Back in the day, report cards held nothing but fear for us. Nothing damaged the parent/child relationship more than a series of comments from teachers complaining about “flippancy” and “spending all lesson looking out of the window at the girls from the year below playing netball”. It was obvious to us that teachers just didn’t get the 51allout modus operandi. Yes, our maths homework often included references to the recent cancellation of Knightmare, but that was just the light-hearted icing on the cake. Dig through that layer of postmodern irony and there was definitely a firm grasp on top-heavy fractions. Plus we had a proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem that just wouldn’t quite fit into the margin, so we had to leave it out.
For England’s World T20 squad there’s likely to be even more fear of report card day. It wasn’t a great tournament at all, with just two wins, against Afghanistan and New Zealand, and three defeats, against India, the West Indies and Sri Lanka. But who at least emerged with some credit? And who will get the dreaded F? (Clue: it’s someone with a very square face)
Michael Lumb – Didn’t put a foot wrong all tournament. We can only assume that he was selected because England reused the same entry form as for the last world cup and forgot to rub his name out, but it’s hard to blame Lumb for that.
Steve Finn – The leading dot-ball bowler in the tournament (at least until the end of the Super Eight stage), Finn added a couple of new weapons to his already impressive armoury: an occasional slower ball and the ability to kick the stumps over when getting hit for runs, pissing New Zealand off big time. He is now comfortably England’s number one quick bowler in the limited overs formats.
Luke Wright – There was widespread clinking of gin glasses chez 51allout when Wright was announced in the squad – we’ve been championing his cause for some time now and he produced the goods on two out of five visits to the crease (both times as part of a victory), a decent enough ratio for a big hitter. Getting stranded on 99* just added to his comedy charm.
Graeme Swann – Despite our growing reservations about Graeme Swann the man, Graeme Swann the bowler remains perfect for this form of the game, bringing control and calm to proceedings. Only once did he go for more than 30 runs from his four overs, plus his valiant 34 against Sri Lanka just emphasised what a useless bunch his teammates were.
Danny Briggs – Just the one game for Briggs, where he did a reasonable enough job against New Zealand. We can’t help thinking that England totally misused him though, giving him drinks to carry when every other team was cramming spin into their team like boat people piling aboard on their way to a cushy life cashing Centrelink cheques in Australia. Having a left arm spinner open the bowling is a common T20 tactic from two or three years ago. It might finally have twigged with England.
Alex Hales – A decent enough performance from Hales, with starts against Afghanistan and New Zealand plus a crucial 68 against the West Indies, an innings that unfortunately ran out of steam in the final overs. To emerge with his reputation intact after a series of disastrous opening partnerships is impressive, in a perverse kind of way.
Eoin Morgan – With Kevin Pietersen sipping on gin in a TV studio, the responsibility of seeing England home fell to Morgan. Despite one superb innings against the West Indies, it generally proved too much for him, with England’s middle order proving as safe as a packet of Jaffa Cakes left in Samit Patel’s hotel room.
Samit Patel – Speaking of which, while we love to stick the boot into Samit, his ability to actually play spin bowling stood out like a sore thumb during his fine 67 against Sri Lanka. His bowling wasn’t brilliant, although it was blindingly obvious to everyone that wasn’t Stuart Broad that he shouldn’t have been brought on to bowl to an in-the-mood Chris Gayle. Again, Patel emphasised England’s policy of making it up as they went along, being in and out of the side, not batting at all before suddenly popping up at number four.
Stuart Broad – As a bowler, we don’t really have a problem with Stuart Broad. Seven wickets with worst figures of 0/37 are far from awful. But Broad the captain was all over the place, hence the side lurching from one extreme to the other, with hilarious results. We particularly enjoyed him bringing the field in to try and get a hat-trick, rather than protecting the boundaries in the 16th over of the innings. Unfortunately, having made him captain, there’s not really any way back.
Tim Bresnan – One of the foremost passengers on England’s hop on/hop off team bus, Bresnan contributed very little with no wickets in two games (at an economy rate of eight) and just a single run. Again, quite what role he was supposed to have was anybody’s guess. The feeling remains that Bresnan still hasn’t recovered from his elbow problem, and is lacking that bit of spark. Plus he hasn’t made 50 with the bat for England in any format for around 14 months now.
Jonny Bairstow – As the main (only?) plus point from England’s disappointing summer, much was expected from Bairstow. With 38 runs from five matches, at well below a run a ball, it’s fair to say that he didn’t deliver. He was batted in every position from three to six, with no apparent clue of what he was supposed to be doing, before being lumbered with the gloves in the final match (where he did a reasonable job in difficult conditions) to further rub salt into the wounds. His time will come, but at the moment he looks all at sea against spin, which means that next month’s tour of India may be equally fun.
Ravi Bopara – Poor old Ravi. Has there ever been a more absurd selection than Bopara in the ill-fated final Super Eight game? His batting has crumbled to dust over the past two months and his selection in the squad was clearly a tragic mistake. Instead of doing the full on Escape To Victory thing and breaking his own arm to allow Sylvester Stallone a game, Ravi carried the drinks until being dragged out for a Weekend At Bernie’s style performance at the end. Never has anyone needed a break from international cricket more than Bopara does right now.
Jos Buttler – Jos Buttler makes us sad. He’s still very young (can you remember Gazza crying at Italia ’90? Buttler can’t – he wasn’t even born) but so far there’s very little evidence to suggest that he can make the step up from county genius to international player. A top score of 15 in the tournament for a ‘finisher’ says it all. And yet, England should keep faith with him, because we genuinely think he will get there eventually, even if his throwing remains surprisingly poor. Which is a roundabout way of saying please don’t be mean to us again Adam Dibble.
Jade Dernbach – Bowling in the powerplays and death overs isn’t easy, like trying to carry a tray of gin and tonics across a heaving dance floor at 2am. And yet surely England could have done a better job. Dernbach is a frustrating figure – we can see the same potential that the selectors see, but he just bowled very, very badly throughout the tournament, with an economy rate just below ten. Again, England will probably stick with him but there remains a lot of work to do, particularly in cutting out those juicy full tosses that decent players regularly launch into the sunset.
Craig Kieswetter – Oh dear. It’s easy to forget that Kieswetter came into this tournament on the back of a pretty decent summer. He left it as a shell of a player, seemingly so crippled by fear that he could only play two shots, the forward defensive and the wild swing up in the air. An excruciating six-ball duck against Afghanistan was matched by a two-ball duck against the West Indies and an excruciating 4 from 14 balls against New Zealand. In the middle of all that was 35 against India, an innings that could have proved cathartic but was instead merely the exception that proved the rule (and where he should have been run out by half the pitch when still on zero). Dropping him to bring in Bopara was just the final insult.
It’s clear enough to us that the nature of Sri Lankan pitches just doesn’t encourage block/slog tactics. Even Chris Gayle has had to work the ball around at times. And yet Kieswetter seemed completely incapable of it. This just added to the pressure on Alex Hales at the other end (and was probably directly responsible for his ugly dismissal against India).
It’s easy in hindsight to criticise everything Team England did. After all, the results it produced weren’t exactly great. But the end result is that very few of the players come out of the tournament with their reputations enhanced. Regardless of selection issues, the individuals have to shoulder a huge chunk of the blame for the failure.