Surrey won the championship title yesterday after beating luckless Worcestershire at New Road. As a Worcs fan it makes me sad, as we’re probably headed back to the second division despite playing well at times this year. However, one has to admit that Surrey are worthy champions. What’s more, they’ve done things the right way. Yes they’ve brought in the likes of Elgar and Morkel, but they’ve also got several young homegrown cricketers. And that’s what overseas players should be: class acts there to pass on their expertise to the next generation. Personally I think Surrey have got things spot on. Well done them.
With the champions crowned and the weather slowly turning nippier, the season is finally coming to a close. That means it’s time to dust off the TFT briefcase, unpack our star chart and cane, and give England’s test players their end-of-term grades. The series against India was a humdinger in the end, but also somewhat bizarre because England managed to win comfortably 4-1 despite the teams looking pretty even at times. In fact, had it not been for one of Surrey’s emerging young players (a certain Samuel Curran esquire) playing a vital innings at Southampton, the series result might have been very different.
Anyway, without further ado, let’s get stuck in and award some grades. Who has emerged as this summer’s star pupil, and who is facing capital punishment and possible expulsion?
Alastair Cook – Yes everyone loves Alastair. But unfortunately he didn’t show up until the series was done and dusted. And when he did finally register a century it was when the pitch was flat and slow (which allowed three other batsmen to register hundreds), and his nemesis Ishant Sharma (not to mention Ravi Ashwin) was watching from the stands. It was like Melbourne all over again when Starc was missing. Although the team will miss Alastair he’s generally been poor for the last two years and it’s time to move on. Thanks for the good times, Chef. But you’re only avoiding detention this year because you’re the teacher’s pet. Grade D.
Keaton Jennings – This report card can be summarised in three words written in block capitals in red ink: MUST DO BETTER. But can he do better? It’s really hard to see what Ed Smith sees in Jennings. He’s statuesque at the crease, doesn’t move his feet, can’t judge what to leave, and looks weak outside off-stump. One could say he doesn’t have a lot going for him. However, because Keaton is obviously a swot, and can recite American philosopher Henry David Thoreau to Ed Smith at will, he’s somehow passed the year and ‘earned’ himself a spot on the school tour to Sri Lanka. One can only assume his parents are lining the bursar’s pockets with generous donations. Grade F.
Moeen Ali – How lovely it is was to see Mo enjoying his cricket again. He batted with guts (and a smidgeon of fortune if we’re being honest) and his bowling bloomed at the Rose Bowl. He’s a marvellous pupil, keeps his head down, and never gets into trouble on Saturday nights when the disruptive lads are out getting pissed on cheap cider. The problem with Mo is homesicknesses. He’s full of confidence in school grounds but goes to pieces whenever he has to step on a minibus. Consequently it’s hard to know what the future holds for him. He can fill in at No3 this winter but the big uglies from the ‘needs improvement’ school up the road will be targeting him next summer. And they’ll probably cheat. Grade B+
Joe Root – The head boy didn’t enjoy a particularly good summer. His grades were down, he failed to finish a few classes after starting them brightly, and he didn’t always set the best example. He did, however, finally manage an A-star at The Oval, but by that point his house had already won the intramural competition. The head boy’s apologists (which include me) argue that he’s better off sitting in the 4th row in assemblies. However, I suspect this analogy is my weakest yet so I’ll end this particular report card abruptly and move on. Grade C-.
Dawid Malan – Poor Dawid was expelled after the headmaster caught him getting rogered by some fast bowlers behind the bike sheds. His feet were obviously stuck in clay so he couldn’t run away. Grade E.
Jonny Bairstow – Started the term promisingly but soon fell away badly. He broke his pinkie, lost his favourite pair of mittens, and ended up crying when the teacher made him sit a desk nearer the front of the class. It was all a bit of a shame. Some believe he’s the third brightest kid in the school. However, when asked to specialise in one particular subject his IQ sinks like a conker in semolina. Grade D
Ollie Pope – It’s not the headmaster’s fault that young Ollie struggled this term. He only awarded him a place at the school. The headman had no idea that his useless underlings were going to give Pope a nosebleed by placing him in set 4. Ahem. Grade D
Ben Stokes – ‘Acquitted’ himself reasonably well after an independent education tribunal cleared him of bullying. However, he’ll never be a teacher’s favourite because he always turns up to class smelling of cigarettes. He’ll be on detention if he’s caught lighting up on school premises. Having said that, the school rebel did occasionally manage to apply himself in class. He’s scholarship material if he ever fulfils his potential. Grade C+
Jos Buttler – Has made rapid progress since being controversially transferred from a neighbouring academy. Indeed, one could argue that young Jos was the star pupil this term. Although he occasionally required a leg-up from the opposition, who dropped him early in his innings each time he made a half-century, he really applied himself thereafter. He certainly exceeded this teacher’s expectations. I just wish he would stop hiding at the back. He should give Jonny his mittens back (for good) and swap places with him in the order. Grade A-
Chris Woakes – Every time young Chris seems to make progress he misses a few classes with flu. It’s a real shame as he had oodles of ability. It was good to see him win the batting prize at Lord’s but he struggled at Trent Bridge and was soon out of the side. On the plus side he’s a model pupil, never has a hair out of place, and his shoes are the shiniest in class. Grade B+
Sam Curran – Performed admirably after being promoted from kindergarten somewhat prematurely on a maths scholarship. It turned out, however, that he was better at English. Indeed, his maths might struggle if he can’t swing a calculator into his exams over the winter. Having said that this pupil seems to have something about him. He’s a lot more talented that his big brother. Grade A-
Adil Rashid – Apparently a child of many talents. Thus far, however, truancy seems to be his greatest ability. I only recall seeing him in class a couple of times. Although many disapproved of Adil being granted a place at our first class school after walking out of his last one, he at least made a few contributions in class. One suspects this winter will be crucial in his development. Grade C
Stuart Broad – A decent term but nothing particularly special from Stewpot. Taking his wickets at 30 in a series when ball dominated bat was somewhat underwhelming. However, as usual he was able to turn it on when the teachers gave him a rocket. Mr Vaughan in particular has the ability to press Stuart’s buttons. Grade C.
Jimmy Anderson – Once again our eldest pupil lead by example. His 24 wickets at 18 were a joy to behold. In fact, he probably taught the teachers a thing or two at times. Thank heavens young (or should that be old?) James is so reluctant to graduate. However, he won’t be making the golf team anytime soon. Let’s finish off by watching that infamous video one more time … Grade A