Pakistan in England 2016 August 15, 2016

Woakes stands tall, but too many batting holes

After a series where their depth of allrounders stood out, but familiar batting failings remained, ESPNcricinfo looks at how England's players performed


Chris Woakes (177 runs at 35.40, 26 wickets at 16.73)

Outstanding. The top wicket-taker in the series, Woakes bowled with pace, skill, control and consistency and looked, in almost every spell, the most dangerous of England's bowlers. After earning multiple honours board mention at Lord's (he claimed five-wicket hauls in both innings), he took another seven wickets in Manchester (and contributed a composed half-century as nightwatchman) and five more in Birmingham. He finished having set a new record for the number of wickets by an England bowler in a series against Pakistan.


Alastair Cook (423 runs at 60.42)

Cook batted with fluency - only Moeen Ali scored his runs more quickly - and consistency against a fine bowling attack. If there were times it seemed he squandered his platform - pulling on to his stumps at The Oval and pushing at one away from his body at Edgbaston - it was a sense magnified by the lack of contribution from others in the top order. Cook also demonstrated his growing captaincy skills by coaxing an out of sorts (Woakes aside) bowling attack to victory at Edgbaston and suggesting Anderson apologise after his disagreement with the umpires. Lost half a mark due to his drops in the slips. Needs to find a way to improve England's over-rate, though.

Joe Root (512 runs at 73.14, 1 wicket at 27)

It is probably unreasonable to expect more from a 25-year-old than Root produced here. So infuriated was he with himself after his two impatient dismissals at Lord's that he produced perhaps the most mature innings of his career at Old Trafford. And, if he endured a disappointing game at The Oval, again allowing his impatience to get the better of him, it was a reminder that England have come to rely on him too heavily. Not at his best in the slips, though he remains a fine catcher.

Jonny Bairstow (366 runs at 52.28; 14 catches, one stumping)

After a poor miss at Lord's, Bairstow enjoyed an improved series with the gloves and another consistently good series with the bat. While he may have some frustration at not converting any of his four half-centuries into centuries, he twice departed selflessly trying to up the pace to set-up a declaration. Guaranteed to start the winter as first choice keeper.

Moeen Ali found his batting form over the last two Tests © AFP

Moeen Ali (316 runs at 63.20; 11 wickets at 46.54)

The simple summary would state that Moeen shone with the bat and subsided with the ball. The truth, though, is a little more complex. After a poor Tests at Lord's, Moeen's place in the side looked as precarious as at any time since his early Tests. But he weighed in with five wickets at Old Trafford, two vital half-centuries at Edgbaston and a high-class century at The Oval. While his economy rate of 4.62 an over is simply not good enough, he did end the series with a better strike-rate than every England bowler other than Woakes. He suffers, in part, for being the least bad spinner (arguably, anyway) in a period when England's spin resources have never been so low.


James Anderson (nine wickets at 25.66)

After missing the first Test - controversially according to some - Anderson was as tight and controlled as ever for the rest of the series. While he admitted his pace had dropped, he suggested his experience and skills compensated. Sure enough, he bowled with great skill in harnessing the reverse swing at Edgbaston, but looked just a bit toothless at The Oval.


Stuart Broad (13 wickets at 28.61)

Claimed six wickets at Lord's and finished with perfectly respectable bowling figures, but this was a slightly underwhelming series from a man who has become accustomed to match-turning spells. Though there were moments of great skill - he produced a lovely cutter to account for Asad Shafiq at Old Trafford and produced a sharp spell at The Oval - but he was generally content to provide a holding role on these sluggish surfaces, bowling within himself and concentrating on moving the ball into right-handed batsmen.


Steven Finn (5 wickets at 70.40)

While never quite at his best, Finn bowled some way better than his figures suggest. The slow pitches and dropped catches did him few favours, but he was generally unable to recapture the pace that rendered him so dangerous on his return last year or in South Africa at the start of this year. Dropped for the second Test, he returned with two important wickets in the second innings in Edgbaston and retained his place for the final Test. Hard to see how he makes it into the Test team in Asia, though.

There were again doubts as to whether Alex Hales was the right man to open the batting © Getty Images


Gary Ballance (195 runs at 27.85)

Top-scored in the first innings at Edgbaston but failed to cement his return to the side. While three dismissals to balls turning sharply from outside off hinted at a problem against spin that could be exploited this winter, there were few signs of the problems against left-arm pace that bothered him last year. In danger of being branded alongside Hales and Vince, but in reality looked a little more assured.


Alex Hales (145 runs at 18.12)

After the apparent progress made against Sri Lanka, this was a hugely disappointing series. Only once could Hales reach 25 and five times in the series his uncertainty around off stump was exploited with catches to the cordon. He remained fallible in the field and provided a glimpse into his growing anxiety by remonstrating with the third umpire at The Oval. There was one important innings - he helped his captain erase the first innings deficit in Edgbaston - but Hales faces an anxious wait to see if his success against Sri Lanka earned him the credit to secure his place in Bangladesh and India.

James Vince (158 runs at 22.57)

There were moments - not least in the second innings at Lord's and in the Edgbaston Test in which he contributed 81 runs - when it appeared Vince might be learning the discipline and denial required in Test cricket. But even at Edgbaston he enjoyed some fortune and a tally of five dismissals to edges to the keeper or the cordon and a poor shot in the final innings at The Oval suggested a recurring fault outside off stump that threatens his future at this level. Seven Tests in succession without being able to repay the selectors' faith with a half-century leave him unlikely to make the tour squad. Rarely convincing in the slip cordon.


Jake Ball (one wicket at 88)

Given only one Test, on a slow, low wicket at Lord's, Ball bowled a little better than his figures suggest and produced a nice yorker to account for Azhar Ali. While he will remain part of the squad of seamers England look to over the next few years, it is hard to see a role for him in Asia.

Ben Stokes

Broke down with a calf tear at Old Trafford in his comeback Test after knee surgery. If the recurrence of injury raised questions over his long-term prospects - memories of Andrew Flintoff came to mind - his absence was alleviated in part by the emergence of Woakes. The ability to play them both provides England will enviable options and depth.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • landl47 on August 17, 2016, 12:22 GMT

    @Hatsforbats: Cook's dip in form was 2013/2014. He got back in touch in the Indian series of 2014, in which he averaged 49, and has done well since except in SA. He has 4 hundreds in that time of which two, 162 against NZ and 263 against Pakistan, were big ones. He played well in this series, looked in great touch and more fluent than usual. Unfortunately, his low scores at Lord's and the Oval, both in the second innings, came at bad times.

    He's an exceptionally good player of spin as his record indicates and he'll be fine in India, as will Root. It's the others that are the problem!

  •   Venkatesh Venkatesh on August 17, 2016, 10:46 GMT

    It is time for England selectors to take call on few cricketers especially at top order batsman . How can you win a test match after conceding two hundred odd runs on the first knock in the final test . Players like Hales, Vince and Balance does not look a test class batsman at all nor they have ability to stay at the crease for a longer duration . All the very good work done by England fast bowlers gone waste when whole team is depended upon two or three players amidst of all this things Chris Woakes tall among because of top class dedication . England needs players like him not dead woods

  • brusselslion on August 17, 2016, 10:12 GMT

    Vince has used up his 9 lives and needs to be left out. I'm still not convinced that either Hales or Ballance have the technique to do well in India. It's true that Compton performed well in India last time, but he's not had a great season. Robson's technique is not good enough. Maybe risky, but give one of the youngsters a go (BD, Hameed, Lees, Duckett). My preference would be Duckett and one of the others as reserve. Duckett is good against spin and can also play #4 if necessary. Batty had another good match yesterday and should go. Bairstow should bat higher with a better WK at #7/8. Won't happen but my side: Cook, Duckett, Root, Bairstow, Ali, Stokes, Woakes, Foakes, Rashid, Batty, Anderson.

  • alphamonkey on August 17, 2016, 10:07 GMT

    So for the winter it looks as though Vince, Ballance and Finn will drop out, and I'd ideally replace them with Rashid, Borthwick and Stokes.

    Hales for me is the conundrum: I really want him to succeed and I think he has the tools and the temprament... but he just isn't getting the runs at the moment. There's no "next in line" opener who will automatically come in but there's a raft of candidates so it makes it a tricky decision. Do Lyth or Robson deserve a second chance? Is it too soon for Hameed or Duckett? What about Lees or Bell-Drummond?

    1. Cook 2. One of the above 3. Root 4. Borthwick 5. Stokes 6. Bairstow 7. Ali 8. Woakes 9. Rashid 10. Broad 11. Anderson

  • 3Lions_RIP on August 17, 2016, 9:01 GMT

    From this performance, it should be obvious for Vince and Hales to make way. Sending Ballance back to the counties will also help cause he's not going to be successful with that technique against high quality spin in sub continent, especially India. So whom to pick in place of these 3 is a big question? Going with 3 new comers will be a disaster for India tour. Robson or Compton should be ideal for Hales' spot as both have played against India and in case of latter, in India. One new comer in place of Vince. Stokes should come in for Finn, fitness permitting. Rashid's got to play and so has to come in for Ballance. So lineup could look like : Cook, Robson/Compton, Root, Hildreth/Borthwick, Bairstow, Ali, Stokes, Woakes, Rashid, Broad and Anderson. 6 bowlers are required considering England have 2 all rounders. Just to get the combination right, it can be either 4-2 in favor of Seamers or 3-3.

  • DaveOTasmania on August 17, 2016, 4:30 GMT

    What's troubling for Ballance is that he got out to spin almost every innings, not what you want to see going into a sub continent tour. Joe Root basically played well in one innings, a great innings, but he sure was doing well at 4 so that's still a wait and see from where I'm standing. Stokes comes in at one of the batsman's expense, and if Ali is promoted as batsman and demoted as bowler, then there's another spot available for either a specialist wicketkeeper or a spinner. It will be interesting to see how this next new England goes, a consistent line up has been a long time coming.

  • Sexysteven on August 17, 2016, 4:11 GMT

    Yea Vince hales n ballance are the holes in the England get rid of all three would help they have had many opportunities now and failed so time to try other players I wouldn't go back to Robson or lyth time to go for a younger opener like belldrummond or duckett so they have afew years with cook if there successful before they turn in to the main opener

  • cricfan76948147 on August 17, 2016, 3:13 GMT

    I wonder why no new player is able to perform in English cricket team. They have changed their entire top order barring Cook and Root almost every other series. They all can't be horrible. Is it a team management issue? And why it's completely opposite in their ODI side, almost all new players performing well. I think the new players are too nervous for some reason and that anxiety seeps into the field. The team management and leaders should try to make them feel welcome and inspire them to perform at their peak.

  • whoster on August 16, 2016, 21:02 GMT

    Woakes has been the massive plus for England, and also Bairstow, who's improving as a keeper while still contributing plenty with the bat. Hales and Vince simply have to go. Hales' technique has been found out by a quality attack, and he's gone backwards after an encouraging series against Sri Lanka. Vince is an absolute walking wicket, and has never looked like scoring runs. Who England could replace Hales with is anyone's guess. So many have tried and failed since Strauss retired. they may as well put all the county openers' names in a hat and have a lucky dip. I'd persevere with Ballance - he's the type of grafting batsman England need, but he's got to start making big contributions. England's middle and lower order often make up for the dodgy top 5, but they can't do it all the time. England can become a pretty formidable side with two quality all-rounders in Stokes and Woakes, but the cracks at the top of the order and in the spin department keep them vulnerable.

  • BrianCharlesVivek on August 16, 2016, 17:05 GMT

    The hole that Vince, Balance and Hales represent the English team of the 90 s - with walking wickets such as Atherton, Ramprakash, Hick, Butcher etc. Hales should primarily be a limited overs batsman. This looks like experimentation so why dont they bring Buttler into the team in place of the above 3? Hate to bring KP into this , but they should have someone who can support Root who is doing the role of KP and feels he is being over burdened by expectations.

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