After a convincing 3-1 series win against South Africa, Olly Oulton runs the rule over those who contributed to England’s triumph.
Moeen Ali 9/10
25 wickets at 15.6; 252 runs at 31.5 – 2 fifties
The leading wicket-taker in the series, Moeen bowled beautifully throughout – a 10-fer at Lord’s, a hat-trick at The Oval, another five-fer at Old Trafford. Two half-centuries proved that his free-flowing batting style is ideal for batting in the lower order, and the fact that he became the only ever cricketer to score 250 runs and take 25 wickets in a four-match series proves how valuable he is to this England side.
Joe Root (C) 8/10
461 runs at 57.6 – 1 century, 3 fifties
All eyes were on the new England skipper coming into this series. At just 25, many feared that the pressure of captaincy would burden the greatest English batsmen of his generation, but in terms of runs, he continued to lead by example. A stunning hundred at Lord’s was followed up by three more 50+ scores in the series. His only slight frustration would be his relative inability to convert 50s into 100s, but when you’ve made fifties in 10 consecutive Tests you can be forgiven. In terms of his captaincy, he barely put a foot wrong. A couple of ‘funky’ fields – sending Jennings perilously close at third slip under a lid, for example – and shrewd use of his bowlers suggest a positive, proactive leader in the making.
James Anderson 8/10
20 wickets at 14.1; 19 runs at 6.3
After having an end named after him at his beloved Old Trafford, there was never any doubt that the Lancashire man would deliver, and he took seven wickets in the match to mark the occasion. A five-for would have been richly deserved, but it wasn’t to be. Still, the right-armer shows no signs of having lost the ability to terrorize top orders with swing and unerring control.
Jonny Bairstow 8/10
330 runs at 41.3 – 3 fifties; 17 dismissals
Rarely has a score of 99 felt so unjust. Bairstow’s expert marshaling of the tail at Old Trafford was a joy to watch, and took the game away from a tiring South Africa, before his innings was ended by a marginal LBW call. Batting at No.5 for the first two matches, Bairstow scored 122 runs at a respectable average of 30.5. But when moved down to No.7 to accommodate Dawid Malan for the final two games, he scored 208 runs at 52. As with Stokes, who now looks set at No.6, there’s been much debate around where to bat Bairstow. He needs to stay at 7. The figures back that up. Behind the stumps too he was excellent, especially when tested down the leg-side.
Ben Stokes 8/10
299 runs at 37.4 – 1 century, 2 fifties; 7 wickets at 43
Stokes’ stock continues to rise. A gritty 56 in the 1st innings at Lords helped England recover from 76-4 and displayed Stokes’ increasing willingness to bat for the team, and that was just a prelude to his century at The Oval, the most mature knock of his career. With the ball he continued to make key breakthroughs when called upon – increasingly his role rather than bowling long spells. He was also stunning in the slips as usual. He is fast becoming the leading allrounder in world cricket.
Toby Roland-Jones 7/10
10 wickets at 39.2; 63 runs at 15.8
After a dream debut – eight high-quality wickets, 48 carefree runs and a crushing victory – Roland-Jones continued to be very good at Old Trafford without reaching the dizzy heights of The Oval. He will need to continue to be excellent if he is to retain his place when Chris Woakes is back to full fitness.
Tom Westley 7/10
122 runs at 30.5 – 1 fifty
After being drafted in to replace the injured Gary Ballance, Westley immediately looked at home in the Test arena. To score 84 in the match on debut at a crucial point in the series showed he is mentally tough, while his whips off his legs showed off his unique, flair-filled technique. A tendency to aim through mid-on when others would target mid-off caused his downfall on occasion, but that’s a minor quibble at this point; he wouldn’t be the first to succeed with a style from outside the textbook. These are early days, but the man from Cambridge showed lots of promise.
Stuart Broad 6/10
11 wickets at 32; 77 runs at 11 – 1 fifty
A brilliant spell at Old Trafford, where he took 3-46, was the highlight of a consistent, if unremarkable series for England’s paceman. His new-ball partnership with Jimmy Anderson never threatens to let England down, while his 57 at Lord’s was a throwback to pre-injury Broad, flaying the ball through the covers with minimal fuss.
Alastair Cook 6/10
268 runs at 33.5; 2 fifties
By his own lofty standards, Alastair Cook will consider this series something of a disappointment. That’s not to say he didn’t bat well – he did. But, in very un-Chef-like fashion, he failed to convert his starts into anything substantial. Still, his performance at The Oval, as he nudged and cut his way to a typically patient 88, set England on the road to victory. It could even be seen as the turning point of the series. The form of the man at the other end serves as a mitigating factor too, lumping extra pressure on the ex-captain to perform.
Liam Dawson 5/10
5 wickets; 18 runs at 6
Bowled nicely in tandem with Moeen Ali at Lord’s, without really shining. Dawson is a very solid character – something England value highly – but he might find himself struggling to nail down a consistent place in the side, especially with Moeen blossoming into a quality first-choice off-spinner.
Gary Ballance 5/10
85 runs at 21.25
Following a glut of Championship runs for Yorkshire at the start of the summer, Gary Ballance was recalled to the Test side for a second time, but failed to nail down a place once again. He didn’t disgrace himself by any means but his tendency to get trapped on the crease remains a worryingly common occurrence. Fracturing his left index finger in the second Test, may prove to be a blessing in disguise – if he is recalled, he is far more likely to make runs against the West Indies than against this South Africa attack.
Dawid Malan 4/10
35 runs at 8.75
Malan’s first Test innings ended with him on his knees, after failing to keep out a searing yorker from the fiery Kagiso Rabada. This image sums up Malan’s first foray into Test cricket – apart from the waft that ended his first innings at Old Trafford, he didn’t do an awful lot wrong; the South African bowlers were just a bit too good. A first-class average of over 40 since 2012 suggests that there is more to come from Malan if he can find a way of keeping out the odd magic ball, reserved only for the Test match arena.
Mark Wood 3/10
1 wicket; 34 runs at 8.5
Admittedly with only two matches on which to judge him, Mark Wood didn’t look at his best, and took just one wicket across four innings. Another heel injury came at an inopportune moment, and with Toby Roland-Jones grabbing his chance, and Chris Woakes on the comeback trail, he may have slipped down the pecking order.
Keaton Jennings 3/10
127 runs at 15.8
Jennings struggled throughout, albeit against a potent new-ball attack. Vernon Philander in particular troubled the tall left-hander, and Jennings consistently showed uncertainty outside his off-stump, with his upright technique exposed. He had his share of luck too, often dropped early on, and still failed to capitalise. Only a gutsy 48 in the second innings at The Oval, and golden memories of last year, gives him an outside chance of retaining his place for the upcoming series against the West Indies.
How do you feel about our ratings? Have we been too harsh or too lenient? Let us know in the comments!