England marks out of ten June 19, 2007

Pietersen and Panesar top the class

The opposition may not have been the strongest, but England's 3-0 series win over West Indies was a welcome upturn in their fortunes after a desperate six months in Australia and the Caribbean. Cricinfo runs the rule over the men in the middle.



Michael Vaughan and Paul Collingwood. Two men who enjoyed a successful series © Getty Images

Kevin Pietersen - 9
The kingpin of England's batting, Pietersen just keeps getting better and better and better. His 226 at Headingley was the highest score by an England batsman since Graham Gooch's 333 in 1990, and was the product of a subtle but effective change to his gameplan. He's a calmer, more measured cricketer these days. Patience is now every bit as important as pizzazz, and the combination is intoxicating for opposition bowlers. A slight blip at Durham when the series had been sealed, but his fury at falling with victory in sight spoke volumes about his determination to continue improving.

Monty Panesar - 9
Twenty-three wickets in four Tests, including ten in a match for the first time, and three five-wicket hauls. And all this by an English left-arm spinner, in a May-June Test series. The statistics are impressive even before you take into account the context. West Indies, it has to be said, were clueless against his wiles, forever swishing wildly or padding-up guilelessly. But Monty was masterful, keeping his cool at a time when his fast-bowling team-mates were losing theirs left, right and centre. And the crowds adore him.

Alastair Cook - 8
Six centuries in little more than a year of international cricket, and he's not yet 23. English cricketers are simply not expected to be this mature at such a tender age. Already Cook has emulated the likes of Garry Sobers and George Headley, who made the same number of centuries at the same age; and he has six Tests left this year to overhaul the records held by Don Bradman (8), Sachin Tendulkar (8) and Javed Miandad (7). He's made his runs with the most phlegmatic batting imaginable; Boycottian at times in his patience, watchfulness and sheer appetite for scoring. He's not yet made the "daddy" that his mentor, Gooch, demands - his highest score to date is just 127. But time is assuredly on his side.

Michael Vaughan - 8
Three wins in three Tests since his comeback, and Vaughan is once again so assured of his importance to England that he has been able to bite the bullet and relinquish his hold on the one-day captaincy. So much the better for England's long-term prospects, for his team has been a different proposition with him back at the helm, and his sustained fitness is paramount. His comeback century at Headingley will live long in the memory, but his unbeaten 48 to seal the series at Durham will have given him equal pleasure. Ruthlessness is his watchword - this series he has practiced what he preaches.

Ryan Sidebottom - 8
His ridiculous hairstyle and wicketless Test debut against Pakistan, six long years ago, meant that Sidebottom had been pigeonholed as something of a joker in the interim. Look who's laughing now, after a magnificent series in which he provided a long voice of seam-bowling sanity. His left-arm action provided a challenge that few of the West Indian batsmen were equal to, as he found swing and accuracy in equal measures to compensate for the absence of Matthew Hoggard, and the wastefulness of Liam Plunkett and Steve Harmison. Credit to Peter Moores for taking a gamble that his predecessor might not have envisaged.



Ryan Sidebottom: a joker no longer © Getty Images

Matt Prior - 8
Another Moores pick, and another resounding success. Prior's previous excursions in international cricket had been unconvincing - he played as a specialist opener for most of the one-day tour of the subcontinent in 2005-06, and earned a reputation as a bit of a slogger with some over-eager and ineffective pinch-hitting. This time, however, he got the balance between confidence and aggression absolutely spot-on, and his twinkle-toed debut hundred at Lord's was a thing of beauty. Significant contributions in each of the Tests, not least behind the stumps, where his athleticism was stretched to the limits by his wayward bowlers.

Ian Bell - 7
He claims he wants to be England's No. 3, but Bell is not helping his cause with some superb performances at that awkward No. 6 slot. Cool accumulation at Lord's, dogged discipline under pressure at Old Trafford; he's found a natural rhythm whatever the occasion, and seems to enjoy batting with the tail, which is an asset that is not to be sniffed at. Four of his scores were between 2 and 11, however, which will not please a man with such an obvious love of run-scoring. His body language has improved since his mousy first appearances for England, but he could still do with imposing himself more.

Paul Collingwood - 7
Two more hundreds to his tally, plus the series-sealing boundary in front of his home fans at Chester-le-Street. Another impressive month's work for a man who will surely be revealed as England's new one-day captain come Friday morning. At 165 for 6, he saved England's bacon in the fourth Test, which is something of a speciality for a player who thrives best in adversity. He's now played 20 consecutive Tests since the tour of Pakistan in December 2005. One day he might finally be accepted as part of England's Test furniture. But it doesn't hurt to have one member of the team who always believes he's in a battle.

Matthew Hoggard - 6
Sorely missed after he limped out of the attack at Lord's, but quickly back into the groove with five key wickets in the victory at Durham. He's a bowler who has kept line and length fashionable for the last five years, and the speed with which it went out of fashion after his injury was the ultimate tribute to his trenchant abilities.

Steve Harmison - 5
An extra mark for effort, because Harmison went through hell in this series, and emerged - scorched, exhausted and maybe stronger - on the other side. At times, particularly at Old Trafford, he was so dreadful there seemed nothing could ever vanquish the demons in his mind, but by the second innings at Durham he was stalking to the crease with the menace of yesteryear. Somehow he's emerged with a series tally of 16 wickets, which suggests that he must have done more things right than it seemed at the time. But then again, Daren Ganga did keep missing straight ones.

Andrew Strauss - 4
Although he returned to some semblance of form with his 77 at Durham, Strauss had a shocker of a series against arguably the weakest bowling attack he has faced in his three-year career. He was the only member of England's top seven to miss out on three figures, as his footwork went awry and with it his judgment against off-stump deliveries. Having already played himself out of England's one-day starting line-up, he does at least have a six-week break in prospect before the India series gets underway.

Liam Plunkett - 3
Plunkett is just 22 years old, and he'll doubtless be back. But right now, a lengthy break from the international grind is precisely what he needs. With his height and pace, and ability to move the ball late away from the right-hander, he has the attributes to be a massive success in Test cricket, but he is a man - like James Anderson - who was plucked from the nursery too soon, and has suffered from the claustrophobic environment of the England dressing-room. Sidebottom's success is proof of the healing properties of county cricket. A chance to get overs under his belt, and an innate understanding of his game, and Plunkett will be back. On the plus side, his unbeaten 44 at Headingley was further proof that he could one day be an effective No. 8.

Owais Shah - 2
One chance, two failures. Maybe a role in the one-day side is within his grasp, but failing that, Shah will be angling for a tour berth to Sri Lanka and New Zealand this winter. Barring injuries, England's top seven is a closed shop for the rest of this summer.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

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