There’s not much more to say about how England performed in this series. No batsman scored a hundred and only Matt Prior averaged over 30 in the series. England were not just poor with the bat, but historically awful. The only series of three or more matches in which England have averaged lower than the 19.06 they did in the UAE was the 1888 Ashes. From that perspective, it’s amazing to think that we definitely ought to have wont he second Test and maybe even the third. It’s hard to know which is more surprising: that the bowlers kept us in the match after the batsmen had failed so badly or that the batsmen threw away such good positions. I’ve compiled marks out of ten for each of the players:
Misbah-ul-Haq* – 7/10
It was only a mediocre series with the bat from the Pakistan captain, but such was the nature of the series that his average of 36 was still fifth highest. More importantly for Pakistan is that he led the side well. It didn’t seem to take a lot to beat England’s batsmen, but he did not give them very many openings with his bowling changes and field placings.
Mohammad Hafeez – 6/10
Only one score of note with the bat, 88 in the first match, but he made it into double figures each of his other innings as well. His main contribution was with the ball, spinning it early in the innings. He took five wickets at 16 apiece, including the wicket of Cook on the first morning that started the rot for England.
Taufeeq Umar – 3/10
Passed fifty in the first Test, but was dismissed cheaply by Swann and Anderson in the next two. Victim of some good bowling, but did not look assured and did not defend well.
Azhar Ali – 9/10
Overcame an indifferent start to the series to finish top of the averages thanks to a match winning 157 in the final Test. He also scored a crucial (and possibly also match winning) 68 in the second Test and showed considerable maturity throughout.
Younis Khan – 6/10
A high score of 127 in a series where only one other batsman made it to three figures would seem to require more than six points out of ten, but he only scored 66 runs in the other four innings in the series. His high score before that knock had been 37 in the opening Test, and that had been ignominiously ended when he was lbw to Jonathan Trott.
Asad Shafiq – 5/10
A very creditable series for a batsman from whom little was expected. He passed 40 in three of the five innings in which he batted, but had difficulty going on and his top score was only 58.
Adnan Akmal† – 4/10
In rating the latest Akmal’s performance it is important to compare him with other wicket-keepers, not just his infamous brother. He did a reasonable job with the gloves, but appealed every time the ball hit the pads. (Though I will concede that a lot of them were out.) Had a hilarious drop early in England’s third Test run chase, but it cost them little. Poor series with the bat, but better than most were expecting.
Abdur Rehman – 9/10
A fantastic series for the left arm spinner, he finished only behind Ajmal in the series wicket tally and was the main destroyer in England’s second and third Test collapses.
Umar Gul – 8/10
Very quietly had a brilliant series. All of the headlines were about England woes against spin and with the effectiveness of Ajmal and Rehman he only needed to bowl 74 overs in the series. In those 74 overs he took 11 wickets at 22.27 and with a strike rate second only to Ajmal.
Saeed Ajmal – 10/10
Came off a brilliant 2011 and could not have made a better start to 2012. England could not read his variations and never got over the mess he made of them in the first innings of the series. Bell in particular looked all at sea facing him. Deserved man of the series.
Aizaz Cheema- 1/10
Only played in the first and third Tests, but was hardly needed. Bowled only 27 overs and took one wicket for 70 runs. Scored 0* in each of his three innings with the bat.
Junaid Khan – 0/10
Sadly, never really showed up. His biggest contribution to the second Test was a terrible drop in the deep with Prior batting in the first innings. Took 0-33 off eight overs in the first innings, did not bowl in the second.
Andrew Strauss* – 6/10
Led from the front with a good 56 in the last Test, but that was the high point as he struggled to get onto the front foot the entire series. He used his bowlers to good effect and did a good job keeping spirits up when England were in the field.
Alastair Cook – 5/10
Could not replicate his form from the summer, though he came closest of any English batsman to score a century this series. His soft dismissal in the first innings of the first Test set the tone for the series and he fell cheaply to start the disastrous run chase in the second Test too.
Jonathan Trott – 5/10
Second in England’s batting averages, but needless to say he still had a poor series. Made a good 74 in the second Test, but had an untimely illness in the second and could not meaningfully contribute to the run chase.
Kevin Pietersen – 1/10
Not merely a poor series from KP, but an abysmal one. He threw his wicket away more often than not, his efforts in the second innings of the first Test deserving special criticism. He finally started to find some form in the third Test, but still could not master the trick of hitting the ball with the bat when defending.
Ian Bell – 1/10
Poor Ian. Only once did he look like he could pick the variations from Ajmal and when he did he was trapped by Gul instead. His dismissal in the third Test run chase was one of the worst one will ever see, the very picture of a batsman out of form. From a man who came into the series on the back of an imperious 200 against India, it was rather a shock.
Eoin Morgan – 1/10
Eoin Morgan was supposed to be the man who would play spin. Supposedly his unorthodox style and ability to score quickly and to all parts of the field were going to be invaluable against spin. Instead he consistently threw his wicket away to the spinners. Just for a change in the last Test he threw his wicket away to Gul instead, but the entire series clearly showed up a dearth of application.
Matt Prior† – 7/10
England’s best batsman, plus another good series with the gloves (though he did not have a huge amount to do behind the stumps). He started the series with an unbeaten 70 as England collapsed and finished it with an unbeaten 49. His form dipped in between, but he was one of only two batsmen to get into double figures in the second Test run chase.
Stuart Broad – 9/10
Put in an absolutely amazing effort in the series. He was the pick of the English bowlers with 13 wickets at just over 20 and put England into excellent positions in the second and third Tests. He was more than handy with the bat as well, averaging more than KP, Bell and Morgan and scoring more in one innings (58* in the first innings of the second Test) than Bell did in the series.
Graeme Swann – 8/10
Rather unexpectedly found himself as the second spinner when Monty returned to the side, but still performed admirably. He finished with 13 and an almost identical strike rate to Broad, but conceded about sixty more runs. As usual, he was most effective against left-handers
Jimmy Anderson – 8/10
Took a bit of a back seat to Broad, but certainly did not embarrass himself. He was very unlucky to end up with only nine wickets, but bowled a very tight, probing line throughout.
Monty Panesar – 9/10
England sprung a surprise by playing two spinners in Abu Dhabi, and Monty took the opportunity superbly. He took 6-62 in the second innings to set up what should have been a very straightforward run chase. He was the only English bowler to take five wickets in a match in the series and he did so twice, picking up 14 in all.
Chris Tremlett – 0/10
Only played in the first Test and only had a chance to bowl in the first innings. He took 0-53, never looked particularly threatening and was dropped in favour of Monty.
Despite the poor performance of England in the series, I would not make wholesale changes for Sri Lanka. It is worth remembering that we did come up against some very good bowlers in conditions which suited them. KP and Bell averaged over 70 and over 100 last year, respectively, so to suggest that they be dropped over one poor series is very, very harsh. Similarly, Andrew Strauss has not been in the best of form with the bat, but he is easily the best leader of the side. Cook showed in the ODIs in India that he is not ready for the captaincy yet, and I would certainly not want to entrust Broad with it as I would want some England to still have reviews left after the first over. In any case, Strauss was the best of the full time batsmen in the third Test.
A change I would make is that I would drop Morgan.He has shown in this series that he is not a Test batsman. That is not to say that he will never be one, but he was brought into the side on the back of limited overs performances and I think a season playing first class cricket will do his temperament no end of good. In his place I would play Tim Bresnan, assuming he is fit (which seems likely). Whilst it seems odd to suggest playing one fewer batsman after the struggles in the UAE, Bres has a Test batting average of 45. Not only is this very reasonable on its own, it is actually 15 runs higher than Morgan averages. It’s good enough that I would pick him as a batsman over Mogan and Bopara even if he did not bowl a single ball.
That is the only change I would make, however, the other batsmen have good enough records that they certainly deserve another chance against the weaker Sri Lankan bowling and Monty has easily done enough to stay in the starting XI. It’s been a poor series, but these players will be strongly motivated to put that behind them and play well in Sri Lanka.