We gave Matt Prior an A-, but what did Kevin Pietersen get?
So the dust has settled on our biggest test series defeat at home for years. Yes it was disappointing, but on reflection it wasn’t totally unexpected. Our form had been on a downward curve for a while, whilst South Africa’s stock has been rising faster than Usain Bolt’s.
Most inquests have already been done, so there’s no point doing another here. The general consensus is that we lost because South Africa were better than us; this might not be a particularly insightful conclusion, but it’s probably the right one.
However, before we move on to the ODI series with relish (when was the last time we said that eh?) let’s just reflect on the individual performances of our players – a kind of school report card if you like. Which players are endearing themselves to the teachers, which ones are in detention, and which ones are in danger of suspension (or dare we say it, expulsion)?
Andrew Strauss: Grade D. It’s never nice to give an Ashes winner a fail grade, but this term wasn’t his finest. His best subject, batting, went to pieces in the exam. Meanwhile, his decisions as headboy left much to be desired. Making Swann wait outside the gym during the second PE lesson was highly contentious. Some pupils also seemed to question his authority, although Strauss will be relieved that the main culprit has been suspended for slagging off the teachers. If he hadn’t handled himself with dignity during the affair, Strauss might have got an F.
Alastair Cook: C. If it wasn’t for his strong showing at the start of term, the teachers’ pet would probably have failed. His reputation is just about intact after the series, although his extra-curricular dance lessons don’t seem to be working; his foot movement during the first innings at Lord’s would have made David Brent blush. More will be expected of Cook this winter – and let’s hope he delivers. The school debating team needs him.
Jonathan Trott: B-. Made a few useful contributions in class, but didn’t quite deliver on paper. However, he remains one of the sixth form’s most dependable prefects; the school would be rudderless without him. Shows great aptitude for gardening, but this has had an adverse affect on his uniform – Steyns are all over him.
Kevin Pietersen: N. Kevin has showed enigmatic brilliance in PE, but has started to get cocky. He’s been picking fights, answering the teachers back, disputing basic facts (like the world is flat) and mouthing off to teachers. Meanwhile, his performance in class is mixed. He’s absolutely brilliant at drama, but his core subjects need work – just when he looks set for top marks he switches off and lets himself down. However all this has been overshadowed by disputes with his classmates. Although he claims he’s being bullied (by smaller children!), his decision to slag off the school in the local rag was inexcusable. Was recently suspended indefinitely for giving the headboy (and headmaster) the finger.
Ian Bell: C. Just when you think he’s starting to grow up, young Ian (now amazingly 30 years old) reverts to juvenile habits – such as wafting at wide balls outside off-stump. It’s such as shame. Aesthetically he’s the best in the school, but the opposition always seems to pick on him. Perhaps they should see his girlfriend. That’ll shut ‘em up.
Jonny Bairstow: A. Only joined the school during the summer term but made an immediate impression. Was promoted to the first XI from the colts ahead of schedule, but wasn’t daunted by the bigger boys (despite the handicap of being ginger, which regularly leads to bullying). Definitely headboy material in the making.
James Taylor: Reports aren’t available for pre-school pupils yet.
Matt Prior: A-. Would have got 100% in his exams had he not dropped a crucial catch just before the summer recess. Has otherwise looked impressive behind his desk and made valuable contributions throughout the academic year. Should do even better next term, so long as he sits nearer to the front and stops running out of partners in practical tests. Has also showed mentoring abilities by taking young Bairstow under his wing. Prefect material.
Stuart Broad: D. Despite being made captain of the five-a-side football team, Stuart has regressed badly this term. Although he produced half an hour’s inspired work on a field trip to Leeds, his mind appears slower than normal. He also shows a dislike of authority – failing to accept the judgements of external examiners; he’s constantly pressuring the school to make futile appeals as a result. He also needs to brush up his appearance. Facial hair is against school policy.
Graeme Swann: D- The behaviour of the school’s practical joker has not been a laughing matter of late. He turned up at the beginning of term with a letter from his parents excusing him from PE because of an elbow injury. However, his absence from the school trip to Leeds was more a result of the headboy giving him the elbow. One hopes he can rediscover his academic prowess but doubts persist. Is he only good at subjects that use the left side of his brain?
James Anderson: C+ Jimmy always gets good marks for effort, but this term his efforts didn’t quite earn him the grades he wanted. Despite passing the outside edge of isosceles triangles on several occasions, his geometry just didn’t add up. When he’s struggled at school in the past, it’s usually because of niggling illnesses. However, this term he couldn’t catch at cold. Unfortunately, the rest of the class picked up the same habit.
Steven Finn: B+ It’s not easy being the tallest boy in the class – especially when one is a little clumsy and you can’t run in a straight line without banging your knee into things. However, after an uncertain appearance mid-way through the term – when those nasty boys from the neighbouring school complained that young Steven was distracting them – Master Finn came good in the end. Heaven knows why it took him so long to pass his eleven plus; he should be a fixture in the school for years to come.