Monday, 24 August 2009

Bad for good: England player-by-player

Sometimes a cricketer will come out with a line of which any writer would be proud. Andrew Strauss said: 'When we were bad we were very bad, but when we were good, we were good enough'. Perfectly put, and perfectly true. 

As the old maxim goes, styles make fights. Compared to 2005, this was two drunks swinging at each other in a pub car park, but they were equally pissed and equally matched: England found one last punch, right at the end. Good enough, like the man said...

Andrew Strauss
474 runs at 52.66, hs 161; 1 x 100, 3 x 50
Graham Gooch without the callisthenics, Strauss is another of nature's stoics. He won't stare into the game and see what Brearley or Vaughan saw, but the payback comes elsewhere. There's been plenty of talk about which England batsman will be the first to 10,000 Test runs. No-one ever mentions Strauss - wonder why not? 
Out of 10: 9

Alastair Cook
222 runs at 24.66, hs 95; 1 x 50
10 - the number of batsmen above Cook in the averages. Has a technical flaw so obvious that Geoffrey Boycott's mother and her stick of rhubarb may be required to advise on it. If England had another available opener whose initials weren't RWTK, he might be allowed the winter off to solve it. As it is he'll plough on, nicking away.
Out of 10: 5

Ravi Bopara
105 runs at 15.00, hs 35
And so did Shane look upon the burning bush and then say, 'This man who has just made five score and more against the West Indies has the sin of vanity, and he shall disappear because of it...' And we all said, 'Ah Warnie, playing his Sherminator games again...' A number five bat, for which position England now have Trott, Collingwood, Bell...
Out of 10: 3

Kevin Pietersen
158 runs at 38.25, hs 69; 1 x 50
Like a first reading of 1984, the sheer distopian horror of that initial sighting of the England team list without his name on it lingers in the heart. Still better than the rest on one leg, his greatness has grown with his absence. 
Out of 10: 6

Paul Collingwood
250 runs at 27.77, hs 74; 3 x 50
Well we'll always have Cardiff... It was an innings that carried its freight through the series. Collingwood's future employment rests on continued faith in his bloody-mindedness, but his edges are perceptibly blunting.
Out of 10: 6

Matt Prior
261 runs at 32.62, hs 51; 2 x 50
Ssshh. Hear that? No? That's because it's the sound of no-one talking about Matt Prior's wicketkeeping. Deserves tremendous credit for the improvement, which culminated in the stumping of North at the Oval. The added effort probably weighed on his batting which consisted of cameos. The utter purity of his ball striking can be jaw-dropping, just like Stewie's used to be. 
Out of 10 - 7

Andrew Flintoff
200 runs at 33.33, hs 74; 8 wickets at 52.12, bb 5-92
Notions of greatness surrounded him, but greatness is apparent rather than debatable. Flintoff himself nailed it: he was a player of great matches rather than a great player. There is something to be written about his ego, but not yet. For now, remember him at Lord's - an indomitable, hammy, temporarily irresistible force. 
Out of 10 - 7

Stuart Broad
234 runs at 29.25, hs 61; 2 x 50; 18 wickets at 30.22, bb 6-91
Pushed selectorial faith to the edge, but credit where it's due. Contrary to popular opinion, is nothing like Flintoff or Glenn McGrath. Instead, Broad's model should be Shaun Pollock - his physique and talent occupy a similar register. 
Out of 10 - 8

Graeme Swann
249 runs at 35.57, hs 63, 2 x 50; 14 wickets at 40.50, bb 4-38
The teams that form within teams are always interesting: Swann and Broad bubble with internal chemistry. They enjoy batting together, and at the Oval they became Strauss's first-choice partnership as bowlers. Like most spinners who aren't Warne or Murali, he requires favourable conditions, but produced two of the best balls of the series to get Clarke at Lord's and Ponting at Edgbaston.
Out of 10 - 7

James Anderson
99 runs at 16.50, hs 29; 12 wickets at 45.16, bb 6-127
There remains something chimeric about Jimmy Anderson. He's capable of easy and confounding brilliance, and he's equally vulnerable to the whims of conditions and pitches. Cricinfo describe him as 'strapping', but then that's Jimmy - everyone looks at him and sees something different. Nerveless batting in Cardiff, too.
Out of 10 - 7

Steve Harmison
31 runs at 31.00, hs 19*; 5 wickets at 33.40, bb 3-54
The 90s had its batting enigmas in Hick and Ramprakash. This decade has the bowling equivalent in Steve Harmison. Like Hick and Ramprakash, there's something unreachable about him. Watching him standing in the sun at the Oval, genuinely happy yet still entirely equivocal about his future pretty much summed him up. Let's part now and end the heartache.
Out of 10 - 6

Graham Onions
19 runs at 9.50, hs 17*; 10 wickets at 30.30, bb 4-58
Unlucky to be dropped for Harmison, but then he was dropped for the idea of Harmison rather than the reality, which softens the blow. Has a deceptive solidity to him, and getting Watson and Hussey with the first two balls of the day at Edgbaston was a highpoint of the summer. 
Out of 10 - 7

Ian Bell
140 runs at 28.00, hs 72; 2 x 50
A list of current Test number threes: Ponting, Sangakkara, Dravid, Sarwan, Amla, Younis Khan. Need we go on?
Out of 10 - 4

Jonathan Trott
160 runs at 80.00, hs 119; 1 x 100
Strauss, KP, Prior... all from the land of Trotters' fathers, so no wonder he felt right at home. Fine, fine debut, big match temperament and all that. England will hope he can bat higher than five [perhaps even you know where]. Two small things: he'll get dried up pretty quickly scoring where he does; and in the first innings he got very offside of the short-pitched stuff, all of which will be noted.
Out of 10 - 9

Monty Panesar
11 runs at 11.00, hs 7*; 1 wicket at 115, best 1-115
The best seven not out since Matthew Hoggard at Trent Bridge. Worth an MBE, surely? 
Out of 10 - 5

Tomorrow: The Strines...


Mark said...

No rating for Freddie's PR team?

Brit said...

Great stuff, OB. Funny, exactly the same thought occured to me re: Broad modelling himself on Pollock.

Did you notice that Bopara was forgotten in all the post-win namechecking by Strauss and Flower, when they thanked "all fourteen players used"...? I've posted on that, and on the greatness of Flintoff over at TofE.

"A player of great games rather than a great player"? Well what is that supposed to mean? As Simon Barnes might put it: You may as well say Joyce is a writer of great novels but not a great novelist.

Brit said...

Also, I wonder if Trott could bat at 3.

The Old Batsman said...

Fred's PR team are going in the ego post when it comes - they knew how to set the news agenda, that's for sure...

I did notice that about Bopara, and I liked the Fred post. I take the point, but I think greatness in sport, if not in writing, is connected in part to longevity and repetition, a point that Flintoff seems to have signed up to - although that could be spin from the PR team, of course...

The Old Batsman said...

Really haven't seen enough of Trott to know, but I'd imagine not yet, as he doesn't bat there for Warks.