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July 2, 2006
An injury-ravaged England side has suffered their worst one-day series result and their World Cup plans are in tatters. The bowlers were the major failure, unceremoniously dispatched in each of the matches. Did anyone escape with their reputation intact and who will be burying their head in shame?
The one player to take his opportunity with both hands and by the end of the series was already feeling like a one-day regular. It was his stylish and composed batting that really shone, as more senior players around him lost their wickets in a variety of styles. He showed the ability to nurdle singles and clear the boundary with equal measure. His bowling won't frighten the opposition, but he isn't afraid to give the ball a tweak and vary his pace intelligently and was about the only controlling option open to Andrew Strauss. Somehow he managed to concede less than five-an-over during the Headingley carnage. The World Cup beckons.
England's leading run scorer by a distance and his importance to the cause was shown when England often fell away when he was dismissed. In full flow, as at Headingley, he is one of the most destructive batsmen in the world but needs to cut down on the loose dismissals and bat through an innings. He has now scored England's last three ODI tons (two at Headingley and one against Ireland). Provided a vital source of experience among the floundering youngsters and seems relaxed back in the international fold following the winter's problems.
If he is to establish a permanent one-day role it has to be in the top three. He doesn't have the ability to innovate or clear the ropes with Pietersen-like power, but can be the player to build an innings around if the openers fail. His 77 at Chester-le-Street was not particularly memorable but ensured England had wickets left for the later overs. Bell's awareness of rotating the strike has improved and his medium-pace is a useful addition which could be important on the slow, low pitches in West Indies.
Limited to three matches by a thigh strain, but you can bet your house that if the series had still been up for grabs Collingwood would have found someway of getting on the park. He never fails to give his all for England and is a key man to balance out the middle-order blasters once Pietersen and Flintoff and reunited. His one half-century came in a tough situation at The Oval but it was a typically pragmatic knock. He needs to watch that he doesn't just become remembered for nice 30s and 40s. The medium-pace is becoming increasingly important within a threadbare attack while he is a livewire at backward point.
A fairly high rating for just two matches and no half-centuries, but this was another vital and encouraging step in Cook's development. He showed that his scoring rate at Test level does not have to preclude his one-day ambitions as he adapted and impressed as a partner for Trescothick. His strike rate was better than Pietersen's, but he never sacrificed a solid technique. If Trescothick still wants to England's dasher, Cook has a future as the straight man at the top. Needs to work on his fielding and is probably fighting Bell for future slots.
Welcome to captaincy. Not quite, Strauss tested the waters at the end of the Indian tour, but his first more long-term stint as captain proved a fruitless affair. He couldn't really have had it much tougher; an injury-hit bowling attack, flat pitches and an in-form Sri Lankan top order. But he didn't inspire with his ability to, well, inspire. As the England attack was dispatched around the country he often just wandered up from mid-off with a shrug of the shoulders. Stopping Jayasuriya is never easy, but positive body language goes a long way. Not helped by a personal lack of runs - again a few starts but nothing to soften the blow of five thumping defeats.
Hampered by a knee injury even during the three matches he played. It says much for his character that he managed 73 on virtually one leg at The Oval but the decision to play him at Chester-le-Street - although Pietersen insisted he could - looked foolish when he was struck again and spent the second innings hobbling around the field. But he is a rare one-day match-winner for England and there is still the feeling that bringing him and Flintoff together can start a revival in fortunes.
Given England's dire problems elsewhere in the team, the wicketkeeper actually had a series where the spotlight wasn't on him as strongly. However, he didn't do much to silence the debate of whether he still warrants his place. He missed a vital stumping at Lord's against Upul Tharanga, but other than that held the few chances that the bowlers managed to conjure. He showed the occasional flourish with the bat, but was invariably in the hit-out or get-out position.
Although the caveat of his return from injury must be thrown in, Harmison let the side down in his senior role. Too often he set the tone for the innings with a spate of wides in his first spell and, although he occasionally returned with middle-order strikes, there was too much to pull back. His systematic and brutal assault at the hands of Jayasuriya and Tharanga won't have done the ego any good, but he bounced back from a similar mauling against Australia last summer. To watch him clang the occasional Sri Lankan on the helmet and whistle the ball through to the wicketkeeper was a rare heartening sight for England supporters.
Suddenly England's second-most senior bowler - but didn't perform like it. Considering he doesn't swing the ball much he was inexplicable that he bowled so many wides. What made it even more frustrating is that he still produced wicket-taking deliveries. His lower-order hitting is still worth a mention and, as part of a more experienced attack, he could find a role as a holding bowler in the middle overs.
Didn't face a ball and only bowled six overs, but showed enough not to be discounted in the near future. Given that he had nine wickets at 60 in first-class cricket when selected, his first spell at Chester-le-Street was impressive as he unfurled his doosra, which did actually turn and made the Sri Lankans take note. He's no Murali, but then not many are.
Back to the days of England trying to fill positions with bits-and-pieces players who are not good enough with either bat or ball. Bresnan was harshly treated by the flashing blades at the top of Sri Lanka's order, but did show courage by coming back at the death and not being afraid to vary his pace. Capable of powerful blows with the bat but is let down by his fielding.
You have to feel for Solanki. He's batted everywhere in the England apart from Nos. 9 and 11, comes in when causes are nearly lost and never knows whether he is coming or going. Another last minute call-up had him stranded in a no-win position at Old Trafford but flourished briefly at Headingley before his 44 was swamped by later events.
Everything looked so promising for Mahmood after his Test debut at Lord's, but this one-day series has raised question marks about his readiness for the top level. The limited-overs game exposes his waywardness more harshly and his tendency to lose direction dramatically for a spell. Possesses all the attributes for a long international career and his slower ball is a valuable weapon, but this was a step backwards.
Sixteen overs for 149 runs. Thanks for turning up, although he really shouldn't have bothered.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of CricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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