At the start of the Ashes I wrote that the key to England’s prospects lay with the batsmen performing better than they had been. I wrote that scores of 250-275 wouldn’t be good enough, that they needed scores of 450 plus.
I hoped and expected they would perform better, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect 5 of England’s top 7 to average over 50.
I also didn’t expect Alastair Cook to average 127.66 over 5 tests, score a double century and be leading run scorer by a mile with 766 runs. Cook has also leaped to an all time high of 5th in the ICC rankings, he started the series down in 28th place.
Cook now finds himself one place behind England’s highest ranked batsman, Jonathan Trott. Trott was ranked in 14th place pre Ashes, before rising to his all time high of 3rd on the back of his 168 not out in Melbourne. A couple of modest Jacques Kallis centuries has since seen Trott drop down to 4th.
I’m sure if pre Ashes, Trott was offered 445 runs at an average of 89 and a world ranking of 4th by the end of the Sydney test match, he would have snapped the offering hand off. His rise over the last 18 months has been remarkable and he has ended England’s problem position of number 3.
England’s batting averages make impressive reading.
Cook – 127.66, Trott -89.00, Bell – 65.80, Pietersen – 60.00, Prior – 50.40, Strauss – 43.85, Swann – 22.00, Bresnan – 19.50, Collingwood – 13.83, Tremlett – 6.33, Anderson – 4.40, Finn – 3.00.
Andrew Strauss had the 6th highest average with 43.85. A year back after the tour of South Africa that average would have been regarded as good, Bell was 2nd highest there with an average of 44.71. Thats shows how far the batting has come in 12 months.
We can’t get too carried away with this success though. Alastair Cook is never likely to have a series this good again, just look at the history books. That’s not to say he can’t continue in good form, hopefully he can now carry on moving forward without worrying about all the technical issues that have dogged him over the previous 18 months.
But a series of the quality of the one Cook has just had comes along once in a generation.
The bowlers did better than I expected too, I always thought they could hold their own, but I didn’t think I’d see us win the Ashes with Anderson, Tremlett and Bresnan as our three seamers. And also with a minimal contribution from Graeme Swann.
Pietersen 1 wicket @ 16.00 runs, Bresnan 11 wickets @ 19.54, Tremlett 17 wickets @ 23.35, Anderson 24 wickets @ 26.04, Finn 14 wickets @ 33.14, Collingwood 2 wickets @ 36.50, Swann 15 wickets @ 39.80 and Broad 2 wickets @ 80.50.
Taking away Pietersen’s figures and it is impressive reading from the seamers. Steve Finn was a bit expensive, but he is a prospect and must have picked up some invaluable experience on this tour.
I also wouldn’t read too much into Graeme Swann’s figures as Australia made the wickets as non spin friendly as possible to try and nulify him, a complement to him in a way. He still managed 15 wickets though and he will have better days to come again on more helpful pitches.
I’m also fairly confident Stuart Broad would have been rewarded at some stage of the series had he not got injured, so I wouldn’t take 80.50 as a true reflection of how he bowled. He was disciplined and bowled to plan in the two tests he played in.
James Anderson might not have finished with the best average, but he was certainly the bowler of the series. He led the attack well, something I doubted he could do, and he also bowled line and length well and didn’t go round the park when the ball failed to swing.
As a result of this he has now joined Graeme Swann in the top 3 test bowlers in the world, Swann is ranked 2 and Anderson 3.
I do wonder what figures Chris Tremlett could have finished the series with had he played from the start. I think his introduction at Perth shocked Australia, they most have wondered how England could have a reserve bowler this good?
Tremlett has well and truely took his chance and made himself undroppable for the start of the Sri Lanka series.
Tim Bresnan surprised me no end. Just under a year ago in Bangladesh he impressed but I never thought he would make part of a 4 man attack against sides like Australia, I thought he would make a more than handy 5th bowler, but no more than that. I’m glad to be proved wrong.
England are now 3rd in the test rankings, two points behind 2nd place South Africa. This summer sees them with the chance to consolidate 3rd place ahead of Sri Lanka before attempting to close the gap on India, who are in 1st place. With home advantage and on current form, Andy Flower must be expecting to win both these series.
We will need to keep building to achieve this though and niether series will be easy. If England are serious about becoming the top test side in the world though, winning home test series is a must.