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Ian Bell's report card from England's Test summer

bet365 columnist Ian Bell looks back over the Test summer, and offers his ratings out of 10 for England's stars.

Alex Lees – 4/10

It’s been a difficult summer for Alex; opening the batting is not an easy task to do, certainly in England, but the volume of runs hasn’t been enough. The run chase at Edgbaston he started so well. Technically, his movements were fantastic, but it’s not been enough and he’ll know that. We need to see a few more hundreds to go with that.

Zak Crawley – 4/10

You see glimpses with Zak, and we have for the last two or three years now. There’s a lot to like about him, especially when he’s on form and playing well, he has all the shots in the book, but unfortunately, as with Lees, there’s not been enough from a top-5/top-6 batter for England – your job is to score runs and lots of them.

He’s been thoroughly backed, and there have been situations in other eras where he wouldn’t have got the same backing. It’s difficult to answer as there’s a lot to like, but ultimately it’s the volume of runs you score.

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Ollie Pope – 7/10

Ollie’s probably lacking a couple more big, big 100s, but has adapted to batting at #3 relatively well this year. There will be more challenges to come in the next couple of years, but has done everything asked of him this summer.

Joe Root – 8/10

Started with the match-winning 100 against New Zealand, he’s England’s best batter by a country mile. When he plays well, it always feels we have a chance.

We’ve got tours of the sub-contintent coming up, so he’ll play a massive part in that as he’s probably the best player of spin we’ve ever produced. He dropped off a little bit towards the end, but he’s the best batter in Test cricket and we’re very lucky to have him.

Jonny Bairstow – 9/10

Going into summer under a little bit of pressure with Harry Brook scoring a lot of runs, and people were wondering how to get Brook in the side when the obvious slot would’ve been #5, but he’s been incredible. It’s been a huge boost to his Test career, he’s been in real purple patch, and only a broken ankle at the end of the summer stopped him getting a 10.

He’s been attacking but controlled, and England’s player of the summer without a shadow of doubt.

Ben Stokes – 8/10

Leading from the front with bat and ball. I know he wants to play an aggressive brand of cricket and he leads from the front, but my reminder for someone like Ben is he’s that good a player he doesn’t need to be reckless.

He can still be aggressive. I remember the moment I first saw him play and his first 100 – he was and is a committed, aggressive player, and he has a good defence. He’s a Test match batter and he doesn’t have to go too far with aggression.

Over time he’ll find the right balance between attack and defence, but an excellent summer from England’s new captain.

Ben Foakes – 6/10

Started a little bit slowly, but that 113* was really important for him and his career with Ben Stokes at Old Trafford. He’s always tidy with the gloves, but for the modern day keeper-batter the runs are as important as the glove work, and he’s been solid without being spectacular.

Stuart Broad – 8/10

We know now with Broad and Anderson what we’ll get. They’ve been brilliant for so long, and Stuart’s had another good solid summer.

He’s not quite had the highs he’s had so much of in his career, where he’s got 6-fers and 8-fers in big games, but he’s added a real consistency. When the time comes we don’t see him in an England shirt, we’ll realise how good he was. He just does what he does and that’s why his career numbers are what they are, and that’s why his career numbers are what they are. He’s a great role model for young fast bowlers and a rock for this team.

Ollie Robinson – 8/10

Looked in a good place when he came back in. He looked fit and strong, and he added a bit more to the England attack.

Matt Potts started amazingly well, but was maybe tiring at the back end, so Ollie added some real value. He’s tall, he hits the pitch hard, and added a nice freshness to the England team at the end.

Matt Potts – 8/10

Somebody at the start of year who was off the radar for England. He started well for Durham, got his opportunity and took his opportunity. He just hit the top of off as many times as he could. Not extreme pace, but looks fit and has had an amazing first summer for England, delivering consistently as a young bowler. 

Jack Leach – 7/10

Looked like he was captained a bit better, or at least looked like he had more confidence from McCullum and Stokes. They put him in the right opportunities to succeed, setting attacking fields for him, and he chipped in with some important wickets.

What I’ve enjoyed is the consistency of selection. Looking back at the subcontintent, England didn’t know whether they’d play Leach or Bess, and it was a lot of chopping and changing whereas now it’s obvious he’s England number one spinner, and confidence comes with that.

James Anderson – 8/10

Like Broady, it’s quite incredible that at 40 years of age he’s still delivering. We’re very lucky at the moment to have him and have to make the most of it.

His consistency has been quite incredible, and he’s been a major part of England winning six out of seven Test matches.

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