Jul 29, 2020
George DobellSenior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
For the second series in a row, England roared back from 1-0 down to win – this time amid the unusual setting of three bio-secure, behind-closed-doors Tests. Reclaiming the Wisden Trophy required another squad effort, although one or two names stood out in particular. Here are the marks out of ten:
Stuart Broad (73 runs at 73.00; 16 wickets at 10.93)
It speaks volumes for Broad that a campaign which started with him being omitted from the team for the first Test, ended with him named Player of the Series. After producing a match-turning spell in the second Test, he came up with a match-winning one in the third, achieving his best bowling performance since January 2016 and a first ten-wicket match since 2013. He also thrashed 62 – his highest score for seven years and the fifth quickest half-century in England’s Test history – in the process and became just the seventh man to reach the 500-wicket milestone.
Ben Stokes (363 runs at 90.75; 9 wickets at 16.33)
Although England lost his maiden Test as captain, Stokes took some brave decisions over selection and the toss in Southampton which might have been vindicated if his side had batted better. Spurred on by his own failure to convert two starts in that match, Stokes was outstanding in the second Test. After producing a disciplined century in the first innings – his longest innings in first-class cricket – he thumped the fastest half-century by an England opener in Test history in the second to set-up the declaration. He also claimed some key wickets in filling in for Jofra Archer as England’s middle-order enforcer. Played the third match as a specialist batsman.
Chris Woakes (1 run at 0.50; 11 wickets at 16.63)
Sharp, skilful and consistent, Woakes would have taken the new ball for years in another playing age. But, destined to spend much of his career in the shadow of Broad and Anderson, he has to be content with a supporting role and occasional days in the spotlight. In this series, he generated bounce and lateral movement and claimed a five-for in the final innings of the series. His grim form with the bat continues, though: only once in his last nine Test innings has he made more than 6.
Dom Sibley (226 runs at 45.20)
In reaching 50 three times in five innings, Sibley demonstrated the solidity and consistency for which England have been looking for some time. Yes, there were two ducks as well, but occasional failures are probably inevitable for an opening batsmen. His century in Manchester went a long way towards laying the platform for his side’s victory. Since he came into the side in November, England have registered 400 four times (and 391 for 8 declared on another); before that, they had only managed it once since the start of 2018. His partnership with Burns looks as though it’s here to stay.
Rory Burns (234 runs at 46.80)
By reaching 30 in four of his five innings this series, Burns played his part in seeing off the new ball and the bowlers at their freshest. While he may be frustrated at not going on to make a significant score, he showed a welcome ability to accelerate when required in Manchester. He scored two half-centuries in the match and was part of England’s first century opening stand at home in four years.
James Anderson (5 wickets at 30.00)
Looked England’s best bowler in the first innings in Southampton and, after being rested for the second Test, bowled nicely without reward in the third. Is it relevant that he didn’t take a second wicket in either Test? We’ll see. The skills and control remain as good as ever but it could be he takes just a little longer to recover between spells these days.
Dom Bess (83 runs at 83.00; 5 wickets at 41.60)
England are asking a lot of Bess to front their spin attack at such a young age (he celebrated his 23rd birthday during the series). Bowled nicely enough without enjoying much fortune. The batting average is boosted by three not-outs, but he showed both ability and selflessness in batting with the tail and accelerating to set-up declarations. And, as his final day run-out showed, he is excellent in the field.
Jos Buttler (151 runs at 30.20; 12 catches)
Buttler went some way towards repaying the faith of the England selectors with an innings of 67 – his first half-century in 15 innings – in the final Test. He had looked relatively comfortable with the bat in previous games, but twice fell in the second Test as he tried to increase the rate of scoring. Dropped one chance in Southampton, but generally kept tidily.
Ollie Pope (134 runs at 33.50)
A match-defining innings of 91 in the final Test was the highlight of a slightly disappointing campaign. Before that, his highest innings in the series was 12. But expectations probably have to be tempered by the memory Pope is just 22. He impressed in the field and took an excellent catch at short leg to clinch the second Test.
Joe Root (130 runs at 43.33)
A series in which he was dismissed three times between the score of 17 and 23 – twice run-outs – can only be described as frustrating. But while Root missed out on a major score with the bat, he will have been pleased by the way his team responded to going 1-0 down after he missed the first Test on paternity leave. He looked in decent touch in hitting an unbeaten 68 while setting up the declaration in the third Test, too.
Sam Curran (17 runs at 17.00; 3 wickets at 33.33)
If Curran had to be content with a supporting role in his only Test of the series, his angle and variations contributed three wickets and sustained his remarkable record: England have won all eight home Tests in which he has appeared.
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Jofra Archer (4 wickets at 50.50)
Bowled a little better than the figures suggest. Archer produced a couple of really impressive spells at Southampton and fulfilled the role of enforcer in the final Test. He may remember the series most, however, for his unauthorised trip home between the first and second matches and the disciplinary action than ensued; he’s lost a mark here for making himself unavailable for the second Test. It need not be anything more than a footnote to his career.
Zak Crawley (97 runs at 24.25)
An innings of 76 in Southampton helped Crawley win the battle for selection ahead of Denly. He was unable to take advantage, however, with two cheap dismissal in the second Test – he fell attempting to set-up the declaration in the second innings – and he was left out to make space for another bowler in the final Test. Still best placed to bat at No. 3 in the Pakistan series.
Mark Wood (2 wickets at 55.00)
Preferred to Broad and Woakes in Southampton, Wood bowled with impressive pace on a slow wicket passing 90mph as often in his 20th over as he did in his first. The pitch probably didn’t suit him and the wickets didn’t come, but Wood will have days when he is the key man for England.
Joe Denly (47 runs at 23.50)
There was never any doubting Denly’s determination but, after a weakness against the ball nipping back through the gate was exposed once more in the first Test, he was the one to pay the price for England’s defeat. By then he had played 15 Tests without a century, and his average had dropped below 30. Despite adding some grit to England’s top order, he had been unable to register the significant personal score which would have cemented his place.
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