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Andrew Miller rates England's cricketers after a dismal tour of Sri Lanka
December 22, 2007
England didn't look like the second-best team in the world and by the end of the three-Test series they weren't any longer ranked as such. The bowlers laboured well, and without much luck, but didn't have the skills to outfox Sri Lanka's top two batsmen, and the failure of some big names didn't help any, nor a spate of dropped catches. Cricinfo runs the rule over the men who took the field.
Ryan Sidebottom - 7
England's stand-out performer. Sidebottom was disciplined, determined and desperately luckless with the ball - if there was a catch to be dropped, he was invariably the bowler left kicking the turf in frustration. With the bat he was an absolute revelation, providing a rigidity to England's tail that no-one had dared to anticipate. In all three Tests he was defiance personified, not least in the Galle debacle, when his 70-ball innings was England's longest by a distance.
Ian Bell - 6
He batted like Montgomerie Brewster in the first Test at Kandy - he looked a millionaire at the crease, but seemed obsessed with giving it away. Bell has now passed fifty on 11 occasions since the start of the 2006-07 Ashes, but only once has he pushed on to that elusive century. Still finding his way in the slip cordon, where his reprieve of Kumar Sangakkara at Kandy was arguably the most crucial miss of the series.
Matthew Hoggard - 6
He did his damnedest to give England a flying start to the series with a four-wicket heist on the first morning at Kandy, and in so doing confirmed his pre-eminence among seam bowlers in subcontinental conditions. But thereafter it was a familiar struggle for fitness. He broke down in the second innings, missed the Colombo Test, and failed to find the same rhythm when he returned at Galle.
Steve Harmison - 6
It's early days in his comeback, but the signs so far are good. He followed a big-hearted performance on a featherbed at Colombo with three first-day wickets in the sapping heat of Galle, where he displayed the rhythm and aggression that has been in mothballs for 18 months. He failed to make any further inroads as England's resolve evaporated thereafter, but the blame for that doesn't belong on his shoulders.
Michael Vaughan - 5
Too many starts and not enough finishes. England's captain passed 20 in four of his six innings, but never once pushed on to three figures. At times he caressed the ball with the grace and power of his 2002 zenith, but he let himself down with lapses in concentration that set a dangerous example for his less experienced team-mates. Tactically, he was trounced by his opposite number Mahela Jayawardene, and that's not something that's happened too often.
Matt Prior - 5
Dr Jekyll, meet Mr Hyde. Prior veered between extremes in a schizophrenic series. In two of his five innings he batted with such gusto, aggression and skill that he was being talked up as a potential No. 6. In the remainder he was ordinary. Behind the stumps it was a similar story. He mixed some outstanding plucks (mostly to his left) with some unmitigated howlers (invariably to his right). And the net result was that the wicketkeeping debate has not progressed one inch since the summer.
Stuart Broad - 5
Showed enough in his solitary outing to confirm his huge potential, but was not given any leeway by the conditions. The Colombo pitch offered nothing for his hit-the-deck style, and he was rightly rested at Galle as England remain concerned about working him too hard, too soon. At 21, he has the right attitude and attributes to be a star of the future, but will need to be managed carefully.
Monty Panesar - 4
A big disappointment. Matching up to Muralitharan is a tough task for any spinner, but Monty failed even to meet his own standards. Loose and lacklustre, he was outbowled by Pietersen at Colombo, and did himself few favours with the umpires with the grumpy nature of some of his appealing. This tour has been a reality check after 12 heady months in the spotlight.
Paul Collingwood - 4
He never stopped scrapping (at least, not until Muttiah Muralitharan delivered him a knockout punch on the final day of the series), but scraps were not enough for England. He needed the glamour boys above him to produce more worthy performances, but all too often he was left picking up the pieces of another crumbling innings.
James Anderson - 3
Back in the summer, he was the captain of England's attack, and he was immense during the one-day win as well. But this time he reverted to being the forgotten man of the pack. A solitary outing at Kandy was notable only for the brutal assault he received from Sanath Jayasuriya, and Broad soon leap-frogged him in the pecking order.
Ravi Bopara - 3
His turn will doubtless come, but in this series it came too soon. Contributed little of note with the bat (in fact, nothing at all in an abject third Test) nor in the field - where his perkiness was a considerable factor in his selection ahead of Owais Shah. He did at least grab a maiden Test wicket at Galle, but his energetic seamers were not suited to the hostile conditions.
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