Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Ashes - Series Ratings

By Shane Thomas


Andrew Strauss - Had a nightmare start after getting out to the third ball of the series. But recovered to have a solid time in Oz with the bat. His furious counter-attacking century was key to England's revival in the second innings in Brisbane. He wasn't at his best with the willow but never needed to be. His calm authority permeated through the side to allow them to perform at their best, particularly in the face of some fierce criticism after the heavy defeat in Perth - 8

Alastair Cook - It's interesting looking back at how I previewed the players before the start of the series. I said Cook was probably England's weak link and how the team performs will depend on how well he performs. So let's look at the stats, shall we? Three centuries, two double centuries, an average of 127.66 per innings and more runs scored in an Ashes series than any other England batsman in history, bar the great Wally Hammond. Cook has gone from England's weak link to its star man. He was a revelation and fully deserved his award for player of the series - 9

Jonathan Trott - This may be the series where Trott finally shook off the naysayers that have often besieged him. "He's too idiosyncratic at the crease." " He takes too long when he bats." "He's a position too high in the order." "He's a South African. He shouldn't be playing for us."

Well complaints about his nationality aside, Trott had a stellar time at the crease. He's become a pain in the backside of all Australian bowlers and with the exception of Cook, was England's highest run scorer this winter. Also, with Paul Collingwood retiring, Trott can fill the void left as England's immovable object that every good team needs. And that's not forgetting his inspired run-outs which precipitated two Australian batting collapses - 8

Kevin Pietersen - I'm undecided whether Pietersen underperformed or the expectations put upon him are unfair. At full flight, there may not be a better sight in the game, and his double century at Adelaide was a joy to behold. He was a touch hit-and-miss after that, but we should probably be grateful that England are now a team that don't need Pietersen to bail them out of a hole any more. KP still averaged 60 in the series and took five important catches. His position fielding at gully is an important one to the balance of the side - 7

Paul Collingwood - The only England player to underperform in this Ashes series. Never got going with the bat and maybe playing all three forms of the game for so long finally caught up with him. Having said that, his catch to dismiss Ricky Ponting at Perth was one of the moments of the winter. And after holding the England batting line-up together throughout most of 2009, it was only fair that his teammates picked up his slack for a change - 5

Ian Bell - Once dubbed "The Sherminator" by Shane Warne, the great Aussie spinner graciously acknowledged that he has graduated into a cricketer of substance after appearing to be cowed by big occasions in the past. Bell's talent was never in question but it's only in the past year that a steel fist has finally resided inside his velvet glove. He looked in good nick all series, and would have scored his first Ashes hundred had he not been forced to bat so low down the order. Thankfully, he finally broke his duck at Sydney. The innings itself required a degree of luck, but it was luck that Bell had earned. Once a flaky sort, he is now one of England's key players - 8

Matthew Prior - It's tough now to remember that Prior used to be regarded as a liability as a wicket-keeper. But after countless hours of work with Bruce French, Prior is now a solid custodian behind the stumps. On the rare occasions the England bowlers strayed with their line, Prior prevented easy runs being conceded with some excellent takes down the leg side. His batting was less impressive, although he did manage to get a century in the final Test match. There is a worry however, that Prior only scores big runs when England are in a strong position, but fails to chip in when they are struggling. This will need rectifying in the summer, but for now, he should look back on a job well done - 7

Stuart Broad - Was unlucky to pick up an injury in the 2nd Test that ruled him out of the rest of the series. Broad wasn't the most penetrative but bowled with plenty of heart. His disciplined line was a key factor in helping his fellow bowlers take wickets. Broad is still young and his time will come again - 6

Tim Bresnan - Some, me included, thought Bresnan shouldn't have made England's Ashes squad. How wrong we were. Bresnan came into the side at Melbourne and showed he's not only a bowler of effort, but of skill as well. He may not look it, but he was touching speeds of 90 mph at one stage. I don't think he'll care one jot about being underestimated. It helps him get the better of opponents. And with an ability to contribute runs down the order, I expect to see plenty more from Bresnan in an England shirt in the future - 7

Graeme Swann - Australia knew he was England's danger with the ball, and as such, tried to prepare pitches to nullify him as much as possible. The one turner that Swann got in Adelaide, he tore through Australia to put England one up. Other than that, he had to perform a more circumspect role. It was one he performed with distinction, as England rely on his ability to bowl long spells at one end while the seamers are rotated at the other. He may not have grabbed all the headlines this time around, but Swann more than played his part in this Ashes win - 7

James Anderson - I was one of many who was unsure about Anderson's ability to lead England's attack, especially after his horrid series back in 2006/07. Well Jimmy, I'm sorry I ever doubted you. From the 1st Test to the 5th, Anderson bowled brilliantly. He took more wickets than any other player, and was a constant thorn in Australia's side. At times, it put me in mind of watching Glenn McGrath bowl - 9

Steven Finn - Could count himself slightly unlucky to be dropped after England's defeat in Perth. But he should look back on his winter with pride. For one so young, he did not get overawed and consistently took wickets. At times his line and length wavered and he leaked runs as a result. But the experience will stand Finn in good stead. We definitely haven't seen the last of him - 7

Chris Tremlett - England's most recent Ashes victory have had an 'X-Factor' bowler who can plough through Australia's batsmen. It was Simon Jones in 2005, and Stuart Broad in 2009. This time it was Tremlett's turn. A bit of a surprise pick for the squad, he fully took the opportunity given to him by the England selectors after impressing at the WACA. By the end of the series, Tremlett made himself undroppable. The extra bounce generated from his 6'8" frame made life miserable for Australia. Yet another England success story - 8


Simon Katich - Started strongly but faded in Adelaide and then suffered an injury to keep him out of the remainder of the series. That may have worked out well for Katich in the end as he didn't have to endure the numerous failures by Aussies batsman over the past three months - 5

Shane Watson - His aggression made him a tricky opponent and a series average of 48.33 is not to be sniffed at. But his inability to turn any of his four half-centuries into three figures calls his mentality into question. And his running between the wickets remains abysmal. Twice he ran his opening partners out at important moments. A good series, but should have been better - 7

Philip Hughes - Highly rated in Australia, which says a lot for the paucity of talent in their ranks at the moment. How he ever managed to score two centuries in South Africa baffles me. England had the wood on him back in 2009. In 2010/11 they brought the wood out again and proceeded to batter Hughes over the head with it. He seems to have neither the technique nor the temperament for Test Match cricket - 4

Ricky Ponting - I have to say, I felt a bit for Ponting during this series. His batting was woeful, his captaincy was lacklustre and his childish remonstrating with umpires besmirched the spirit of the game. But he is one of the true greats and it seemed that in his attempts in trying to be everything at once, in the end he couldn't do anything right. If this is the last we see of him, it's a lamentable way for him to go - 3

Usman Khawaja - Amazing that a man with one Ashes Test to his name, in which he contributed an aggregate of 58 runs, is considered an Australian success. But relatively speaking, Khawaja put some of his more illustrious teammates to shame. He seems to have a good head on his young shoulders, and looks a must for the Australian team to tour England in two years time - 6

Michael Clarke - While he was hampered by a longstanding back complaint, it was alarming to see a batsman as talented and experienced as Clarke show a complete mental failing this winter. Dreadfully out of form, he seemed to think he could slog his way back into good touch. This rudimentary mindset was no match for England's disciplined bowling unit and Clarke was easy pickings throughout the series - 3
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Michael Hussey - Mr. Cricket started the series on the verge of being dropped. He ended it as the only Australian who would have gotten into the England team (at Collingwood's expense). Hussey was a shining example to his teammates, playing each ball on its merits and dispatching any filth to the boundary. By the end though, it seemed that the pressure of having to hold the Australian innings together was too much and even he succumbed to low scores as the die was cast - 8

Marcus North - Like Hussey, he started the series clinging to his Test place. Unlike Hussey, he was unable to keep hold of it. Two Tests were enough for the Australian selectors as he often out almost as quickly as he was in. He could never get hold of Swann and has probably said goodbye to Test cricket.

Steven Smith - It was not his fault that he was brought into the side to bat at Number 6. Smith could have the mental nous to succeed at Test Match level but it was asking too much to expect him to score runs batting so high. He scored a combative half-century in a losing cause at the SCG, but he must be used correctly by Cricket Australia if we're to see the best of him in the future - 6

Brad Haddin - One of the few members of the Australian side to emerge from this series with credit. Haddin was solid behind the stumps and cussed with the bat. His partnerships with Hussey were often what saved Australia from total ignominy. He was another to be overpromoted batting at six as the series drew to a close but he remains a crucial part of this 'Baggy Green' outfit - 7

Mitchell Johnson - The enduring enigma. While there's definitely ability there, his temperament appears brittle. He ended up becoming a figure of fun with England's support, who created a song in his honour. Well, I say honour, it was more a song of complete derision. While he made hay with a blinding spell in Perth, Johnson was pretty much abject otherwise. Like an unfaithful husband who promises to his wife that this time things will be different, I think Australia should cut their losses with Johnson until he can learn to bowl with increased consistency - 3

Peter Siddle - It's a pity that his hat-trick at the Gabba will probably be forgotten after the events of the rest of the series. Siddle bowled with plenty of fight as always but lacked the necessary penetration to be a consistent threat at this level. Passion is all well and good, but if that's all that was required to succeed in sport, then you might as well give the fan sitting in the stands a go - 5

Xavier Doherty - I said in my preview that Doherty's selection was either inspired or complete folly. Three wickets taken at an average of 102 runs. And then dropped for the rest of the series after only two Test matches. Utter folly. What were the Australian selectors thinking - 1

Ryan Harris - Harris impressed when playing one-day cricket for Australia against England last summer, and was their most impressive seamer this time around. But that still only makes him marginally better than average. Added to that, Harris is extremely injury prone. He broke down after a stress fracture of the ankle in Melbourne and his series was over - 6

Ben Hilfenhaus - Probably the biggest Australian disappointment with the ball. Hilfenhaus shone in 2009, but looked out of his depth this time. His swing was laboured, his often pitched too short and/or wide and was milked by England's batsman throughout. Not entirely sure if Cricket Australia will keep faith with him - 3

Michael Beer - Another 'hail-mary' selection. He looked better than Doherty, but still short of Test Match quality. Nathan Hauritz is clearly better than all these second-rate spinners so why he still can't get in the Australian team remains a mystery - 2

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