England’s winners and losers during a weary winter in Australasia
James Anderson and Jonny Bairstow emerged with credit but others saw their future cast into doubt.
England fell two wickets short of dismissing New Zealand on the final day in Christchurch, meaning they end their exhausting Australasian winter without a Test victory.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at the successes and failures of their red-ball side.
Many observers felt England’s record wicket-taker, nearing 36, might be approaching the end of the road after seeing through one final Ashes contest but at present he seems to have plenty left in the tank. A clear, classy standout in the 4-0 defeat in Australia his contribution in New Zealand left him with a final analysis of 25 wickets at 26.92 for the winter. A master of his craft, England are as reliant on his quality as ever.
The idea that the Yorkshireman might emerge from the winter in credit seemed a long way off back in the first Ashes Test in Brisbane. At the end of that match he was the subject of mockery from Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft over his ‘headbutt’ greeting of the latter. The tables have turned somewhat since then, for all parties. Bairstow reacted with stoicism, not least to some venomous sledging, contributed fine centuries in Perth and Christchurch and kept wicket tidily throughout five arduous months.
Gritted his teeth for a formidable, unbeaten double century in Melbourne but that knock proved an oasis in a desert of poor form. The former skipper has been dismissed for under 20 in 10 of his 13 innings on tour and averaged a measly 5.75 against the Black Caps. After 154 Tests at the coalface the opener owes English cricket nothing and a lack of convincing challengers should see him start the summer, but runs are needed to show this is not an irreversible decline.
Moeen came out of the 2017 season flushed with success and increasingly comfortable with his role in the side. He is now out of the team – a mercy dropping as much as anything – and unable to locate anything like his best with either bat or ball. Five wickets in six Tests illustrates the toothlessness of his off-spin and he was sorely unable to make up the difference with lower-order runs.
Take nothing away from the fact that Root remains the country’s premier batsman. In all he managed seven half-centuries but his failure to convert any of them will gnaw away at a player of his pedigree. As a captain he was hardly helped by circumstances, not least surrounding Ben Stokes’ absence from the Ashes, but the sheer weight of results raise legitimate questions about whether leading the side is right for him or the team at present.
The laidback Australian deserves credit for his mammoth workload since October – declining to outsource his duties at any stage while other players and coaching staff were boosted by breaks at different stages. But he exits the winter a diminished figure. His methods appear to be working in white-ball cricket but England have regressed as a Test unit on his watch. Having announced he will leave in 2019 and mooted a split coaching role he has also destabilised his position.