Friday, 7 January 2011

Gareth Messenger's Top 11 Ashes 2010-11 Players

What a fantastic achievement for the England national side to come away from Australia with a 3-1 series win, retaining, and more importantly winning the Ashes for the first time in 24 years on Australian series.
In this blog I will go through my top 11 players from the last seven weeks and looking at how their impact on the sides influenced the performance of others and their side's results.

1. Alastair Cook
This man was absolutely inspirational this series. Man of the match in the last test at Sydney for his brilliant 189 and awarded man of the series, and the second youngest player to reach 5000 test match runs, trailing only the great Sachin Tendulkar. Averaging 127 for the entire series and scoring a total of 766 runs throughout the five test matches, Cook's sudden resurgence in form in the past year has made him one of England's most important assets. There were times before the series where some thought Cook would not even be on the plane, but the first test match where the 26-year-old scored a sparkling 235* in the second innings to play for a draw. As previously mentioned, at only 26, Cook has a huge future in test cricket and perhaps more importantly the perfect replacement for current captain Andrew Strauss. Well played Alastair and well deserved number 1 spot!

2. James Anderson
Who said this man couldn't bowl well in Australia? Do not underestimate the talents of James Anderson who came away from Australia this year as the series leading wicket taker with 24 wickets. Ironically, conditions suited the swing bowling of Anderson and the Australians struggled to face England leader of the bowling attack. His best bowling displays would have to be his 4-wicket haul in the demolition of Australia in the first innings of the fourth test, bowling the hosts out for just 98, and in the final test at Sydney for match figures of 7-127. Anderson also continued his good form to reach 200 Test wickets in the third test when he dismissed Peter Siddle. Most of the attention was on Swann pre-Ashes, but it will be Anderson taking the majority of the plaudits for his display in Oz, making him one of the most feared seamers in the world.

3. Mike Hussey
Mr Cricket himself. Third spot was a difficult one to choose with so many great performances, but Hussey proved to the world that he is still capable of performing brilliantly at such a high level, and in a batting line up of vast experience and wealth for the first few tests, he proved to be the only one who took responsibility throughout the entire series, scoring a total of 570 runs including a fantastic 195 in the first test at The Gabba followed by scores of 93 and 116 in the second and third test respectively.

4. Jonathan Trott
Fanatstic performances from Trott. This series effectively strengthened his claim as the best number three in the world, and it has really all come his introduction to test cricket in the final test match of the 2009 Ashes series in England. Trott continued his godod form into this run of matches scoring just under 450 runs including innings scores of 135* in the second innings of the first test in that wonderful partnership with Alastair Cook, as well as a man of the match performance in the fourth test with a stunning 168* to help England to an innings and 157 run victory at Melbourne. Only disappointment would be his first Test duck in the last match, but that won't take too much of the gloss of what has been an incredible series yet again for England's established number three.

5. Andrew Strauss
The captain has now led England to two Ashes successes and was involved in another. His performances both on the field and off the field have proven to be strokes of genius at times and his relationship with coach Andy Flower has given the England side stability and confidence in their performances. A disastrous start to the Ashes for both him and England when he was dismissed on only the third ball of the entire series in an exact replica of the first wicket of the 2009 series (Bowled Hilfenhaus, Caught Hussey at Gully) but that will not bother Strauss too much. His early series form was mixed, dismissed for a duck and 1 in the first innings of the first two tests but scoring a fantastic 110 in the second innings at Brisbane in England's total of 513/1 declared. Outplayed Aussie captain Ricky Ponting on the field both as a performer and a leader. Another success for Strauss in what has been a sparkling test career to date.

6. Shane Watson
Watson this year made a lot of runs for the Australians and at times were key to their progression at the start of the innings. Looks suited to that opening spot at the top of the order but his failure to go on and make big big scores will concern him. You can always rely on Watson to contribute and make good scores but his lack of hundreds this series will undoubtedly go toward Australia's lack of joy this year. Despite this, he scored 435 runs in the series and contributed with the ball and played a huge part in the Tests. One could say he was only one of the few players who gave their all this winter for Australia and I like the way he plays so Watson gets my number six spot.

7. Chris Tremlett
The Surrey man came in for the injured Stuart Broad for the third test at the WACA in Perth. At first I was a little sceptical at the decision simply because, without sounded biased, I am a fan of Tim Bresnan and felt he would be the suitable replacement for Broad. But credit is where credit's due because Tremlett was sensational. It was the best decision made and full respect to Strauss and Flower for choosing the giant. He starred in the Perth test with figures of 5/87 in the second innings and then bowled perfectly in partnership with Anderson the rest of the series getting 4/26 in the demolition of Australia at the MCG. Tremlett finished with 17 wickets and therefore comes 7th in my top 11 Ashes players for the 2010-11 series.

8. Ian Bell
I always have been and always will be a fan of this man. He is probably one of the world's most underrated batsmen and reached 4000 test runs when he hit 68 not out in the first innings of the second test. The first test he top scored with a nicely played 76 in our total of 260 after captain Strauss had been dismissed with the third ball of the series. Bell's hard work came to reward in the final test when a hardly grafted 115 gave him his first Ashes century in his long lasting career. At number 6 he looks comfortable and settled, but with Paul Collingwood now retired from Test cricket, Bell may see himself pushing up to number five in our next test series against Sri Lanka.

9. Peter Siddle
People may question this and ask why Mitchell Johnson isn't here but Peter Siddle grabbed himself 14 wickets and bowled well. The England batsmen feared Siddle's bowling and this was immediately proved from the first test when the Victorian fast bowler saw himself get 6/54 including a hat-trick on his 26th birthday - the first Ashes hat-trick since Darren Gough in 1999. I've been highly impressed with Siddle's effort and persistancy with the ball and he has even been able to contribute a few times with the bat with scores of 40 and 43 in the fourth and fifth test respectively, but without him, Australia's attack would have struggled even more than what it already did.

10. Matthew Prior
Brilliant with the gloves. Solid with the bat. Matthew Prior again staked his claim why he should be regarded as one of, if not, then the best wicketkeeper in the world. His 85 in the fourth test at Melbourne proved his worth in England's lengthy batting line up and this was only enhanced with a magical 118 off just 130 balls in the final test match in which England hit their highest test score ever against Australia.

11. Graeme Swann
Finally what list isn't complete without this man. Mr Sprinkler himself and the greatest spinner in the world at the minute. I wouldn't say I was disappointed with his performances because he is a great bowler but he perhaps didn't make the impact many were expecting in the series. Only picking up 14 wickets, Swann found it difficult at times to find some dangerous turn on what seemed like seam-friendly pitches down-under. But regardless, Swann's contributions were vital as always, making it hard for the Australians to play and threatening with every ball.

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