I have been meaning to do this for a few days now and have only just got around to it. Here is my view on the 13 players England used for the 3-1 Ashes series win.
Alastair Cook – Man of the series for me. I never gave him a chance in hell of being top run scorer. He surprised me no end to say the least, would have laughed at anyone backing him to be England’s top run scorer at start of the series, couldn’t see him passing about 280 runs for the 5 tests, he scored more than that in Brisbane alone.
I then thought that would probably be it for the series, but wisely kept the thought to myself, wrong again.
He set the tone at the top of the innings, England had solid foundations to build on with his scores, compare that to Shane Watson who kept getting to 50 and then out.
By Sydney, Australia just didn’t know what to do with him, and they (like me) thought he was the weak link before the start of the series.
Andrew Strauss – Wasn’t anything special with the bat, but still managed 307 runs including a century and an average of 43.85, which isn’t bad. His main role was as captain, and despite plenty of Sky Sports commentator’s criticism, I thought he did brilliant.
Yes, he could have been more attacking in Melbourne when Tremlett was bowling a great spell, but these are issues to be addressed further down the line as England move forward as a unit. In the here and now, Strauss had a plan for Australia, he stuck to it and it worked.
It’s easy to sit in the commentary box and tell everybody what ‘you’ would do in Strauss’ situation, and in isolation maybe there was the odd valid point, but in the bigger overall picture, Strauss and Flower got it right, so stop moaning about it Ian.
Jonathan Trott – Played one of the pivotel innings of the series. England would probably have still won the MCG test without Trott’s innings, but when Collingwood and Bell went cheaply, Australia had a sniff. Trott stamped that out by holding the innings together on his way to 168 not out, he was the man who put his foot on the throat when Australia where on the floor.
That innings probably went some way to helping win the Sydney test match as well, it must have totally deflated Australia.
Hard to know if it was his best innings in an England shirt, the one against Pakistan wasn’t bad either, but I reckon the MCG one wins it.
Scored 445 runs at an average of 89 and has nailed down England’s problem position.
Kevin Pietersen – Got his double in Adelaide, but wasn’t the star man I thought he would need to be if England where to win the series. This is a good thing though, as the England side that depended so heavily on him wasn’t too good a team. You have to wonder what this team can achieve though if he can come back to the sort of form he showed 2-3 years back.
Could well fill his boots in the ODI’s.
Paul Collingwood – Though Colly handled himself well during his struggles with the bat. The shot to get himself out in Sydney was embarrassing and I wasn’t too surprised to see him retire the next day. He had to go really, I think the selectors would have made the decision for him anyway.
Having said that, he played his part in the victory. He filled in well as England’s 5th bowler and was his usual exceptional self in the field. Shame he couldn’t have gone out on a better note with the bat, but he’s had a decent test career and can walk away with his head held high.
Ian Bell – Looked great at times, but didn’t grab the series by the scruff of the neck in a way I’d love to see him do so. In part though, that wasn’t down to him as he was batting down at No.6, and earlier in the series, match situations cost him his wicket.
This is not a criticism and I’m a massive fan of Bell, but I still think there is far more to come form him. Like KP, I think he could be in for a good ODI series.
Matt Prior – You don’t notice him at all behind the stumps now, did miss one or two off Swann, but most keepers miss the odd one off the spinner. I think the biggest complement to Prior though, is that everyone raves about how good Brad Haddin is, and I think Prior is his equal at worst.
Started off struggling with the bat, but seemed to turn it around after his no-ball reprieve in Melbourne. He is now a major part of this England team, I really hope we don’t have to go through the farcical situation of having his place questioned by pundits again because someone hits a couple of sixes in a T20 or 50 over match, like last year with Craig Kieswetter – and where is he now?
Graeme Swann – England’s trump card and match winner pre Ashes, but it wasn’t to be, except in Adelaide. Did a job for the team though. The Aussies clearly doctored the wickets to try and keep his effectiveness down to the minimum, a complement to him really. Still has plenty of good days ahead of him, and is still the best spinner in the world.
Chris Tremlett – Quite simply the bowler who has impressed me the most in this series. I can believe how well he has done because he has always had all the tools to be a top class perfomer, his only down side was he seemed to lack the self belief.
If he avoids injury I expect him to be in the England team for a good few years now. Already looks England’s most complete bowler and if he started the series in the team, he probably would have been top wicket taker.
The Aussies must have looked at this reserve coming into the side in Perth and wondered what the hell was going on.
Tim Bresnan – Looks to have improved no end as a bowler. Never had him down as part of a 4 man attack, but am glad to be proved wrong. When he first came on the scene in one day cricket he bowled from far too wide an angle, and bowled way too many leg side wides, he now bowls a tight line and length and looks like he could run in all day long, a captains dream.
Also a great team man, if Australia want to know where they went wrong, they could do a lot worse than look at the example of Bresnan. Not as talented as a Mitchell Johnson or a Steve Harmison, but far less erratic and far more reliable and accurate.
James Anderson – I know a lot of people must be wondering what I am on about where I have wrote (above) that Tremlett is the bowler who impressed me the most, so I will clarify it here.
Jimmy Anderson was quite simply the best bowler of the series, he played all 5 tests, compared to Tremlett’s 3 and was outstanding in all of them. He also led the line and for some reason the sledging, something I didn’t expect from him.
He bowled the spell that put Australia on the back foot in Adelaide. He also didn’t disappear when the ball stopped swinging, something I thought he might do. He stuck to the game plan throughout as well and wasn’t disheartened when he did go to the boundary.
When he did get hit you could see he was usually bowling to plan, trying to tempt the batsman to play loose shots to widish balls, generally that tactic worked. How many Aussies did he entice into playing at balls they didn’t need too? In the past when he disappeared to the boundary, it was usually because he was bowling long hop, crap balls outside the off stump, not anymore.
Tremlett impressed in his 3 tests and looks there to stay, but Jimmy was the leader and the main man throughout the Ashes.
Steven Finn – with the emergence of Tremlett, Finn now looks set for a spell back in county cricket, won’t be the worse thing that will ever happen to him as he will be able to iron out any little issues he may have. As we know it is easier to tinker with your game in county cricket than at international level. Only a matter of time before he’s back and he will have picked up invaluable experience in the 3 games he played.
Stuart Broad – Unlucky to pick up his injury when he did. His figures don’t reflect how well he bowled in the two games he played, he did the job asked off him and bowled too the game plan with discipline. He will no doubt be back.