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May 19, 2009
West Indies marks | England marks
James Anderson - 9
When the ball moves, no-one moves it better. An exceptional performance to seal the second Test, and two impressive incisions at Lord's as well, where he bagged Gayle and Sarwan in the follow-on to hasten West Indies to a three-day defeat. Anderson has six years on the clock as an international cricketer, and he knows it's time he made the most of his prime. Bowled with swing and control without sacrificing his pace, and for some strange reason became the most sought-after wicket in the England line-up when Edwards decided to knock his block off. His skill as a nightwatchman, however, is becoming legendary - 48 innings without a duck is proof of his stickability.
Stuart Broad - 9
The unsung star of the series. It was evident at Lord's that Broad had added some meat to his bones and a yard of pace to his action, but it wasn't until the second Test that we saw the full extent of his development. A thuggish streak runs straight through his veins, as shown by his superb extraction of the centurion Ramnaresh Sarwan, and the manner in which he put Fidel Edwards back in his box during his spat with Jimmy Anderson. He possesses a mean streak reminiscent of Glenn McGrath - he may not be the quickest, but he has height and attitude, and isn't afraid to show it. His batting looked sparky as well.
Ravi Bopara - 8
Two innings, two centuries, and hey presto, England's Ashes No. 3 was born. Ravi Bopara's selection seemed at first to be a whim, but was soon revealed to be a masterstroke, as he built on his previous hundred in Barbados to emulate the achievement of his mentor, Graham Gooch, 19 years earlier. He needed some luck - particularly at Lord's when he was badly dropped on 76 - but crucially he took it, and with a serenity that his predecessors, Bell and Shah, would not have been able to emulate. Tougher tests lie ahead, but mentally and technically, he's got what it takes.
Graeme Swann - 8
Came under sustained attack for perhaps the first time in his career during the second Test as Denesh Ramdin and Sulieman Benn cut loose in the first innings, but Swann still emerged in credit after his all-round heroics at Lord's. His batting is a bonus and may not always come off - he has a great eye, but does love to take the aerial route through the covers - but the intelligence and variety of his bowling will have England's Ashes think-tank salivating. West Indies' left-handers didn't know what to do with him as he beat them both sides of the bat at will. Hughes, Hussey et al will have taken note.
Graham Onions - 8
The statistics brook no argument. Four wickets in seven balls on debut at Lord's; two in three (and in Gayle and Sarwan it was no ordinary pair either) at a vital moment at Chester-le-Street. Onions has a happy knack for making breakthroughs, and his amalgam of pace, swing, bounce and innate aggression suggest he should be able to replicate such performances on less helpful surfaces later in the year. But until he is tested against more streetwise opponents, there will have to be a small asterisk against his achievements.
Alastair Cook - 7
His second-Test century was a triumph of the will. Like Shivnarine Chanderpaul, his technique will never attract wolf-whistles, but the determination with which he compiled his runs is incredible. Some would say he's never been the same since his working-over in Australia in 2006-07, and the way he still flinches outside off stump is Glenn McGrath's lasting influence. But Cook still emerged from that series with a century at Perth, and he's now made two more in three Tests. One day he'll iron out his technical glitches, and then there'll be no stopping him.
Matt Prior - 7
His keeping will never convince everyone, but it was as a No. 6 batsman that Prior was being assessed in this series, and in that regard, he impressed with a pair of attacking performances. His 42 at Lord's helped rescue England from an awkward 109 for 4; his 63 at Chester-le-Street built speedily on their first-day advantage. Both innings were scored with total confidence, particularly through the off side. Whether Australia will offer him such width is debatable, but he's passed his audition thus far.
Andrew Strauss - 6
Both his dismissals were uncharacteristically loose, but for the time he was at the crease, he looked as solid as he had done during his trio of centuries in the Caribbean. It was his captaincy which caught the eye, however, and not just for the ostentatious use of Swann as a new-ball bowler at Lord's. Tactically astute and sympathetic to his bowlers, he looked like a man in command of all he surveyed.
Paul Collingwood - 6
He may have scored four centuries and a 96 in his previous eight Tests, but he sat on the bench throughout the IPL, and his wooden dismissal in the first Test at Lord's provided his detractors with further ammunition - there's something about Collingwood's attritional style that doesn't permit him to fail without calls for his head following close behind. Happily his series finished on a much lighter note in front of his home fans - a handy half-century and a joyous (and unexpectedly accomplished) couple of sessions behind the stumps as Matt Prior's deputy.
Kevin Pietersen - 5
An anonymous series by his usual strutting standards. There was nothing KP could do about the exocet that nailed him first-ball at Lord's - not even his late return from the IPL could be blamed for that - although he looked sure to wreak his vengeance when got off to a flyer at Durham. But not for the first time in his career, a left-arm spinner proved to be his downfall. From Daniel Vettori and Yuvraj Singh, and now to Sulieman Benn, there's something about that breed that gets right under his skin.
Tim Bresnan - 5
A late, late showing on the final day of the series, as Strauss saw fit to give him free rein to express himself at last, and he didn't disappoint with three morale-boosting wickets. Swung the ball prodigiously in perfect conditions, albeit with rather less control than some of his colleagues. Judgment still needs to be deferred on this one.
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