Angelo Mathews’s next opponent
Alastair Cook (78 runs at 20) – If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve read plenty about England’s beleaguered, defiant, troubled (sprinkle adjectives to taste) captain and have settled your own views. Mine are that he needs the rest of the summer to decide whether he can continue to take on a burden that eventually breaks men – ask Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain or Michael Vaughan. He scored 14 fewer runs than Chris Jordan, but if that aggregate comprised a fifty and three failures, well – that happens up top against the new ball. But scores of 17, 28, 17 and 16 with no innings shorter than half an hour, speaks of a man with too much on his mind to feel “in” at the crease. Plenty of captains have broken such a trot with a “F*ck You!” century… but plenty haven’t. If the series against India goes quickly, surely so will Cook, for a little R and R, ready to return for the World Cup a refreshed man.
Sam Robson (171 at 43) – Nervous on debut at Lord’s, he settled in after a tricky start at Headingley to score a fine century demonstrating a cool temperament and the capacity to concentrate for sessions at a time. If that’s the upside, the downside is his indeterminate footwork that leaves him reaching for balls outside his eye line, something that bowlers will have noticed and, if as skilled (okay, half as skilled) as a Glenn McGrath, will work on, pulling him slowly from off-stump to fourth stump to fifth stump until he nicks one. The leave might just be the most important, and elusive, stroke in an opener’s locker – Robson needs it.
Gary Ballance (201 at 67) – Another whose feet don’t go where one might hope to see them, but, as throughout his career to date, his numbers look good. He won’t often get jaffas like the one Dhammika Prasad found as a greeting to the crease in the middle of England’s series-forsaking collapse late on Day Four at Leeds, so if he can get in, dig in and bat on (and 22 First Class hundreds set against First Class fifties suggests that he can) then England won’t miss Jonathan Trott as much as they fear.
Joe Root (259 at 86; 8-4-23-0) – Looked unconvincing early on (yet another young England player whose feet seem a beat behind his hands) but battled through it at Lord’s to post an undefeated double century, which, Jason Gillespie notwithstanding, is hard currency for a batsman. That score has bought him a summer in the middle order, but he will need to pass fifty at a better rate than his current seven times in 17 Tests if he is to hold down the middle order slot that has been marked as his destiny for some time.
Ian Bell (137 at 34) – Passed the 100 Tests milestone and notched a fifty in both matches punctuated by those familiar flowing strokes sweetly timed to race to the boundary. But it was a low key series for England’s deputy to Alastair Cook, a role that may assume greater importance as the summer progresses.
Moeen Ali (162 at 54; 52-4-181-3) – Batted with confidence bordering on recklessness before building a monument on the last day of the series that was two balls short of being remembered forever. That undefeated century showed that he has the goods to deal with one of cricket’s most difficult scenarios – no hope, becoming some hope, becoming very hopeful – settled any doubts about his batting chops. His bowling was at times revelatory, spinning the ball hard, his rip causing significant deviation out of the rough and on Sky’s rev-counter. Whether he has the control and variations, especially to right-handers, required to get good batsmen out remains to be seen, but if he can add two Virat Kohlis to his two Kumar Sangakkaras, England will have found one. A debut series packed with promise.
Matthew Prior (139 at 46, 14 catches) – Got a bit of luck and gutsed it out at Lord’s to deliver the sort of innings that locked down the Number Seven slot for so long. It was a different matter behind the stumps, where injury-induced rustiness made a tough job look even tougher. Worse still, his fumbling spread throughout the team as England’s fielding was, at times, reminiscent of their 1990′s nadir. He’s back, but not back to his best by a long chalk.
Chris Jordan (92 at 23; 89.4-26-273-5) – Nothing excites an England fan like a fast bowling, hard hitting all rounder, who just happens to stand at second slip to boot. So it’s hard to look at his output and ask the awful question one must of the all rounder – is it two slots wasted? For all his bustling pace and nasty short ball, Jordan has to show himself capable of getting wickets (five-fers really) if he is to hold down a place in the Test XI. Ben Stokes has already demonstrated that he can do that, and is likely to reclaim his place for the India series. But such are the strains placed on seamers these days that Jordan is likely to be rotated back into the XI before the summer is out.
Stuart Broad (75 at 19; 94-26-242-7) – Hit the deck hard – probably too hard too often – in a series that just did not include enough deliveries aimed at the top of off-stump. Aside from that strange overs-straddling hat-trick, he laboured not quite getting the wickets his better balls delivered, but not quite doing enough either. He is just 50 wickets behind Ian Botham, in third place on England’s all-time, all formats wickets list, so he knows how to send batsmen home – but there were too many spells in this series when he appeared to have forgotten.
Liam Plunkett (43 at 14; 92.5-11-331-11) – In a move with some parallels to the Australians’ remarkable recall of Mitchell Johnson, England returned to another bowler who had “lost it” but now found it again. Though not quite as fast as the Antipodean terror, he was sharp enough to hurry up good batsman on flat tracks and was happy to pepper his targets around the armpit and head from round the wicket. Though his action is much smoother than when last seen in Tests some seven years ago and his confidence much more robust too (thank you Jason Gillespie, Yorkshire coach), there’s still quite a bit can go wrong with an action that shares more with Stephen Harmison’s than anyone might like. That said, he might find himself welcoming Suresh Raina to the crease quite often in the next few months.
Jimmy Anderson (9 at 5; 94.5-27-258-12) – Swung it both ways and bowled at almost 90mph when the situation demanded it, he showed himself to be a real handful in English conditions yet again. He also came within a hair’s breadth of saving the series with the bat, which showed all the right qualities of a never-say-die fighter. The relentless, tedious and, I believe, counter-productive sledging, a seemingly “essential” part of his game these days, showed that fighting spirit in a less flattering light. He’ll be looking forward to bowling at India’s “plant the front foot and swing through the line” batsmen, who couldn’t cope with him last time round.
Dimuth Karunaratne (127 at 32) – Like his opposite number, he did all the hard work in getting four starts but converted none to a half-century. Like many Sri Lankan batsmen, we may need to wait for the retirement of the two middle-order giants before we see the best of him, as the shadow in which he bats now is a lengthy one.
Kaushal Silva (136 at 38) – Two half-centuries at Lord’s did not add up to a notch on the Honours Board and 136 runs in the series did not add up to everything expected of an opener. But, like many of his team-mates, he has lots of raw talent and, as a late starter in Test cricket, he’ll want to make the most of his opportunity.
Kumar Sangakkara (342 at 86) – The records come more quickly than the dismissals these days for an all-time great player who is as prolific and elegant at 36 as he has been at any time in his long career. Had plenty of luck at Leeds, but had batted like a left-handed Bradman in London, so deserved it. Like his old mate, he walked off a Test ground in England for the last time as a winner – a fitting valediction in this country to a player admired unequivocally by English fans.
Mahela Jayawardene (174 at 44; 6-2-13-0) – Still made the runs but was more inconvenienced by the short ball than when in his pomp and, at times, looked all of his 37 years. Like Sangakkara, he will leave these shores as a winner and, like Sangakkara, will be welcomed back in whatever capacity he returns. Most England fans rather enjoyed his little parting snipe at Alastair Cook too!
Lahiru Thirimanne (4 at 1; 1-0-7-0) – Sometimes things just don’t go your way… except the result!
Angelo Mathews (306 at 77; 37-9-99-4) – Batting, bowling, captaincy: is there anything he can’t do brilliantly right now? If his Lord’s knock was a fine innings, his Headingley century was from the Big Book of Adam Gilchrist Momentum Shifters. This was the captain’s innings defined, pulling his team back into the match and pushing the on into a position to force the win. In his bowling and, especially, his captaincy, he showed himself to have all the cunning and ruthlessness of Arjuna Ranatunga – at 27! If Earth were playing Mars next week, he’d be our captain and Number 6.
Dinesh Chandimal (52 at 26; 4 catches) – The outputs did not match the talent, but Prasanna Jayawardene’s fading powers on either side of the wicket might give him the sustained run in the side that he probably needs (though the Lankans are not short of options). Already has three Test tons in 13 matches (albeit against Bangladesh’s popgun attacks), so it would be a real shame if he confines his hard-hitting counter-attacking style to white ball cricket.
Prasanna Jayawardene (14 at 7; 3 catches) – The purists’ delight behind the stumps picked up an injury early on and never showed us his best. At nearly 35, after years of squatting down to Murali and Herath, one has to wonder whether he will ever reach the heights that delighted those who believe in wicket-keeping as an art, rather than a task.
Dhammika Prasad (0 at 0; 42-8-125-6) – Something of a surprise change after Kulasekara had toiled without luck at Lord’s, but he hit a golden line and length at Headingley – as some bowlers just do – and dispatched a quartet of England top order batsmen back to the sheds at the end of England’s traumatic Day Four. He held the seam up and bowled fullish at a nippy pace – as men have done in Yorkshire since the 19th century. Remarkably, that was enough.
Rangana Herath (65 at 22; 127.3-23-351-8) – Looks even less of an athlete when bowling his round-arm rollers than he does in the field, but he is so vital to his team’s success. Made England look like chumps in his extraordinary 149 run eighth wicket partnership with his princely skipper, then did his share in the tension of the last day. His variations in flight and spin are so subtle, but they trouble the best batsmen, and delight the connoisseurs.
Shaminda Eranga (25 at 25; 104.4-30-305-6) – Wobbled it about and kept taking wickets without ever dominating, he is another late-developer who showed plenty of heart with the ball, though none more so than when holding out for the draw at Lord’s, bat in hand, heart in mouth.
Nuwan Kulasekara (10 at 5; 37-5-148-3) – Looked a white ball bowler doing his best with the red ball on an unresponsive track at Lord’s. Would have enjoyed Headingley more, but missed out, rightly, to Dhammika Prasad.
Nuwan Pradeep (17 at 6; 77-10-305-6) – Had something of the young Dennis Lillee about his hirsute appearance, but not his bowling, as he charged in but lacked the cutting edge needed to succeed in Test cricket. His telling, indeed, his series defining, contribution came with a superb 0* at Lord’s to secure the draw, an innings all the more laudable after a truly comical hit wicket first dig dismissal.