I admit this has come a bit late. Every Tom, Del and Harry revealed their player ratings for this summer’s tests a while ago. But that’s the good thing about The Full Toss. We don’t give two hoots about things like punctuality. How anti-establishment of us (waits for groans of approval / disapproval)
Anyway here goes …
Alastair Cook 6 – Gets marks for determination but not a lot else. Captained terribly in the first half of the summer (Warne, Hussain, Boycott, Vaughan etc were right) but at least managed not to blow commanding positions in the final three tests against India. In fact, he showed encouraging signs of doing the basics well. His batting remains a real worry though. There were fleeting glimmers of improvement, but needed outrageous luck to compile three somewhat stodgy half-centuries. Because lesser men would have simply given up when playing so badly, he gets a slightly better than average grade.
Sam Robson 5 – Normally, if a rookie opener scores almost as many runs as his skipper over the course of the summer (and makes one more century), his position would be assured. But we live in strange times people, strange times. To be honest I’m not sure what to make of Robson. His doesn’t know where his off-stump is, he looks rather scruffy at the crease, but the likes of Thorpe and Ramprakash (judges I admire enormously) believe in him. Having said that, I think his time is probably up. Who will replace him? It doesn’t really matter. Once Alex Lees is ready, it will be his spot for the next decade.
Gary Ballance 9 – Is he really a number three? I would say ‘yes’ but that would mean Peter Moores was right … and I don’t want to live in a world in which the nutty professor is all knowing! Basically Ballance has done everything asked of him. He’s the find of the summer. Let’s just hope he can score runs against top class bowling too. The Aussies are bound to wind him up and then make some lame “keep your shirt on mate” gags.
Ian Bell 6 – Oooooh this was a tough one to grade. He probably deserves a 7, but expectations of Bell are rightly higher than his peers. Often described by the mainstream media as England’s best player (a little bizarre considering they call his skipper the best England player of all time) Bell was expected to step up big time as the senior figure in the middle-order this year. It didn’t quite happen for him though. He scored just about enough runs to keep the wolf from the door, but there were still a few too many flaky dismissals for my liking. Will need a big 2015 if England are to regain the Ashes.
Joe Root 9 – Find that “Roooooooooooottt” chant annoying? Well you’d better get used to it I’m afraid. Joe looks so much better in the middle-order. He’s here to stay. Let’s not muck around and move him up to open again. If he can score runs against the Aussies next summer, he’ll go on to break all records … unless the selectors do something daft like make him captain. I’m being facetious obviously.
Moeen Ali 7 – I would have given him an 8, but he didn’t score many runs against India (despite being involved in two key partnerships) and I’ll be accused of Worcestershire bias if I rate him too highly. Ironically, after talking up his bowling all summer (I told you all he was the best spinner available to England irrespective of whether he was an all-rounder) I’m now going to recommend caution. He still has plenty to work on, so let’s keep expectations realistic. His batting needs to tighten up (especially against the short stuff) but he’s so naturally gifted that I half expect him to be a ‘rise to the occasion’ type, who bats better against the more potent attacks. Moeen got himself into trouble against India by thinking too much. When the bowling goes up a notch, his heartbeat rises and his instincts take over, I reckon he’ll be fine.
Matt Prior 3 – A poor grade but it really wasn’t his fault. He was blatantly injured, and if Cook (and Moores) hadn’t needed a security blanket, he wouldn’t have played. The selectors got a lot right this summer, but unfortunately they got this one wrong. But let’s not write him off just yet. If anything happens to Buttler, then Prior is more than capable of doing a Haddin. He’s also significantly younger than Haddin too.
Jos Buttler 8 – It’s hard not to get excited about Jos. He’s a born entertainer. If large sections of the public weren’t so disillusioned with the England team, the Buttler hype would be sky high. In a way, the current malaise might suit him then. His keeping was slightly better than advertised (which was a relief) and he showed an encouraging knack of applying himself as well as playing those delicious reverse sweeps and ramp shots. With Pietersen out of the picture, the team needs someone like Buttler.
Chris Woakes 6 – Has he really added a yard of pace? Maybe half a yard. Although he looked better than he did at The Oval in 2013, the jury’s still out. There are lots of things to like about Woakes – he’s got a good classic orthodox bowling action and a sound technique with the bat – but I’m not quite sure whether that’s enough. Strangely Woakes’ bowling is almost too orthodox (if such a thing is possible); batsmen see the ball out of his hand very clearly and line him up quite easily. However, being a purist I refuse to believe than orthodoxy is anything other than bloody marvellous. I’m genuinely perplexed. Help!
Chris Jordan 6 – Another cricketer I can’t quite fathom. He’s lightening around the field but approaches the crease like a clockwork toy running in sand. He occasionally makes the batsman hurry but the speed gun rarely registers over 140kph. My biggest concern, however, is that he doesn’t move the ball much. Could this be why he struggled to pick up wickets? Jordan could turn out to be a useful test player for England, but on the other hand he could be the new Chris Lewis (without the slight lisp, criminal record and penchant for shaving his head at inopportune moments of course).
Ben Stokes 6 – If it’s a choice between Stokes and Woakes, I’d say the future’s brighter with Mr Orange. The selectors obviously disagree though. I can see why they prefer the Warwickshire man – his orthodoxy is a coach’s dream and he’s far less likely to say / do anything controversial – but the truth is that Stokes takes wickets (even with bad balls) whereas Woakes doesn’t. Interestingly, the Stokes / Woakes dilemma actually reflects the schism within English cricket generally: it’s the talented maverick versus the predictable conservative option. Which side are you on? I suppose it depends whether you like a bit of excitement in your life.
Liam Plunkett 7 – I like Plunkett. He’s quick enough, bowls a heavy ball and is as strong as an Ox. What I don’t like, however, is the stupid bowling short from around the wicket plan. It’s macho; it’s brainless; it’s crap. Fortunately, however, I don’t believe it was Plunkett’s choice to bowl like that. It smelt like a pre-conceived Moores balls-up to me. Let Liam loose on the Aussies, with the freedom to bowl where he wants, and he’ll ruffle more canary yellow feathers than Woakes and Jordan.
Stuart Broad 8 – He wasn’t fully fit all summer, so Broady’s efforts were pretty heroic in the circumstances. He didn’t find his rhythm all the time (and was often down on pace) but as usual he was devastating when at his best. He should score more runs though, shouldn’t he. If we could put Alastair Cook’s head on Broad’s body, we’d create one hell of a batsman.
Jimmy Anderson 8 – Probably deserved a 9 as he did more than any other player to turn the series against India around and save his skipper’s job. However, because he ballsed up Lord’s so badly, and his on-field behaviour has become something of a distraction, I’ve decided to mark him down a bit. Having said that, Jimmy is probably the only world class player England have got left. OK, we can argue about who or what constitutes ‘world class’, but Anderson is, in my opinion, the only England player currently in the world’s top three or four at his particular craft.