England's marks out of ten

Super Strauss at the forefront

A look back at how England's players contributed towards regaining the Ashes

Andrew Miller

August 24, 2009

Comments: 5 | Text size: A | A

Andrew Strauss reaches his fifty, England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, 1st day, August 20, 2009
Andrew Strauss topped the run charts in the series. England's next best batsman, Matt Prior, was eighth. © Getty Images
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9

Andrew Strauss
The supreme leader. At the forefront of everything good about England's campaign, he batted with an insouciance that put his colleagues to shame, and exuded calm authority in the field and at the crease. His final-day run-out of Michael Clarke ensured he finished as the series' leading run-scorer, the only one of England's statistics that went any way towards explaining the result. Neither Len Hutton nor FS Jackson could have carried an Ashes campaign more single-handedly.

Jonathan Trott
Only one Test match, but what a Test match. The first cricketer for more than 100 years to make his debut in an Ashes decider, Trott conferred an instant authority on proceedings with twin innings of 41 (unluckily ended with a run-out from short leg) and that magnificent stage-setting 119. His selection was a leap of faith, with changes essential after the humiliation at Headingley.

8

Matt Prior
A significant contribution with bat and, more surprisingly, with the gloves. Conceivably over-promoted at No. 6, but he was second only to Strauss among England's run-scorers, and though he lacked a major innings, his series was packed with critical cameos, particularly at Lord's where his second-innings 61 signalled the decisive tempo change. Behind the timbers he was as flawless as he has ever been, pulling off screaming one-handers and sharp-eyed stumpings, including a fantastic grab high to his left to extract Marcus North at The Oval.

Stuart Broad
The big blond allrounder in whom England's faith is now invested. And yet, for three-and-a-half Tests, Broad's contributions were a confusion. His bowling was out of sorts as he struggled to identify his role in the five-man attack, while his batting - ever reliable - actually seemed to be clouding the issue, as it persuaded the selectors to keep the faith when logic suggested an alternative seamer should be called upon. Thank goodness for small mercies. Broad finally found his range with a meaningless six-for in defeat at Headingley and followed up with the spell that won the series on second day at The Oval.

7

Graeme Swann
Decisive contributions to each of England's victories - four second-innings scalps at Lord's, eight in the match at The Oval - and that is all you can really ask of a match-winning spinner, especially when he slaps so many lower-order runs that he ends up averaging more than any of England's regular middle-order. But in between whiles he was anonymous - wicketless on an apparent spinner's surface in Cardiff, and strangely insipid at Edgbaston even after producing the greatest delivery of his career to bowl Ricky Ponting.

James Anderson
Derided as a "pussy" in Justin Langer's leaked dossier, Anderson showed at Lord's and Edgbaston that he certainly knows how to roar. When the ball was swinging there was no-one more deadly on show, although his returns faded when pure line and length was required. Nevertheless, his consistency is growing and his threat is always there. And though his heroic run of 54 duck-less innings came to an end at The Oval, his role in the Cardiff rearguard has already entered folklore.

6


Graeme Swann does a football-style celebration, England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, 4th day, August 23, 2009
Graeme Swann bowled crucial spells in England's victories and scored valuable runs as well © Getty Images
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Andrew Flintoff
You just can't keep him down. Insignificant in Cardiff, absent at Headingley, and a wicketless source of angst for a nation at Edgbaston, the ravages inflicted on his body meant that his entire summer revolved around three individual moments - with bat, ball, and in the field. His 74 at Edgbaston was his last hurrah as a strokemaker, his dead-eyed run-out of Ricky Ponting at The Oval was the death-knell for Australia's Ashes prospects. But towering above them both was his rumbustuous bowling on the final day at Lord's, when few batting line-ups could have withstood his force majeure.

Ian Bell
To give credit where credit's due, England's most lampooned batsman fronted up in two of the three Tests he played, scoring a lucky but handy 53 at Edgbaston, and a first-day 72 at The Oval that was arguably the key innings of the match. In between whiles he vanished without trace in the Headingley debacle, but he wasn't alone in doing that. His natural diffidence will forever undermine his contributions, and Johnson's bouncer-yorker barrages will give him nightmares long after the hangover has passed. But the boy might just have become an adolescent this week.

Paul Collingwood
Gains an extra mark for the ballsiness of his final-day batting in Cardiff, without which none of what transpired would have been possible. But the limp prod to gully that ended that innings of 74 with safety still far from ensured was a harbinger of his struggles to come. Tormented by even the subtlest outswingers, he fiddled where once he had left, and his form collapsed in the final three matches. Without Pietersen's dominance to work off, his flintiness became a flaw.

Kevin Pietersen
A picture of misery as he hobbled round The Oval with his right leg in plaster, several yards adrift of his cavorting, triumphant team-mates. No-one could have envisaged an Ashes win without a major KP contribution, least of all the man himself. Nevertheless, he top-scored in the first innings at Cardiff (before that pilloried dismissal) and played through clear pain to set up the Lord's success. The ego will recover soon enough.

Graham Onions
Hugely unlucky to be muscled out for the finale, his probing full length taught his senior colleagues valuable lessons. His wickets came in clusters, including two in two balls at the start of the second day at Edgbaston, and his partnership with Anderson showed signs of growing in stature. Inked in for the winter tours, and he'll be around for a while.

5

Monty Panesar
One match, one wicket, but one unforgettable performance. Who'd have thought Panesar's batting would end up winning the Ashes?

Steve Harmison
Lurked all summer long, racking up the five-fors for Durham and waiting in the wings for a chance to claim his kills. His brutal bowling for England Lions in Worcester sowed the first seeds in Phillip Hughes' demise, and though he disappointed at Headingley after threatening with the new ball, he finally cashed in at The Oval to scatter the tail in 13 balls. Forever frustrating, but Australia fear his presence.

4

Alastair Cook
Forever battling with his shredded technique, Cook collared Mitchell Johnson on that decisive first morning at Lord's, but his 95 in that innings was nearly half his series contribution. His mental fortitude kept his neck off the chopping block when batting scapegoats were being sought after Headingley, but a tally of two 50-plus scores in ten Ashes Tests is not really good enough.

3

Ravi Bopara
Entered the series with a fanfare on one hand, after his three centuries in a row against West Indies, and a loud raspberry on the other, as Shane Warne among others queued up to suggest that cockiness was not the sole requirement for Ashes success. Mugged by Peter Siddle on the first day at Cardiff, Bopara spent the rest of the series with his feet hovering in no-man's land, and the gullies queuing up to collect his conviction-less prods. He'll be back, presumably the wiser.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

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Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (August 25, 2009, 12:09 GMT)

Overall to win without their best batsman by far along with Strauss was totally amazing. Bopara lost whatever he had against West Indies,only to recover it again in County Cricket. Bell bats unlike the nurd he is always painted as but is too easily cowed by Johnson. He should look at himself batting and accept that he brings a whole range of aesthetic qualities into the game when he plays,and take heart from the fact that he is as watchable as KP when on song. Trott was awesome,already a favourite. Colly needs to look at his technique which is shot, like Cook's. Prior's keeping was decent now, but I await his next manic ton. Overall the bowling did far better than Australia's,and proved too much for their theoretically higher quality batting. It just shows bowlers win matches, with the rider that England need a fast reverse swing bowler to put the boot in completely on flat wickets( eg A Waqar)

Posted by Woody111 on (August 25, 2009, 6:28 GMT)

I think Ponting is more like Border though. He may not be as grumpy but he's getting there! It's a new time for players to 20 years ago anyway. Remember Border threatening to send Billy home? That would not happen these days. Ponting could only do the best he could with what he had - an inconsistent bunch of (at times) adolescents. Capable of brilliance but look how England got their totals - two centuries in 5 tests. Bopara should have got minus 1 but so could their selectors for putting him at 3 when Cook is so rubbish opening - poor bloke was always going to face the new ball because of Cook! Anderson became covered by the other bowlers so he just got through overs at times. But Broad only had two moments in the sun with the ball - one of which mattered very little. Flintoff was ok with one good spell - same with Harmison and Onions. But all this shows that blokes have to stand up when needed and those moments win test series. That's teamwork. Well done England, see you 2010

Posted by jamrith on (August 25, 2009, 4:58 GMT)

You forgot England's 12th man, none other than Justin Dossier Langer whose leaked(?) comments fired up the English team to play out of their skins. Thanks too to Shane Warne for his Shermanator and other jibes ( including one very crude one levelled at Trott). Hoist on your own petards---- if you know what that means, Messrs Langer and Warne, but you probably don't, so don't sweat it !!

Posted by Percy_Fender on (August 24, 2009, 16:31 GMT)

It is tempting for every team that beats Australia to stir up the No 1 debate as the English media is engaged in after the Ashes victory. The fact of the matter is that England were destined to win. That is about all. Who could have imagined England's tail to hold on so tenaciously at Cardiff or for Ponting and Clark to be run out at Oval just when the Australians were making a fair fist of the chase. Many in England were keeping their fingers crossed though the target was the highest ever. That will go to show how much the Australians are respected even if they are on the downward spiral. Australia can never be what they were without the likes of Magrath, Warne and Gilchrist around. Ricky Ponting is definitely one of the gratest Australian batsmen after Bradman. But I feel his good luck has just dried up.Though he has the backing of Chappel, a big opinion maker in Australian cricket and the selectors, I think the time has indeed come for a change in Captaincy. A new Border maybe.

Posted by GHemrajani on (August 24, 2009, 15:56 GMT)

I disagree with the ratings. Should give 10 to Strauss - great batting, leadership and fielding. Swann should get 8 - his contributions were no less than Broad's. He was the true allrounder as displayed by his last innings. Anderson should be 5 as he failed in the pressure test. His bowling average wouldnt justify a place in the top sides. How can Bell get a 6 - again he wouldnt find a place in a top side. For one inning, Cook shouldnt get a 4. England need a new opening bat. And generous to give 3 to Bopara as he did nothing in batting, bowling or even fielding.

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Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
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