Online sport editor Freddie Turner reviews a topsy-turvy summer of Test Cricket, which saw England begin a new era under Peter Moores.
As the curtain came down on another English test cricket summer this Sunday at the Oval, Alastair Cook’s Three Lions were celebrating their third consecutive mauling of India. However, this recent fine run of form is in stark contrast to the start of the summer, which saw a humiliating series defeat to Sri Lanka and an embarrassing capitulation at Lords against the Indians. Indeed, these last three test matches have not only saved face but also Cook’s job as captain.
Here’s how I rated the new look England squad during the seven test matches this summer:
Alastair Cook: 5
Cook needed a big summer after the nightmare Ashes whitewash down under and he will be delighted that his team have been able to salvage some positives from their miserable start. His captaincy remains under question with the clamours of negative tactics and lack of proactivity yet to be put to bed but the major issue this summer has been his batting. He failed in the first four tests of the summer and subsequently so did England. It is no coincidence that his upturn in form has coincided with England’s; his captaincy relies on him leading from the front and he did this with two scores. His technique still needs work with him looking susceptible outside off stump but the fact he has retained the captaincy and secured a series win is testament to his resilience and dogged determination. He now has a team pulling in his direction and if he can find a rich vein of form with the bat, the naysayers will soon be silenced. The next twelve months will prove pivotal.
Sam Robson: 5
It has been a disappointing summer for the Australian born opener. It began well with a maiden century at Headingley versus Sri Lanka but since then he has only managed one half century and his test average has dropped to 30.54. His style of batting is unlikely to excite supporters and so consistent runs are a necessity. His off stump awareness is not good enough for test cricket at the moment and he will fear for his place with the likes of James Vince and Alex Hales vying for his spot.
Gary Ballance: 9
It has been a magnificent first summer of test cricket for the Harrow School educated batsman who looks perfectly at home at this level. 729 runs at 60.75 including three centuries is a magnificent return and one which has helped cement his place at number three for the foreseeable future. He has a solid technique and a range of shots, I expect the topless boozer to be a mainstay for years to come.
Ian Bell: 6
The hero of last summer has flattered to deceive this time around. As the most senior player in the middle order, more responsibility now falls with Bell, who undoubtedly is one of the most talented players England have ever produced. Aside from his glorious 167 at the Aegeas Bowl, he has failed to convert in any innings despite seemingly being at consummate ease. He will need to score more consistently next summer with those pesky Australians back in town.
Joe Root: 9
One of the stars of the summer! The baby-faced Sheffield lad was dropped in Australia after being moved all around the batting order but he has found his home at number 5. Three big centuries, including a maiden double century have showed he has the ability to play match winning innings at a range of tempos.
Moeen Ali: 8
The beard to be feared entered the team as a part time spinner and very talented batsman, asked to fill the void left by Graeme Swann. His bowling began slowly and he perhaps only maintained his place due to his stunning near match saving innings at Headingley against Sri Lanka. However his bowling improved unrecognisably as the summer went on, as he picked up 19 wickets, including a match winning 6fer at the Aegeas Bowl. He will want to return to form with the bat to match his improved bowling.
Jos Buttler: 8
Matt Prior’s demise opened the door for Buttler who has enjoyed a near perfect start to test cricket. A swashbuckling 85 on debut, followed up by a mature 70 showed he has the ability to perform in different scenarios at this level. His keeping has also been largely impressive, with only a couple of mistakes.
Stuart Broad: 8
Broad played a crucial part in defeating the Indians as his new ball partnership with Jimmy Anderson became England’s most successful ever. 27 wickets was an impressive return, with his 6/25 at Old Trafford a particular highlight. The only people disappointed with his performance will be his helmet manufacturer, after his gruesome broken nose injury.
Chris Jordan: 6
The young Barbadian all-rounder burst onto the international scene this summer after he impressed in the one day game. However with the red ball he has struggled to bowl with the required consistency. He possesses raw pace and energy in abundance which if channelled correctly could be a real asset. His slip catching and batting make him a real prospect for England in the future.
Chris Woakes: 6
Woakes has played in all three of England’s victories this summer and is clearly England’s lucky charm. He has regularly been praised by his fellow bowlers for his support work but only five wickets shows he has lacked the penetration or luck to pick up wickets himself. He has undoubtedly put on a yard of pace from last summer and has enough talent to continue to feature at this level.
Jimmy Anderson: 9
The stand out performer of the summer! 37 wickets, two man of the match awards and even a career best 81! His swing bowling was irresistible and it was a joy to behold a master of his craft. His performance was perhaps all the more notable in the midst of his spat with Ravi Jadeja. If he bowls the same next summer, England may well regain that tiny little urn.
Matt Prior: 3
The follically challenged glove man has been a fantastic servant to England for a number of years but he may well have played his last test. His keeping was unrecognisably poor at the start of the summer and his vulnerability to the short ball was once again highlighted. With Buttler having impressed instantly, you feel Prior’s reign is over.
Ben Stokes: 4
England’s only shining light from the winter has suffered a staggering fall from grace. He was only picked for two tests, in which he failed to score a run in three innings! His bowling was more impressive and in that regard he was unlucky to be discarded. He clearly has the talent to succeed at this level with bat and ball but he will first have to regain his place.
Liam Plunkett: 7
Plunkett surprisingly returned to test cricket this summer after a seven year absence! He was brought in with a new lease of life and an extra yard of pace. Initially used as an enforcer his short pitched bowling was predictable and uninspiring but once he pitched it up he impressed and returned 18 wickets in 4 games. A knee injury curtailed his summer but he will no doubt feature again.bookmark me