England Vs. South Africa Series Review: Marks Out Of 10

England:

Andrew Strauss: 3/10

It is easy to criticise a man who has captained his supposedly very strong side to a comfortable series defeat on home turf but more of a concern than his leadership skills has been his lacklustre performances with the bat at the top of the order.

Alistair Cook: 5/10

In stark contrast to his form in recent times this series was a bit of a struggle for Cook. Throughout the vast majority of the series he didn’t look overly comfortable against the strength, accuracy and potency of South Africa’s gifted bowling attack and this lack of ease is highlighted by the fact that he failed to pass 50 on any occasion apart from his series-opening hundred at the Oval. He may have started the series with a fine knock but from then it was all downhill as he failed to pass seven runs on three occasions.

Jonathan Trott: 6/10

By Trott’s exceptionally high standards to date this was not an overly brilliant series but he still got a couple of fifties and ended with an average in excess of 40 for the series so it would be churlish to pan him. He did of course turn his arm rather a lot too and though he failed to take a wicket in the series he did give a few of South Africa’s much-vaunted batting lineup a tricky spell or two and it isn’t really his job to rip through the opposition’s batting lineup after all.

Kevin Pietersen: 8/10 on the field, 1/10 off of it…

Pietersen Scandal

KP may have out-performed the rest of his team mates with the bat but his behaiour off of the field has been apalling

There was little wrong with Pietersen’s form with the bat as he amassed not far shy of 300 runs with the bat in the two tests in which he featured and he was also surprisingly impressive with the ball taking four wickets in the second test at Headingley.

Sadly though, it has been Pietersen’s off-field behaviour which has been the recipient of far more headlines as he has been embroiled in some reported in-fighting both in the England dressing room and with the top officials in the English game.

If the text messages to SouthAfrican players included the sort of content that they are alleged to have, then no matter how well Pietersen might have played in the second test, the decision to drop him for the final match was wholly justified. No man is bigger than the team and if he has been caught red handed when bad-mouthing his generally very popular and very respected captain then he shouldn’t be given an easy-route back into the side unless he has made some serious attempts to right his wrongs and until he has proven that he can act more maturely and can be trusted in a team environment.

Ian Bell: 3/10

When compared with the ease and fluency of his run-scoring exploits in the most recent test series’ on home turf Ian Bell endured a bit of turgid time of things against the South Africans, managing an average of  just 28.80 and a high score for the series of just 58. More so than the scores themselves the methods of dismissal will concern and irritate Bell as he was far too easily tempted into loose strokes by the South Africans, which saw him lose his wicket cheaply on more than one occasion.

James Taylor: 4/10

It is hard to make a fair judgement on Taylor’s first strides as a test cricketer as he was thrown right in at the deep end against arguably the best bowling attack in the world. He only batted in three innings in the series and in one of those three he was run out by Trott, in another he failed to get in before being dismissed and then in the other he made a score in the thirties which was probably far better than it sounds as he batted with great patience and he supported Pietersen very well en route to his big hundred at Headingley. It wasn’t the best start to life as a test cricketer but I’ve seen worse.

Jonny Bairstow: 8/10

He only played in one test match but boy did he do well. He struggled throughout much of his maiden test series earlier in the summer against the West Indies but the manner in which he stepped into the Kevin Pietersen shaped void amidst very tricky circumstances in the final test was truly admirable. He proved that he has real potential as a test cricketer and demonstrated an encouraging amount of confidence and intent at the crease as he notched back-to-back half centuries, it was just as shame that he fell five short of his maiden test century when he fell for 95 in the first innings.

Ravi Bopara: 2/10

Off the back of an impressive ODI series against Australia this was another major chance for Bopara to try and re-establish himself as part of England’s test side but it went pretty dismally. He scored 0 and 22 in the first test and then he removed himself from contention for a place in the side due to personal reasons.

Matt Prior: 7/10

Over the past couple of years Prior has fully re-asserted himself as England’s first-choice with the gloves and has become arguably the best keeper-batsman in world cricket and his performances in this series will have done little to harm his reputation. Prior was very impressive at times with the bat, never more so than in his courageous second innings knock in the final test, and he was generally very assured with the gloves minus a dropped catch which would have got rid of Amla for just two in the final test. On the whole this was another very decent series for the gloves-man.

Stuart Broad: 5/10

Broad showed glimpses throughout the series of what he brings to the England attack but he looked a little short of rhythm as failed to consistently threaten the South African batting lineup. He seems a little short of pace at the moment which is strange for a man with such a great fast bowling physique but he did however contribute well with the bat in England’s brave final day resistance today and he deserves credit for that.

Graeme Swann: 4/10

Swann Vs. South Africa

Swann was seen as the part of the England attack that might have given them the edge but it wasn’t to be

Having re-announced himself on the international stage in phenomenal fashion over the past few years, Swann has become one of the most feared spinners in the game but he is going through a bit of a barren spellat the moment by his high standards. Like his Nottinghamshire clubmate Stuart Broad he contributed bravely with the bat in England’s final innings of the series but his attempts to help England maintain their place at the top of the world rankings proved futile as they fell fifty runs short of an historic win.

Tim Bresnan: 4/10

Brezza failed to maintain his test match ‘lucky charm’ status as he tasted test defeat for the very first times in his career. He was made to look fairly ordinary by South Africa’s superior batting lineup in the first couple of tests and it was no surprise to see the more threatening Steven Finn preferred to him in terms of selection for the final test.

James Anderson: 5/10

This series proved to be pretty frustrating Anderson as he bowled well for long periods of the game without much reward for his efforts. There is little doubt however that Anderson will come back strongly from a disappointing series and I fully expect him to play a huge part in England’s forthcoming matches in their quest to now recapture what is no longer their place at the top of the world test rankings.

Steven Finn: 7/10

Having spent a bit of time in the wilderness in terms of test match cricket, young Steven Finn returned to regular action for the test side and played in the second and third matches of the series. In his two opportunities in the series he maintained his reputation as a great wicket taker at the highest level even if he did still have a tendency to spray the ball around and provide the opposition with run-scoring opportunities.

Finn’s best day of the series came when I was at Lords to watch the match and it was a pleasure to see two brilliant spells of bowling from the young man. His first spell of the day was brimming with pace and hostility and he must take a lot of credit for the wicket of Dale Steyn, which may have been taken by Broad but was set up by Finn’s aggression and accuracy. His spell of bowling in the afternoon though was the real highlight as he removed Amla, De Villiers and Rudolph in a devastating spell that saw him take 3 wickets for just 14 runs. It will be very surprising now if Finn isn’t selected next time England are in test action.

South Africa:

Graeme Smith: 8/10

Smith led from the front with some of his trademark stubborn, hard-nosed batting at the top of the order and he backed up his strengths with the bat with consistently good captaincy and he fully deserved to lead his side to victory.

Alviro Petersen: 6/10

Five of his six marks out of ten are awarded to Petersen for his marvellous 182 at Headingley as his other five innings in the series garnered a combined total of just 83 runs as he failed to match his opening partner Smith in terms of consistency. His first innings performance at Headingley was terrific and he showed enormous resolve to score big whilst the majority of his team mates failed to fire as they did in the other innings’ throughout the series. However, his form aside from this knock was very indifferent so it is hard to award him more than six out of ten even though he did average over 60 for the series.

Hashim Amla: 9/10

Amla Vs. England

Amla’s 311* was arguably the highlight of the series

Man of the series without a shadow of a doubt. Absolutely no one got anywhere near him in terms of run scored or in terms of batting averages in this series and his staggering knock of 311 not out at the Oval was the highlight of South Africa’s tour. This series was billed as a battle of the bowlers beforehand but in truth it has been South Africa’s staying power and persistence with the bat that has impressed the most and Amla has been the figurehead of this outstanding team display.

Jacques Kallis: 7/10

An enormous unbeaten contribution with the bat in the first innings was the highlight of the series for South Africa’s veteran all-rounder who otherwise failed to make any major contributions with the bat but as always he did offer South Africa an invaluable option with the ball and he defied troubles with persistent back spasms to contribute four wickets in the series.

AB De Villiers: 6/10

Having stepped into the breach in the wake of Mark Boucher’s untimely retirement, AB kept wicket pretty well on the whole in his first full series in the role but he failed to set the world alight with the bat. He did though average over 40 for the series which is respectable given that he was twice not required to bat in the series due to the stellar efforts of some of his team mates.

Jacques Rudolph: 5/10

Rudolph looked solid and added some depth to South Africa’s line-up in the absence of Mark Boucher but he only produced one innings of any real note when he scored 69 having been thrown in to open the batting for his side whilst usual opener Petersen was left back in the hutch due to severe stiffness. He hasn’t long been back in the side after a few years out of the reckoning and though he wasn’t a major force with the bat this time around he didn’t play himself out of the side either.

JP Duminy: 7/10

Duminy wasn’t called upon with great regularity in the series but when he was he proved just why South Africa deem him to be more than just a very good one day player. He contributed with characteristically steady batting down the order bagging himself the second highest South African batting average of the series whilst also contributing when needed with the ball.

Vernon Philander: 8/10

Philander came into this series with a fantastic start to his test career under his belt and he took little time in impressing upon England just why he has been such a success. He may not have been a prolific wicket-taker throughout the entire series but his five-for in England’s final innings was suitable reward for a series of accurate, disciplined and determined bowling. A series bowling average of 23.6 tells you all you need to know about how well he bowled.

Dale Steyn: 8/10

Steyn Vs. England

The world’s number one test bowler is now part of the world’ number one test side

It seemed for long stretches as if Steyn wasn’t quite at his sparkling best but he was still comfortably the biggest wicket taker of the series and as such deserves enormous credit once again. If you aren’t at your very best and you’re struggling with a couple of niggles but you still take the most wickets in the series by a distance then you know you’re a bit special.

Morne Morkel: 6/10

Morkel can at times be one of the most frustrating bowlers in test cricket but he performed pretty well as part of South Africa’s potent attack in this series. He averaged 34.5 with the ball which was less impressive than either Steyn or Philander but he did manage to take 11 wickets and he also chipped in with a few valuable runs right down the order.

Imran Tahir: 5/10

Tahir was arguably the least threatening part of South Africa’s front-line bowling attack but the veteran of English county cricket demonstrated his knowledge of English conditions in playing a part in South Africa getting the better of England’s disappointingly frail-looking batting line-up. The spinner department is arguably South Africa’s weak link and Tahir will surely have to better his average of 47 with the ball in this series if he is to hold onto his place in the world’s best test side.

English Cricket’s Dominant Present Matches Up To It’s Majesterial History

The recent success of England in the most historic and prestigious form of cricket should be the source of much national pride. In their recent 4-0 drubbing of the previous World number one Test side they demonstrated a level of conviction and authority rarely seen in English cricket’s more recent past.

The current success has brought with it an enormous amount of comparison drawing between England’s current crop and the most dominant Test outfits of the game’s long and illustrious history. To this point England have achieved a great deal under the guidance of Andy Flower and have earned a great deal of respect amongst their peers in the International game, but there is an awfully long way to go before they can be considered one of England’s very best sides. So far they have demonstrated the form and talent required to reach such historical heights but sustaining this period of domination over a longer span of time will be the ultimate test for them.

The Home of Cricket

This week I was fortunate enough to pay my first visit to the ‘Home of Cricket’. Not only did I visit Lord’s but I was fortunate enough to gain entry to the Members Pavilion courtesy of attending as the guest of a friend who holds an MCC membership. This was a fantastic experience and furthered my passion for the game and it’s history.

Some might say that the ‘old boy’ and ‘aristocratic’ nature of Lord’s and the Pavilion End is far too elitist and perhaps too stuffy for a modern era of increased equality and opportunity, but I must confess that I loved it.

Where else in British sport could you be seated in and around plump, middle-aged gentlemen wearing a glorious mish-mash of boldly coloured pinstripe suits accompanied by a flower-filled top jacket pocket and the classically coloured red and mustard tie of the MCC? It may seem way over the top, but it truly is a sight to behold.

You wouldn't wear it yourself, but it's brilliant...

I personally wouldn’t be seen dead in their chosen attire, but I didn’t half enjoy seeing them trying to pull it off and in a bizarre sort of a way they kind of managed it. The pride gained from showing off the traditional colours of the MCC is comparable to that of the most passionate football fans who couldn’t bare to be without their replica shirts come match day. It provides a great sense of identity for the game and pays tribute to the it’s very colourful past through remembering and representing it’s upper-class roots.

Warney's Tribute in the Pavilion

Aside from those filling the Pavilion End the place itself is so utterly and fantastically British. It is a structure of extreme civilisation containing a library, a food court, squash courts, lounge rooms, real tennis courts, a committee meeting room and of course the infamous Long Room. The place is filled with paintings and images of Cricket’s history and not just that of the home nation. Even the old-enemy Australia have their fair share of wall space with players such as the great Shane Warne honoured with a portrait.

The ‘Home of Cricket’ is a magnificent tribute to the enduring gentleman’s sport and underlines the value and traditions of Test cricket. In the modern era where shortened forms of the game are beginning to take greater precedence than they once did I think it is hugely important that the foundation of Test cricket is not forgotten or belittled.

Gladly, England’s current combination of extroverted characters suited to the modern era such as Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad, and more classical, old-fashioned cricketers such as Alistair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Andrew Strauss has seen them rise to the top of the world’s Test pecking order and has provided the longer format with a much needed boost.

Swanny has become a key part of England's modernised line-up

The world of Test cricket has been lacking the sort of superiority and character provided by the all conquering Australian sides of the 90’s and early 2000’s and it is entirely appropriate that England, cricket’s country of origin, are responsible for the current re-invigoration of the sport’s most important format. Though my first visit to Lord’s was to see a one-day match between home side Middlesex and the visitors Sussex you can’t help but feel the presence of the International game within the Pavilion. I am now very much looking forward to the day when I get to witness the ground in all it’s majesty at an England Test match, hopefully this moment shan’t elude for too much longer.

England Vs India Marks out of 10: England take the lead to fuel belief of number one status

What a fantastic Test match and what a great victory for England. Their slightly undercooked opponents looked a little rusty and were never quite a match for the on-song hosts of the 2,000th Test match of all time.

Below are my marks out of ten for the two sides:

India:

Abhinav Mukund – 6/10

This was a plucky first outing at Lords for the youngster filling in for the rather more illustrious figure of Virender Sehwag. A breezy knock in the forties in the first innings demonstrated confidence and a desire to show real intent at the crease even when opening in a Test match.

Gautam Gambhir – 3/10

Nothing really from Gambhir in his new found role as the senior member of India’s opening partnership in the absence of Sehwag. Two small contributions and a nasty whack on the elbow to boot. He will hope the bruising and swelling has eased up a little for Trent Bridge, and after this lacklustre showing England may want to see him fit for action too.

Rahul Dravid – 8/10

First Lords Ton for 'The Wall'

Magnificent showing amidst a real lack of support en route to a first innings hundred. It was his first at the home of cricket and boy did he deserve it. It was a typically rear-guard hundred from ‘The Wall’ and it was just what India needed at the time. Despite not following it up with an equally important knock second time out he must go down as India’s star performer of the Test.

Sachin Tendulkar – 3/10

Usually the man for a crisis but not this time out for the ‘Little Master’. Two knocks of no real note and a bout of the flu for his troubles. Maybe he will get another chance to ton-up for the first time at Lords in what has been an incredible career. If his chance does come again then he might want to score with a little more fluency than today when at one point he had gone 39 deliveries without scoring a run.

VVS Laxman – 4/10

Just when India needed an experienced head to play himself in and settle alongside Dravid in the first innings Laxman holed out in miserable fashion. A flimsy paddle down to deep-square saw him perish and with it went much of India’s optimism. He did somewhat redeem himself in the second innings in an unfamiliar role at number three in the order by making a half-century, but he didn’t hang on long enough to have a real impact upon proceedings.

Suresh Raina – 5/10

The youngster showed real character to follow up a two-baller in his first innings with a rear-guard half-century in the second. Sadly for India his efforts were cut-short when he ran out of partners in the early evening.

MS Dhoni – 3/10

His two minor showings with the bat are worth half a mark, his attempt to at least try and Captain a side ravaged with injury and illness is worth another half, his OK glove-work is worth another half and the nerve as Captain and Keeper to throw off his gloves and turn an arm is worth the rest of his 3 out of 10.

Harbhajan Singh – 2/10

‘The Turbanator’ was ineffective with the ball in both innings as the spinners toiled on the pristine Lords’s track. Add into the mix a wimpy edge outside of off to Chris Tremlett in the first innings and a remarkably poor stroke to hole out in the second and you might come to the conclusion that he had a poor game.

Praveen Kumar – 7/10

The inexperienced military medium swing bowler was the only man to step up in Zaheer Khan’s absence from the attack for most of the first innings. As such he was very deserving of his five-for and he backed this up with a confident but brief lower order knock to help India scrape past the follow-on target.

Zaheer Khan – ?

India will be hoping their attack leader returns at Trent Bridge

A spectator for the majority of the game due to a hamstring strain but his two showings with the bat yielded no runs, not that it would have been him running them anyway. For the early stage of the game when he was fit for action he was very good and he had taken the only two English wickets prior to his injury.

Ishant Sharma – 6/10

Nothing with the bat at 11 and found wanting in a wicketless first innings of bowling. Found his rhythm in the second English innings and for a brief period revelled in tearing apart their top order. However, lunch then came to England’s rescue and Sharma was inexplicably held back for around 40 minutes after this break. When he came back on the aura had gone, promising signs though.

England:

Andrew Strauss – 4/10

Coming in off the back of two top-class knocks in India’s warm-up game the England captain again faltered a little with the bat. Two scores of no great note, but decent captaincy en route to one of the finest Test wins under his guidance.

Alistair Cook – 1/10

Brought back down to earth with a bump. There simply had to be a Test match coming up where Cook wouldn’t fill his boots and this was it. Hopefully better things to come as the series progresses.

Jonathan Trott – 6/10

Important gritty knock of 70 in the first innings in the worst of the conditions but failed to match t up with another good one in the second innings.

Kevin Pietersen – 9/10

KP has described this as his best Test knock

Glorious return to form for KP on one of his most prolific stomping grounds. His third Test double-hundred was outstanding and full of determination and maturity. He went through the motions in this most magnificent of innings, starting out slow in tricky conditions and cutting loose in the sunshine. Shame he tarnished his performance with a cheap dismissal for just 1 in the second innings but still got MOM.

Ian Bell – 4/10

Just as was the case for Cook, there was bound to be a Test where Ian Bell wouldn’t score big and this was it. Fluent forty or so in the first before falling victim to Sharma’s period of destruction in the second. Bell will be hoping this duck wasn’t a sign of things to come.

Eoin Morgan – 2/10

A poor showing from Ireland’s (and England’s) finest. Nothing to speak of with the bat and dropped poorly when the pressure was on to dismiss India in their second innings.

Matt Prior – 10/10

This hundred may well be Prior's most important innings for England thus far

Not the official MOM, but certainly got my vote. Really outstanding performance from England’s wicketkeeper/batsman. A brisk and exciting 70 odd in the first innings was followed up by an incredible unbeaten hundred in the second innings. Add to this an almost flawless performance with the gloves at Lords where keeping is notoriously tough and you can see why he is fast establishing himself as the finest number seven in world cricket.

Stuart Broad – 9/10

Broad allayed any fears over a lack of form

Came into this Test under the cosh with many feeling his place should have gone to Tim Bresnan. Maybe this was the spur behind an outstanding performance with bat and ball. He took the first three wickets of India’s first innings including that of Tendulkar en route to a four-for and followed this up with two more wickets in the second innings when if it weren’t for some suspect fielding and umpiring he could have had at least another two. A golden duck in England’s first innings was less than impressive but his unbeaten 74 alongside the majestic Prior helped save England from meltdown in their second innings. If only time were on his side he might have gone on to score a second Test hundred and it was fitting that he got the match sealing wicket.

Graeme Swann – 6/10

Like Harbajhan he struggled to really impress with the ball but he did comfortably out-bowl his opposite number. In addition to his efforts with the ball he provided able assistance with the bat when KP cut loose in England’s first innings, this contribution helped them assert their authority over their opponents at an early stage of the match.

Chris Tremlett – 7/10

Never looked fully fit but strived hard for his wickets and kept charging in to the bitter end. He got his reward with the prize scalp of Dhoni after tea on the last day and that seemed to be the spark needed to topple the lower order. Hopefully his niggles are minor and he will be all guns blazing come Friday.

James Anderson – 7/10

Not vintage all the way through from Jimmy but a great showing in India’s second innings. He eventually managed five-for and got his name on the honours board again at Lords, he will be disappointed with his lacking performance with the ball in India’s first innings though.