It is always refreshing to see a débutant play. You can almost anticipate the frayed nerves or the resolute nerves of steel, the bubbling reservoir of energy or the calm island of serenity. Each debutant brings something new to the game – be it a new batting style or a new bowling action or even a new celebration.
This becomes even more relevant when you put it in context to a 130 year old rivalry. It is almost like a never-ending war between two countries – people will tell you of the gallantry of your forefathers and their exemplary feats. They will tell you that, since you have been chosen for this great occasion, it is your duty to live up to it.
This Ashes we have seen the entire range of debut performances – from the astounding and mind-boggling to the downright ordinary to the outright shocking. This article is an effort to analyse those performances and put them in their rightful place. All points have been marked on 10.
Chris Woakes (5) – Woakes had been after Bresnan’s spot in the side all summer, but he got it at the most unfortunate time of them all – when Shane Watson came back in form. Not that the pitch helped either as it was too low and slow at least for a fast bowler making his debut although James Faulkner may not necessarily agree with him.
As for his batting, he gave Ian Bell decent support in the first innings and showed intent in the madcap chase late into the last day. Nevertheless, one got the impression he is batting one spot too high ahead of Prior. His hopes for making the Ashes Down Under would lie more on Tim Bresnan’s back than his own skills.
Simon Kerrigan (1) – There are days when you wake up in the morning feeling as if a train had run over you. More often than not you could put it down to whatever you had drank the night before but unfortunately Kerrigan cannot harbour any such thoughts. Thrown into the deep end of an Ashes series, Kerrigan was dismantled piece by piece by the broad willow of Shane Watson.
It would be more correct to say that Kerrigan himself had a role to play in his disintegration. As early as his second over, he was doling out freebies in the form of long hops and full tosses to a batsman who was seeing the ball as large as a football. Kerrigan has the time and the talent (if we were to go by his first class records) but it still remains to be seen if he has the temperament. The best situation for England would be if Monty were to bounce back from his recent ordeals, but it would not be the best situation for Kerrigan with respect to an Ashes spot.
James Faulkner (8) – Unlike his English counterparts, Faulkner made the most of his debut while he could. Coming into bat at 385 for 6, he made a breezy 23 at faster than a run-a-ball to guide Australia past 400. Then bowling first-drop, he took out England’s best batsman of the series Ian Bell and the dangerous Matt Prior before returning to clean up the tail for figures of 4 for 51. As Michael Clarke tried his best to make the match more interesting on the last day, Faulkner was sent in to up the ante and he did not disappoint launching a huge six on his way to a run-a-ball 22.
He was the sixth bowler used as England set about their chase of 227 with gusto but he put that behind him to pick up the vital scalps of the set Cook and Trott. He got a bit of a stick from Pietersen but, compared to Woakes and Kerrigan, he had had five field days. A definite talent as also he showed in the IPL, Faulkner was one of the few bright spots for Australia this time around in England.
Ashton Agar (7) – Most of us would be tempted to give Agar a round 10 for THAT innings but, truth be told, the series has been more chastening than anything else for him. Halfway into the tour, Nathan Lyon reclaimed his position (and rightfully so) as the numero uno spinner in the XI and Fawad Ahmed had been selected ahead of Agar for the limited overs leg of the tour.
Agar’s gentle left arm orthodox could prise out only 2 victims in the two Tests he played and his last three innings (which came at number 8) totalled 32 runs. Agar, though, is only 19 and has age on his side. If Australia can get over their obsession with Fawad Ahmed and stop themselves from selecting the limited-ability Xavier Doherty, Agar could find a second coming in a spin partnership with Lyon against the Poms in Adelaide and/or Sydney this winter.