England in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka 2003-04 December 22, 2003

Could do better - and will need to in West Indies

England won in Bangladesh, but fell in a heap in Sri Lanka

Andrew Miller was with England throughout their travels in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. In his end-of-tour report, he gives the tourists marks out of ten for their efforts:



An all-too-familiar pose for Michael Vaughan
© Getty Images


End of series averages

Michael Vaughan - 6
A masterclass of defensive batting at Kandy, where he was in such good nick that the Sri Lankans genuinely believed he could win England the match. It was the single most important innings of England's tour, and a big monkey off Vaughan's back. His captaincy, however, was bereft of inspiration, and he appeared too dogmatic to seek advice. With the third Test drifting out of control, to pack Nasser Hussain off to fine leg bordered on the ridiculous.

Marcus Trescothick - 4
As he showed in Australia last winter, Trescothick is too instinctive a batsman to knuckle down to rearguards, although he was the one man to seize the initiative in Colombo, at precisely the moment England needed him most. Unfortunately, his dismissal on the stroke of lunch was the turning point of England's fortunes. The less said about his catching, the better.

Mark Butcher - 6
Open verdict. A pair of fifties at Galle answered a few criticisms of his laissez-faire approach, but a pair of stumpings at Kandy reignited the debate. At his best, he is one of the most silken batsmen in the side, but, like Trescothick, he was not best suited to the trench warfare that England's mindset required. Mind you, with a more hammer-and-tongs battle expected in the Caribbean, that is probably a very good thing.

Nasser Hussain - 3
How the mighty are fallen. Hussain's transformation from hero to villain was the single most tragic aspect of England's winter. By accident or design, he was a marginalised figure throughout the series - disinterested at times - and he never threatened to produce one of those sod-you-all specials that have characterised his career. He missed the first Test through illness, and he missed the boat as well, even before his Murali mutterings blew up in his face.

Graham Thorpe - 7
A disappointing return to the scene of his finest hour, but for vastly contrasting reasons to the other hero of 2001, Nasser Hussain. Thorpe began the series as the one English batsman who could claim a degree of mastery over Murali. He finished it by being stumped like a novice, failing for the umpteenth time to pick that devastating wrong'un - and if Thorpe can't do it, who on earth can? Vital contributions to England's survival at Kandy, but the hunter turned hunted on this occasion.

Andrew Flintoff - 8
Freddie never gave up, and that might as well be his epitaph. As in India two years ago, he had the new ball thrust upon him in conditions that would have made Dennis Lillee weep, and thundered in with an unstinting vigour, despite being constantly let down by his fielders. Against the spinners, his batting was as hit-and-miss as every Englishman feared it would be - but to criticise him for that is to miss the point entirely. It's not his fault he has many strings to his bow.

Paul Collingwood - 7
Slipped effortlessly into that gaping void left by Hussain's illness, and all but kept his place for the entire tour. It remains to be seen whether Collingwood has the extra gears that future situations will require, but he has the full backing of the management and the temperament to wait for his opportunity and take it when it arrives. A top-score of 36 is nothing to crow about just yet, but Collingwood is not the crowing type.

Chris Read - 6
A fairly anonymous tour, which for a wicketkeeper is often a good thing. In this day and age, however, it is not enough just to stop the byes and nick the nicks. Read is not yet a Test No. 7, let alone a No. 3 like his opposite number, Kumar Sangakkara. But he looks the part, and has a work ethic that matches that of his predecessor, Alec Stewart. Wouldn't hurt to make a little more noise out in the middle.

Gareth Batty - 7
Duncan Fletcher's obsession with multi-dimensional cricketers has left England with an interesting poser here. In hindsight, Batty should not have played in Colombo, where Robert Croft was itching to resume the partnership that stole the series in 2000-01. But Batty's extraordinary prowess against Murali left England with little option but to persevere with him. A tough learning curve, in a series where England desperately needed finished articles.

Ashley Giles - 8
After a dreadful year and the near-abandonment of all hope in Bangladesh, Giles's rehabilitation was the most uplifting aspect of the series. No man can match Murali, but Giles has proved once again that he can cling to his coat-tails, and that all but kept England afloat. The number of times England's management has referred to the "lack of mystery" in their spin bowling would be enough to give anyone a complex, and sure enough, Giles gambled on tinkering with his action in the early part of the winter. It almost destroyed him, but he emerged the stronger. And where would the team have been without his obdurate batting?

James Kirtley - 6
If Steve Harmison had anything approaching the heart and the desire to please that Kirtley has shown in this series, England would be in possession of a world-beater. Until he was plucked from obscurity for the second Test, Kirtley had been the perpetual bridesmaid of the tour party, and spent half of his time in Sri Lanka expecting to be flown home at any minute. Like Flintoff, his work rate was unstinting, although he never quite made the big impact after an impressive first morning in Kandy. That action does remain a talking-point, though ...

Matthew Hoggard - 5
Hoggard had been the Man of the Series in Bangladesh, more for lasting the course than for his wicket-taking prowess. But enthusiasm counted for little on a lifeless pitch at Galle, where he picked up a solitary wicket. How he must be longing for a return to the green green tops of home.

Richard Johnson - 5
At the third time of asking, and after two Tests against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, Johnson finally bagged a big-name Test victim, in Kumar Sangakkara. But that was as good as his tour got. Like Hoggard, Johnson lacked the variety to overcome the flattest of tracks at Galle, but both men were unlucky to be jettisoned at Kandy.

James Anderson - 4
On a hiding to nothing when he was drafted into the attack in Colombo, as the nearest thing England have to a mystery bowler. He was always expected to go for runs, but the hope was that he might produce the odd killer delivery along the way as well. That ankle injury disrupted his preparations, but with luck he used the time to drink in the touring environment, without being the centre of attention for once.

Andrew Miller is Wisden Cricinfo's assistant editor.

Comments