The Investec Ashes 2013

Not their best, but good enough from England

ESPNcricinfo assesses the performances of the England players who appeared in the Ashes series

George Dobell

August 26, 2013

Comments: 58 | Text size: A | A

Ian Bell acknowledges the applause as the players walk off, England v Australia, 4th Ashes Test, 3rd day, Chester-le-Street, August 11, 2013
Head and shoulders above: Ian Bell was the stand-out batsman of the series © AFP
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9

Ian Bell

Magnificent. Bell was perhaps the only batsman on either side to enjoy a series of unmitigated excellence. Three times, with his side in trouble, Bell produced match-defining centuries and was the obvious selection for Man of the Series. It was not just that he produced an array of well-timed strokes - he has been doing that for years - but that he allied them to sound defence and mature shot selection that took account of the match situation and pitch conditions. He also fielded as well as anyone in the side; indeed, it is hard to think of a better short-leg fielder in world cricket. Now at the peak of his game, with the confidence to add to his inherent talent, he could go on to play a pivotal role in the series in Australia.

8.5

Graeme Swann

A key difference between the teams. Swann claimed 26 wickets in the series - 11 more than all four of the spinners utilised by Australia managed between them - and finished as the leading wicket-taker on either side. While rarely at his absolute best, Swann had the combination of experience and ability to prey about the weaknesses of an Australian side who generally appeared uncomfortable against spin. The pitches in Australia will no doubt offer him less encouragement and Swann may have to be content to play more of a holding role. He remains one of the key men in this side in all conditions.

8

Stuart Broad

The figures suggest that Broad enjoyed only one good game - at Chester-le-Street - but sometimes the figures mis-lead. Broad bowled well throughout the series. He seemed to target Michael Clarke, Australia's best batsmen, in particular and troubled him with the bouncer throughout. He produced some inspired bowling in Durham, where he took 11 wickets in the match, to turn a game that seemed to be slipping away back in England's favour. Importantly, too, his batting showed signs of maturing with important contributions throughout the series.

7.5

Kevin Pietersen

Another batsman who, on the face of it, endured a relatively modest series if judged by previous success. Pietersen scored one century and three half-centuries but, on slow wickets, was often obliged to take an uncharacteristically cautious approach. That he took that role on so willingly underlined his commitment to the team cause and, while he rarely produced the start performance, he played a valuable supporting role in several important partnerships. He also reserved his best for the run-chase at The Oval where his half-century was the quickest by an England player in Ashes history. Recent injuries have reduced his pace in the field, though he remains a safe pair of hands in the outfield, but there is no reason to suspect he will not enjoy what will almost certainly prove to be his final Ashes tour of Australia.


James Anderson roars after dismissing Michael Clarke, England v Australia, 5th Investec Test, The Oval, 1st day, August 21, 2013
James Anderson faded somewhat after his heroics at Trent Bridge © Getty Images
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James Anderson

Anderson played a huge role in the victory at Trent Bridge, where he claimed five-wicket hauls in both innings, and bowled decently without reward at Lord's. Those efforts appeared to take a lot out of him, however, and he was some way below his best in Manchester and Durham. His performance in Nottingham was pivotal, however, and included a 14-over spell on the final day when he looked head and shoulders more threatening that any other bowler on display. Now with the skill to prosper on both green and dry wickets, he should enjoy the pace and bounce of Australian wickets.

7

Tim Bresnan

Recalled to the side for the Lord's Test, Bresnan performed the unglamorous holding role with selfless skill in the next three Tests. His performance in Durham, where important runs were followed by important wickets, was one of the best in his Test career but he was then diagnosed with a stress fracture that ruled him out of the rest of the season. His value was most apparent in his absence at The Oval, where Woakes was unable to replicate his control. While the England camp remain confident that Bresnan will be fit for the return series, it is far from certain he will have recovered the potency that make his return in this series a success.

Alastair Cook

By Cook's own lofty standards, this was a disappointing series as a batsman. He passed 50 three times, but never went beyond 62 and he averaged only 27.70. Unusually for Cook, he was drawn into playing at balls well outside that he could have left and at times appeared as if he was struggling with his technique. His captaincy was criticised - largely unfairly - for negativity, but he won every Test in which rain did not intervene and, less than a year into the job, he has won the Ashes, a series in India and has a team that is unbeaten in 13 Tests. While some have suggested that the burden of captaincy has eroded his success as a batsman, it is not so long ago that he scored three centuries in succession in India. His career has contained several peaks and troughs and he may prefer the extra pace in the pitches in Australia.

6.5

Joe Root

There were times when it appeared Root struggled with the demands of opening the batting against some impressive bowling. Only twice in the series did he score more than 31 and even his excellent innings at Lord's contained an early edge that might, another day, have been taken. That Lord's century did highlight his outstanding talent, though, and while he remains a player under development - he is only 22, after all - he still appears to have the temperament to flourish at this level. As well as scoring England's highest total of the series, he finished second in their batting averages and claimed three wickets with the ball. Perhaps more importantly, he gained experience that should serve him well in Ashes series of the future. There may be times when he struggles with the bounce of Australian pitches - particularly against the new ball - but Root is certain to open the batting in the return series.


Matt Prior top-edged a pull to be caught by David Warner, England v Australia, 3rd Investec Test, Old Trafford, 4th day, August 4, 2013
Matt Prior had his leanest series since being recalled in 2008 © Getty Images
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5

Jonathan Trott

A disappointing series by Trott's standards. He started in fine form only to surrender his wicket with uncharacteristically loose shots and ended it struggling with balance and confidence. He scored 40 or more five times, but passed 50 only twice, had a highest of 59 and averaged 29.30. While Australia's mode of attack to him - exploiting his desire to hit the ball through midwicket - was successful, he remains a key part of the top three and may prefer the extra pace of the pitches. Still, there is some technical work to be done if Trott is to recover former glories.

Chris Woakes

Required to bowl on a slow, low pitch offering him little encouragement, Woakes struggled for penetration at The Oval. But he was not the only bowler to do so and he showed some pleasing ability with the bat and, in that final run-chase, an impressively cool temperament. It is hard to see quite what his role would be in Australia, though, and he faces a nervous wait to see if he makes the Test squad.

4.5

Matt Prior

His worst series as a player since he was recalled to the side at the end of 2008. He failed to make a 50 with the bat and averaged just 19 while, with the gloves, he missed chances he would have expected to have taken. It says much for his excellence over the previous few years - and the changed nature of England selection - that there have been no serious questions about his place in the side. Like Trott, he has earned the right to a sustained period of loyalty and is certain to remain first choice for the series in Australia.

4

Jonny Bairstow

Dropped after four Tests had produced only one half-century, Bairstow might still consider himself unfortunate. He was presented with the opportunity to play in this series despite not having had a single first-class innings between the end of the New Zealand series in May and the start of the Ashes in July. As a result, he was understandably low on form and confidence and appeared to lack the temperament to battle through periods of tight, disciplined bowling. He produced one pleasing innings -67 at Lord's, although he was bowled off a no-ball - and added energy and commitment in the field but, aged 23, this opportunity may have come a year or two early. His best chance of making the tour to Australia is if the selectors decide he can be the reserve keeper as well as the utility batsman.

3

Steven Finn

Dropped after the first Test, Finn appeared to be struggling for rhythm and confidence. Confused by conflicting advice from club and country, Finn has not developed as anticipated and, at various stages in the series, found himself behind Tremlett, Bresnan, Onions and Woakes in the battle for selection. While he bowled a couple of impressive spells in that Trent Bridge Test, his tendency to leak runs - he conceded 4.68 runs an over - rendered him hard to accommodate in an England team that prioritises control. He remains likely to make the squad to Australia, however, and may well enjoy the quicker pace of the pitches.

1

Simon Kerrigan

There is no getting in the way of the fact that Kerrigan endured a chastening debut. Paralysed by nerves, he failed to do his substantial ability justice and was trusted with only eight expensive overs in the first innings. Aged 24, he has the talent and temperament to come back, but this was a painfully rough start and it is hard to see him winning a place in the series in Australia.

This feature is in association with Tourism Australia.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by H_Z_O on (August 28, 2013, 18:31 GMT)

That said, I do think some of these ratings are generous, and not just compared to Daniel's for Australia (can't really compare those as it's two different authors). Not sure either Root or Cook were anything more than "average" (so 5, or at best, 5.5), while Prior had a worse series, in my book, than Bairstow. Can't just give him extra points because of his past track record; in this series Jonny's out-batted him quite comfortably.

Bresnan, like Rogers in Daniel's ratings, and much like both players, has once again been underrated. Forget the runs at Durham; the wicket of Warner was crucial. He did as much to swing that match as Broad, and even Broad said so. He dried up the runs at one end while Broad did the damage. And he did that all series, and that's why he's preferred to Finn (it's nothing to do with his batting, that's just a bonus).

And on what planet was Woakes 2 points better than Finn? A point, maybe, for his batting and the fact he was on debut, but no more than that.

Posted by H_Z_O on (August 28, 2013, 18:05 GMT)

@Notasgoodastheythink the same selective stats we've seen a lot; anyone would think the Aussie media are trying to spin the series. No mention of England taking twice as many five-fers?

"Aus led on the 1st innings in 4 tests out of 5"

No mention of the fact that they lost on on two of those occasions? As you pointed out, England had the lead on 1st innings just once. And they won that Test inside 4 days and by 347 runs. In other words, when England have been on top, they've won, when Australia have been on top, England have still won as many as not.

"Eng never scored 400, Aus scored around 500 twice."

True, England never got past 400, Australia got past 400 twice. But they also failed to score 300 on 6 occasions (not including declarations, as that would be unfair) to England's 2 (won both times).

"Even in this series, with the whole English press singing their praises, they both averaged around 30 again."

Both averaged under 30. Siddle averaged over, at a worse strike rate.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 28, 2013, 7:53 GMT)

@Doughnuts on (August 28, 2013, 0:39 GMT) Maybe average in the 70s/80s rather than low 60s. Brilliant series though.

Posted by Doughnuts on (August 28, 2013, 0:39 GMT)

Ian Bell a 9? Really? What does a bloke have to do to get a 10? Both sides bowled pretty well and both had brittle batting all series. Bell was by far the biggest difference between the teams, doing what needed to be done every time he batted.

Hopefully later this year Australia can work out an effective plan for him and drop the annoying tendency to win every session of a series except the most critical ones.

Posted by liz1558 on (August 27, 2013, 13:52 GMT)

@RednWhiteArmy - Ozcricketwriter should consider a career in merely thinking about the game.

It has looked closer than it is because England have been playing at 80%. What's the point in busting a gut to win this series 5-0, if you pick up a bunch of injuries to key players and lose the away series 1-0 (and the Ashes with it) because of those injuries?

There were a couple of key moments at OT and the Oval when England were on the verge of breaking through in Australia's first innings - 190/3 and 150/3 - a stone dead lbw not given and a dropped catch off Watson. After each occasion, England gave up the ghost. If they were really playing at full tilt (as they will down under), there would've been much more effort in those games. Against India in 2011 and Aus in 2010/11 those were the times when the effort increased.

England didn't quite go through the motions in this seriesi, but it looks like they wanted to and got a few nasty surprises because Aus wouldn't lie down and die.

Posted by browners76 on (August 27, 2013, 13:33 GMT)

Notasgoodastheythinktheyare: I don't remember Adelaide 2010 swinging and seaming all over the place, or the UAE a couple of winters ago where Broad and Anderson were superb, and let's look at India last winter where Anderson was excellent, "the difference between the two sides" according to Dhoni. Then let's look at Australia's miserable performance in India and compare. Off the top of my head I can remember Darren Gough smashing 50 odd at Sydney in 94/95, a side featuring McDermott and Warne and then in the following test at Adelaide Phillip DeFreitas tonked 88 in an England victory. Both guys were tail enders. Have some more sour grapes followed by some humble pie buddy.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 27, 2013, 12:38 GMT)

@ Ozcricketwriter on (August 27, 2013, 10:52 GMT) How do you work out that Australia dominated England in 4/5 tests but still lost 2 of them? You can dominate a test and end up drawing it , but with no declarations you can't dominate tests you go on to lose The truth is England won 2 close tests , thrashed Aus in another , Australia dominated the 3rd test and were on top in the 5th before the last day PS re "but the reality is that in all but the 2nd test England were the worst team" - How do you define the word reality?

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