test looked bizarre at the time and only looks worse now. Grade A+ 

Simon Harmer: 18 runs at 9.0; one wicket at 73.0

The terror of the county circuit was a pussycat at Old Trafford, milked for runs at the batters’ pleasure. Grade D- 

Keshav Maharaj: 79 runs at 15.8; four wickets at 28.3, one catch

Despite being under-bowled by his captain, he looked much the best spinner on show, though that’s faint praise in this series. Showed a bit of fight with the bat and probably deserved more support than he got from his team-mates. Grade B-  

Kagiso Rabada: 48 runs at 12.0; 14 wickets at 23.4; one catch

A world class bowler who showed his mettle at times with class spells moving the ball both ways at pace, troubling good batters. Curiously, he seemed to lose rhythm as the series progressed and bowled far too many four balls at The Oval. Grade B

Anrich Nortje: 45 runs at 15.0; 10 wickets at 24.8

The big quick charged in and bowled fast (leaking runs as a consequence) but couldn’t find the movement to discomfit top batters on pitches that negated the value of his bounce. Inexplicably he was never given a new hard ball nor supported in the field for a spell of short-pitched stuff in at the body. Grade B

Lungi Ngidi: four runs at 2.0; two wickets at 44.0

Rumbled in for two Tests, but did not appear to enjoy the confidence of his captain, who gave him just 30 overs. Grade C-

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Responses

  1. A Test series with only one or two batsmen averaging 40+, and where one team managed a single 50 between them is no Test series in my book. I long for the days when Test cricket was a real match between bat and ball, with batters looking to get in, play each ball on its merit and then build an innings of increasing fluidity, and bowlers working their brains and bodies to prevent them. For most of the time, this series consisted of batters offering themselves up as cannon fodder.

    • Too often for sure. But some of the seam bowling was really outstanding – Broad and Anderson are one and two amongst seamers taking Test wickets, Rabada’s strike rate is fantastic and I think Jansen will be a major figure in SA cricket for a decade or more.

      • Yes, it was high-quality bowling, but is it not the job of top-order Test batters to score runs against high-quality bowling? The point is that of the dozen or so on display only one averages 40+ in Test cricket; not just this series.

        • There was as big a discrepancy in quality between bat and ball in this series as I can recall. It wouldn’t have looked so bad had YJB and Root not been due a failure and QdK and Bavuma been available for SA.


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