A gradual but inevitable descent into cricket-based loathing and bile.

England Ladder: Test Matches

Posted on July 13, 2011 by in Opinion, Tests

Fine seasons by several young players means the ladder now has an extra five rungs.

1. Alastair Cook (+2) The vice-captain is now a more definite pick than the captain. Cook’s form (see his 10-innings average  https://www.51allout.co.uk/2011-07-12-the-england-form-guide-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-numbers/) is so good that it’d be difficult to argue against him being in a World XI. His performances in the ODI series against Sri Lanka, as both opener and as captain, give us further cause to have him overtake Strauss. Note: this does not mean we think Strauss is going to lose the captaincy any time soon; rather, it is an indicator of their respective form.


Alastair Cook celebrates reaching the top of the ladder

2. Andrew Strauss (-1) A woeful run of scores against Sri Lanka (27 runs at 6.75) has resulted in the media filling their pages and podcasts with discussions about his difficulty/weakness/problem/crisis/disaster in facing left-arm swing. While it’s probably true that he prefers to face right-handers we’re not convinced that his worrying form is terminal. Strauss has turned his career around before, in New Zealand in 2008, and he is smart enough to know his game and what he needs to do to improve it. Nonetheless, as he approaches 35 he’s at an age where blips can become career end problems. But if he needs inspiration to turn his decline around, he only needs to look at the opposition at Lord’s, where a certain 38-year old is the best batsman in the world and aiming for his 100th international century.

3. Graeme Swann (-1) It is perhaps odd that Swann drops down a place following a decent Test series and a rise to the top of the world ODI rankings, but such is Cook’s form at the moment. His bowling against Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman et al is sure to be one of the great contests of the summer, if not the decade.

4. James Anderson (unchanged) Speaking of great contests, Anderson’s role with the new ball against India will be vital, particularly if and when Virender Sehwag appears. With no disrespect to Pakistan or Bangladesh and lots of disrespect to Australia, his magnificent run of form has not been against the most competitive or stable of batting line-ups. If he can perform along similar lines to his average since January 2010 of 23.08 (especially if it brings a series victory) then it might be time to start placing Anderson on a list of the all-time best England quicks.

5. Jonathan Trott (unchanged) As we launched the summer series with the first England ladder, we stated that “his average of 61.53 after 18 matches puts him second only to the Don. By the end of the summer he will have played more matches than Pollock and Headley, who are third and fourth on the list of averages. It is not difficult to envisage his average remaining that high come September.” Well it is now 62.23. Admittedly Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and a rejuvenated Ishant Sharma are a more formidable attack than Suranga Lakmal and Rangana Herath, but we’re expecting the average to stay the Bradman-side of 60.00.

6. Prior (unchanged) Another century for Prior in a series where he will be more remembered for his window-breaking exploits at Lord’s. The number of byes conceded will irk him, but in fairness these should really be attributed to the wayward Steven Finn and Stuart Broad rather than the Sprawling Beard.

7. Ian Bell (unchanged) Although he remains on the same rung on the ladder, he continues to be a player on the rise (unless batting at 6 in an ODI that is). His average of 331 against Sri Lanka is in the top ten series averages of all-time. Rarely has a player hit these kinds of heights yet still only been the seventh name on the team sheet.

8. Chris Tremlett (+3) The unquestionable man of the series against Sri Lanka takes a big step up our ladder; 15 wickets at 23 is a fine return irrespective of the opponents. If others had matched his hostility and accuracy, England may not have been beaten by the weather. It’s fair to say that of England’s trio of tall pacemen, the beefcake Tremlett is the preferred option ahead of the beanpoles Finn and Broad.

9. Kevin Pietersen (unchanged) Going nowhere fast but while England maintain a six batsmen strategy, his place is not in jeopardy. His batting has looked good, but the promised runs have not been delivered in sufficient quantity to silence his many critics. Perhaps the challenge of the Indians and their position as the top ranked team in the world will summon the gladiatorial spirit in him. If they don’t, then some serious questions will have to be asked.

10. Eoin Morgan (+2) The jury may be out, but the foreman might be getting ready to take the vote. A handy return against Sri Lanka was sufficient to see him maintain his place for the rest of the summer, and probably into the winter and beyond, even if he has to date just a single century. Interesting that his series was comparable to Pietersen’s, but the different levels of expectation produce different conclusions.

11. Stuart Broad (-3) Broad has rightly attracted some criticism this summer; generally his bowling has been substandard. Previously we stated that if he was fit he was in the team, but the rise of Tremlett and the queue of handy bowlers behind him means that this is no longer the case. This writer (and several others) believes a spell in county cricket could rejuvenate him, but thinks the selectors will stick with him for now.

12. Tim Bresnan (-2) The slight fall is no indictment on Bresnan’s summer, which has been shortened by injury and one day cricket. The selectors’ policy of height and bounce might see Bresnan outside the team, but he is going to be either in or on the edge of the squad for the foreseeable future.

13. Steven Finn (+1) It has no doubt been recorded in Hansard that taking wickets whilst bowling badly is A Good Thing. If that was the sole consideration, Finn would be above both Broad and Bresnan in this ladder, but he’s far from a finished bowler (although he no longer literally falls over, his action still seems to collapse a bit) and in our opinion will linger in the wings for a while longer.

14. Ravi Bopara (-1) Only a small fall for Bopara, but he really is fading fast. His first-class average this season of 33.00 (in the second tier of the County Championship) is hardly enough to warrant inclusion over Morgan or Pietersen, despite the general feeling prior to the Sri Lanka series that the number six role was his.

15. Jade Dernbach (+6) Although he is hopefully a long way from being selected for the Test team, we sense the England selectors will have been encouraged by this performances in the one day side.


Jade Dernbach is a big climber

16. Craig Kieswetter (NE) It is notoriously hard to predict who might be selected to keep wicket for England in any form of the game; although Prior has become an automatic pick, the reserve spot is again wide open. Similar to Dernbach, he is probably a distance away from the team, but his decent performance in the ODIs might just force the selectors to opt for him should Prior get injured.

17. Samit Patel (NE) As The Streets once asked, has it come to this? His batting in First-Class cricket this season has been impressive (785 runs at 46) but his bowling less so (18 wickets at 44). In the long debate over his fitness and physique, discussion over his ability seems to have been sidelined. Nonetheless he is clearly in the selectors’ thoughts and although we reckon Panesar remains England’s second-choice first spinner (i.e. should Swann be injured), Patel is England’s first-choice second spinner.

18. Steven Davies (-2) Has been overtaken by Kieswetter.

19. Monty Panesar (-2) Behind only Gary Keedy in terms of County Championship wickets taken by spinners this season. As noted above, we’re hopeful that he would be selected instead of Patel should Swann not be available. However Patel’s all-round game would warrant inclusion as a second spinner rather than Panesar.

20. Ajmal Shahzad (-5) Unfortunately Shahzad has not really found great form this season and whilst other quicks are bowling well, he will continue sliding down the ladder. We just hope his international career isn’t written off already.

21. James Taylor (-3) Unlike Shahzad, Taylor’s drop by three places cannot be accounted by his form. He will play for England. It won’t be long. See here https://www.51allout.co.uk/2011-07-04-the-future-is-bright/for a more detailed summary of why.

22. Graeme Onions (-3) A reasonable season after coming back from injury. His relative experience sees him remain above younger fast bowlers on the ladder. A place in the winter touring party may be more likely as Onions eases back into cricket.

23. Jimmy Adams (unchanged) Although not having the best season (only 484 runs) in a struggling Hampshire team, we suspect he is the most likely reserve opener in an era where there are many promising middle-order batsmen but few with experience of opening.

24. James Hildreth (-2) Will still be hopeful of a place on the senior tour in the winter, despite a disappointing season to date.

25. Jonny Bairstow (-5) A fine season with the bat, but we think the aforementioned wicketkeepers are more likely selections.

26. Chris Woakes (-2) His season was disrupted by injury and is likely to remain a Lions player for now.

27. Ben Stokes (NE) The new Flintoff? Or the new Ealham? Although injured, he’s included on the ladder as we expand it to thirty players.

28. James Foster (NE) Same as he ever was: good with the bat and fantastic behind the stumps. He won’t be selected, but we like to include him anyway – it gives us a nice warm feeling, which is doubly useful as there’s no heating in the 51allout caravan park.

29. Reece Topley (NE) The tall left-armer is attracting attention due to an impressive season at the tender age of 17. An international cap may be a distant dream, but the variation that comes from being a southpaw will surely help in that matter. One for the future.

30. Saj Mahmood (-5) Having a very good season for Lancashire, but if he ever had a ‘time’, it was in a different epoch.

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