3The Ashes urnAshes 2013: Team of the series

One of the things that sur­prised me dur­ing the series was how the pun­dits com­pared the respect­ive wick­et keep­ers — with Brad Had­din get­ting a pretty good press, whilst Matt Pri­or got a slightly neg­at­ive over­all rat­ing.  From what I saw I did­n’t think there was much to pick between them, so I thought I’d see how the num­bers stack up.  I figured I might as well do the same for the rest of the sides and see if a team of the series emerges that reflects how well indi­vidu­als have played.

So, lets deal with those 2 men behind the wick­et first

CatchesStumpings/run outsInningsRunsAver­age50s100sHigh ScoreNot outs
Matt Pri­or182813319.0000471
Brad Had­din2801020622.8920711

Over­all Had­din has the frac­tion­ally bet­ter bat­ting aver­age, and undeni­ably took a lot more catches behind the wick­et.  How­ever, you can only catch what comes your way, so a more telling num­ber would be the num­ber of missed oppor­tun­it­ies.  Missed oppor­tun­it­ies are hard to quanti­fy of course.  The bat­ting num­bers aren’t dif­fer­ent enough to jus­ti­fy pick­ing 1 play­er over the oth­er, and had Pri­or played 1 or 2 more innings, and made a 50, the aver­ages would be near enough equal.

Regard­less of the views of the pun­dits, on bal­ance I’d pick Pri­or.  Firstly I have a sense that Had­din made more mis­takes behind the wick­et with a few missed chances.  Secondly, I have a great­er faith that Pri­or would be the man in a pres­sure situ­ation — des­pite a good effort Had­din failed to see Aus­tralia through to vic­tory in the first test.

The bowlers

I’ve only included play­ers who bowled at least 50 overs

Graeme Swann2497552629.043.03
Ryan Har­ris162.14702419.582.90
Stu­art Broad185.56042227.453.25
James Ander­son205.46512229.593.17
Peter Siddle189.55371731.592.83
Mitchell Starc1203571132.452.98
Tim Bresnan912961029.603.25
Nath­an Lyon118.1303933.672.56
James Pattin­son91.1307743.863.37
Shane Wat­son85.3179289.502.09
Ashton Agar842482124.002.95

The num­bers match up fairly well with who I’d pick for my team.  Any­one who watched any of the series would be able to pick Graeme Swann, Ryan Har­ris & James Ander­son without a hes­it­a­tion, leav­ing the only ques­tion who the 4th bowl­er would be.  As the 3rd highest wick­et taker, and being pretty handy with the bat, Stu­art Broad is the easy choice.  He was also more eco­nom­ic­al than either Siddle or Starc.  The final con­firm­a­tion of these 4 is that they are 4 of the 5 who had an aver­age under 30 — Tim Bresnan being the only oth­er bowl­er to achieve this.

Each side has 1 very good bowl­er who is unlucky to miss out — Tim Bresnan for Eng­land and Peter Siddle for Aus­tralia.  Both play­ers are hard work­ing, decent with the bat, and con­trib­ute well in the field.  Bresnan took his wick­ets slightly cheap­er, whilst Siddle was a bit more eco­nom­ic­al per over bowled and both picked up key wick­ets at key times.  The choice between them would prob­ably come down to the flip of a coin if a 5th bowl­er was going to be picked.

The bal­ance of the bowl­ers for vary­ing con­di­tions also works out very well.  Swann is the best spin­ner in the world at the moment and Ander­son is one of the top 2 bowl­ers out­right with won­der­ful con­trol and an abil­ity to find swing in any con­di­tions.  Broad has the abil­ity to both move the ball and bowl genu­inely fast to pres­sure any bats­man who struggles with short pitched deliv­er­ies.  Har­ris is con­sist­ently accur­ate and has a skiddy speed which will unsettle even qual­ity bats­men on good sur­faces.  Neither side has a really top class genu­inely fast bowl­er which is the only chink in the qual­ity of the attack.

The batsmen

I’ve only included genu­ine bats­men, and have excluded a couple of the Aus­sie bats­men who only played in the first or second test (and did­n’t do well)

InningsRunsAver­age50s100sHigh Scorenot out
Ian Bell1056262.44231131
Michael Clarke1038147.63111872
Shane Wat­son1041841.8011176
Chris Rogers936740.7821110
Kev­in Pietersen1038838.8031113
Steve Smith1034538.33211381
Joe Root1033937.67111801
Jonath­an Trott1029329.302059
Jonny Bair­stow720329.001167
Alastair Cook1027727.703062
Dav­id Warner613823.001071
Usman Khawaja611419.001054

Pick­ing a bat­ting line up is far less straight-for­ward then a bowl­ing attack.  Ian Bell is the only bats­man who can be picked without hav­ing to think.  Michael Clarke also has a good aver­age but is helped by 2 not-outs (as a res­ult of declar­a­tions).  That said, Clarke is a world-class bats­man and it would be pretty hard to jus­ti­fy leav­ing him out of the side.

The remain­ing 4 are trick­i­er to select.  Shane Wat­son is use­ful with the ball and made the 3rd highest aver­age, but he has a tend­ency to make runs when they don’t mat­ter, and get out when a score is needed.  I also haven’t yet picked any open­ers, and Wat­son did­n’t play well as an open­er (and isn’t con­sist­ent enough) and the fact he only took 2 wick­ets means he’s not going to make the team.  Chris Rogers sur­prised me and had a much bet­ter series than I expec­ted him to.  He improved as the series went on and he was a very calm and con­sist­ent play­er — ideal as an open­er.  As a res­ult he makes the team.

Pieterson had a slightly below par series, how­ever he had to find form early on hav­ing just returned from an injury he was clearly still car­ry­ing through­out the last test.  His abil­ity to make game chan­ging runs, and to score when runs are most needed (and his sheer enter­tain­ment value) def­in­itely gets him a place.

I still need anoth­er open­er and the remain­ing choice is between the “bar fight 2”.  The num­bers make this easy, and Root’s reas­on­able aver­age is par­tic­u­larly impress­ive giv­en the pres­sure he was under mak­ing his open­ing debut in such a key series.  He is also a much more care­ful play­er than Warner which is bet­ter suited to test crick­et, and he showed he is a quick learner by improv­ing his tech­nique as the series went on.

This leaves just a final bats­man to pick.  The num­bers say Steve Smith but I was­n’t at all con­vinced that he was a test bats­man.  Without his 1 high score and his “not out” innings enhan­cing it, his aver­age would be under 21 which is a more accur­ate reflec­tion of the series he had.  Khawaja had a very poor series and is out of the pic­ture so that leaves the choice of Trott, Bair­stow and Cook.  Des­pite his dis­ap­point­ing series with the bat it’s easy to pick the Ashes win­ning cap­tain as the cap­tain for the whole team, espe­cially if he were a touch down the order to relieve the pres­sure that open­ing and being cap­tain brings.

The num­bers and my line up aren’t quite a match, but I’ve picked 5 of the top 7 by num­bers and added in Alastair Cook, who des­pite his dis­ap­point­ing series would be hard to leave out.  The 2 who miss out — Shane Wat­son and Steve Smith have both man­aged to pro­duce num­bers that very much flat­ter the real­ity of how well they played.  This is doubly so when you con­sider that the 2 play­ers I have picked instead (Cook & Root) both had to face tough­er con­di­tions as open­ing batsmen.

Final line-up

  1. Chris Rogers
  2. Joe Root
  3. Alastair Cook (c)
  4. Kev­in Pieterson
  5. Michael Clarke
  6. Ian Bell
  7. Matt Pri­or (w)
  8. Graeme Swann
  9. Stu­art Broad
  10. Ryan Har­ris
  11. James Ander­son

This is a very strong but some­what unbal­anced side, with only 3 Aus­trali­ans com­pared to 8 Eng­lish­men.  How­ever, Eng­land have just won 3–0 and were good money for that sco­reline.  No-one would have blinked if a sim­il­ar “best of” team from the 90’s was largely Aus­trali­an, so let’s enjoy it now that the tables have turned.

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gravatarJ A Scaife

Cook’s career record isn’t in doubt but his per­form­ance in this series does­n’t mer­it selec­tion in a com­bined elev­en in my view. I’d want Watto in my elev­en for his all round options, bat­ting at 3 or 6.

gravatarMatthew Woodward

I know what you mean, J A Scaife, re Cook’s record. It has been poor by his lofty stand­ards. But Wat­son would be the last man on any team sheet for me. I know it’s hard to eval­u­ate all the gos­sip com­ing out of dress­ing rooms but it would appear he isn’t a ‘team’ play­er. The ‘home­work’ scan­dal and a devo­tion to try­ing to save his own skin by refer­ring almost every decision against him all point to this. And his series was dom­in­ated by one big innings — scored when it did­n’t mat­ter when two debutants were bowl­ing against him. He does bring a use­ful back up seam option to the side — but for me it’s not enough for him to get in.

gravatarJon Scaife

I picked Cook primar­ily as he got a lot right as Cap­tain. I’m not sold on Michael Clarke as a cap­tain — he can­’t keep his play­ers under con­trol , where­as the Eng­land play­ers appar­ently love Cook and did the busi­ness under his stewardship.
If Cap­taincy wer­en’t an issue then I’d prob­ably go with Steve Smith rather than Wat­son. If we exclude Wat­son’s 176 on a sunny flat track against 2 debutants Smith would have scored 100 more runs, and he took more wick­ets as well.
When it came down to it though I just could­n’t pick Smith — he just isn’t test match class for me. I was pick­ing the play­ers I’d want for the next match, not just the top 11 from the stats.
If it came down to Cook or Smith for the next match it would­n’t take a split second to choose Cook, regard­less of his form in the series.