New Zealand in England 2015 June 3, 2015

Bell, Ballance and Moeen worries ahead of Ashes

A stunning fightback at Lord's as followed by a performance at Headingley which reminded how much work remains for England, but the captain was back in fine form

Alastair Cook's hundred at Lord's was an outstanding innings and in the second Test he broke Graham Gooch's England run-scoring record © Getty Images

Full series averages


Alastair Cook
With three 50+ scores in four innings, Cook looks to be back to his best with the bat. His century at Lord's, made with his side under pressure and against a fine attack gaining sharp movement with the new ball, was among his very best and he followed it with two half-centuries at Headingley. After a fine game as captain in the first Test, he struggled in the field in the second, but with his leadership boosted - rightly or wrongly - by his return to form with the bat, it seems inevitable he will be in charge for the Ashes.


Joe Root
Two fine innings at Lord's were followed by two failures in Leeds. After a wonderful year, the odd setback is only human, though Australia may sense a weakness in his desire to wait on the back foot. In his first series as vice-captain, he was an obviously more visible presence on the field though his attempt at tubthumping ahead of the fifth day in Leeds was faintly ridiculous.

Ben Stokes
A magnificent Lord's Test - he followed an impressive 92 in the first innings with the fastest Test century Lord's has seen in the second - was followed by a more prosaic performance at Headingley. But Stokes also bowled with pace and skill at times - his inswinger to Brendon McCullum at Lord's was a thing of beauty - and if he might not be the finished article, he showed he was well on the way to becoming a wonderfully valuable player.

Mark Wood
The most dangerous England bowler at Lord's, Wood showed he had the pace and skill to play a valuable role in this summer's Ashes series. He pushed 94 mph at times and gained sharp life from even docile surfaces - as the wicket of BJ Watling at Lord's showed - suggesting that he might provide the bit of variety this attack has been lacking. He looked a little jaded at Leeds and, with his relatively slight frame, will surely need careful handling if England are to get the best of him. Shaped up nicely with the bat, too.


Jos Buttler
Two half-centuries notable for their defence as much as their flair suggested Buttler's batting continues to develop smoothly enough. And while the number of byes he conceded at Lord's, in particular, will make him wince (26 in the first innings), it will be assuaged somewhat by two outstanding catches he took standing back to the seamers. His keeping against spin remains very much a work in progress.


Adam Lyth
Another who cemented his position ahead of the Ashes, Lyth failed twice at Lord's but then registered an elegant maiden century in the first innings at Leeds. Too early to make judgements about his prospects at this level but the discomfort he displayed against the short ball will not have gone unnoticed by Australia's fast bowlers.

Stuart Broad
England's highest wicket-taker in the series - he claimed 13 - Broad experienced a typically mercurial series. But if he was, at times, painfully expensive - at Headingley he turned in the second highest economy rate in history of any bowler to have delivered more than 30 overs in a single Test - he deserves some credit for the improved performance with the bat (he scored 69 in the second Test) and the sustained effort he put into his spells. While his plans were sometimes puzzling - the short balls at the tail, for example - the easy-paced spells that had become a characteristic of recent performances were largely gone.

James Anderson
Anderson improved markedly after a modest start - he largely squandered the first new ball at Lord's before using the second one expertly - and if some of the plans were odd (he too was sucked into bowling too short at times), his effort and skills can never be disputed.


Moeen Ali
Hundred runs and four wickets at Lord's sounds pretty good, but Moeen - at least with the ball - was never at his best in this series. Coming into it on the back of a tough trip to the Caribbean - punished for a lack of rhythm, his confidence dipped as a result - he struggled in the fourth innings at Lord's and then endured a poor game at Leeds. New Zealand coach Mike Hesson was impressed by his dip and drift, but a lack of control mitigated against those qualities and he finished the series facing questions over his future and in need of some rhythm from a few weeks in county cricket. Several drops off his bowling certainly didn't help - there were two in two balls at one stage - and the demotion to No. 8 in the batting order may have hurt a little more than he has admitted.


Ian Bell
Bell has endured fallow periods before, but rarely has he looked so bereft of confidence. Although he produced one valuable contribution - his batting on the third evening at Lord's saw off the new ball in tricky conditions - he was out softly at least twice and looked surprisingly uncomfortable against the moving ball. But just as worrying as his batting form - he is averaging just 6.75 in the eight innings since his century in Antigua - was his form in the field. While all slip fielders drop the odd catch, Bell did not even move to a couple of chances. It remains puzzling that a man blessed with so much talent can experience so much doubt. Losing the vice-captaincy and the realisation that his ODI career is probably over may have hurt more than he has let on.


Gary Ballance
After an almost idyllic first year of Test cricket, Ballance experienced a poor series with just 36 runs from his four innings. While some analysts blamed the same prevalence for the back foot that had been credited for his compact technique not so long ago, it may that he was simply the recipient of some very good deliveries. Still, the first experience of having his technique dissected - and, in some cases, rubbished - by the media will test him. The inevitable dip in confidence may well have been responsible for the subsequent fielding lapses.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo