With the England v South Africa Test series now over, here I look back on the standout performers from the four match series.
Moeen Ali (8.5)
Player of the Series Moeen Ali had a series to remember, especially with the ball. Twenty five wickets (including a match winning hat-trick) at an average of just 15.64 is a magnificent return and it sees him move up to 18th in the world rankings. As always, he also chipped in with the bat, the highlight coming in his final knock of the series with a flamboyant and aggressive 88 to set up the win for England. A fine player.
Joe Root (8)
Root has taken to captaincy like a duck to water so far. Reassuringly, this doesn’t seem to have had any negative impacts on his batting as he continues to churn out the runs. Excellent series with the bat yet again and his captaincy developed as the series went on. A very promising start.
Jimmy Anderson (8)
Does this man age? Now 35, Jimmy continues to take wickets and is rapidly closing in on 500 test wickets which would be a phenominal achievement. As it stands he is 76 wickets behind Glenn McGrath. If he manages to pass him, he will become the leading test wicket taking seam bowler of all time. There may now be the James Anderson End at Old Trafford, but the end of James Anderson doesn’t seem to be approaching any time soon.
Jonny Bairstow (7.5)
Yorkshireman Bairstow has found himself batting in several positions in the order in the series, but once again showed just why he is one of the top wicket-keeper/batsmen in the game. Fully deserved a century in the Old Trafford, but was cruelly denied on 99. His wicket-keeping continues to develop. A key player for England.
Ben Stokes (7)
Stokes continues to go from strength to strength with the bat. Scoring just shy of 300 runs in the series at an average in the high 30s, demonstrates his developing class. His spell with the ball at The Oval brought back memories of Freddie Flintoff with the ball with late swing and an attacking line to the left handers from around the wicket. A little confrontational at times, but slowly becoming a pivotal player in the England lineup.
Other honourable mentions go to Toby Roland-Jones for his devastating 5for on debut at The Oval. Tom Westley has displayed signs of hope for the future, whilst the old faithfuls Broad and Cook continue to have an impact.
There are a few however who will be sweating over their places ahead of the forthcoming series against the West Indies. Keaton Jennings never settled during the series and it is potentially time to look elsewhere. Alex Hales is currently in the form of his life and he would be my choice for the opening slot against the men from the Caribbean.
Liam Dawson and Dawid Malan will be hoping for further opportunities to stake their claim for an Ashes spot. Mark Wood’s injury troubles continue to be cause for concern and he did only take one wicket in the 56 overs he bowled.
Vernon Philander (8)
One of South Africa’s shining lights from what was ultimately a disappointing series was Vernon Philander. On his day he is lethal with the ball and despite not having the cutting edge pace of Morkel or Rabada, his control over line, length and swing is ever impressive. He also finished top of the batting averages with an average of 44 from his 6 innings, which included two eye catching fifties. The South Africans will hope he can remain fit.
Morne Morkel (7.5)
Every time I turned on the television during the series, Morne seemed to be bowling, each time without much luck. His 19 wickets could have easily been 29 and I lost count of the number of times he beat the bat (especially of Cook!). It was as well as I have seen him bowl for a long time and shows that there is still plenty of years left in him yet. Tried his heart out and for that reason alone, he makes the list.
Keshav Maharaj (7.5)
Maharaj, perhaps unknown to many here in England prior to the series, has really made a name for himself in the last month or two. His control allowed du Plessis to rotate his pacemen at the other end and he chipped in with 17 valuable wickets. He bowled very well at Trent Bridge, traditionally not a ground that suits the spinners, and cemented his place in the team. Shane Warne commented that Maharaj was the “best spinner South Africa have produced in a long time”. I certainly wouldn’t argue with that.
Dean Elgar (7)
A real battler at the top of the order, Elgar no doubt learnt from his experiences in county cricket with Somerset prior to the series. He showed that he has the stomach for the fight, taking blow after blow in a fantastic hundred in the third test. He would have been hoping for a bit more of those fighting qualities from his colleagues. With two fifties and that one hundred to his name, he had a decent series with the bat.
Temba Bavuma (7)
Bavuma often came in to repair the innings following early wickets. He battled well, displaying an impressive calmness during his innings. He has a good technique and I am sure there is more to come from him. One negative would be that from his consistant starts, he failed to go on to get the really big scores that his team often needed, but I think that he can look himself in the mirror with pride. A livewire in the field, which has long been a South African hallmark.
South Africa’s batting lineup struggled all series. Heino Kuhn seemed completely at sea against the moving ball in English conditions. Amla looked solid at Trent Bridge with two fifties, but didn’t press on and get the huge scores of which we know he is capable. Quintin de Kock also struggled, often having to repair the innings after fragile starts. I don’t think it helped that he was moved up and down the order like a yo-yo.
In the bowling department, Kagiso Rabada offered flashes of brilliance. His yorkers are incredibly dangerous and demonstrate that there is room for that delivery in the longer format of the game. Duanne Olivier enjoyed a good end to the series, dismissing Root, Bairstow and Stokes at Old Trafford, whilst struggling prior. Chris Morris had a disappointing series.
An entertaining series to watch, with plenty of talking points.
I was slightly surprised by the nature of the series and that England appeared to be dominant for the majority. I had expected more from South Africa, especially with the bat, but overall I feel that England definitely deserved the win.
It will be interesting to see how they go against the West Indies next, before a tough winter with the Ashes and a trip to New Zealand.
South Africa, perhaps much changed, face Bangladesh at home next with that series starting at the end of September. They will be hoping to get back on track.
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