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
|Catches||Stumpings/run outs||Innings||Runs||Average||50s||100s||High Score||Not outs|
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.
I’ve only included players who bowled at least 50 overs
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.
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)
|Innings||Runs||Average||50s||100s||High Score||not out|
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.
- Chris Rogers
- Joe Root
- Alastair Cook (c)
- Kevin Pieterson
- Michael Clarke
- Ian Bell
- Matt Prior (w)
- Graeme Swann
- Stuart Broad
- Ryan Harris
- 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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