Andrew Strauss (61 and 0) – And the win of course – so all is well? Not exactly. His horrible second innings non-shot spoke of a mind not entirely focused on the task at hand and it was left to Alastair Cook to lead England through the banana skins to level the series. But, under personal and team pressure, The Captain had batted over half a day to set up England’s first innings, which was precisely what was required. Will be captain for the early summer series vs West Indies, but knows that there is no room for dead wood vs South Africa in what is likely to be a battle for Number One ranking come July.
Alastair Cook (94 and 49*) – Left the crease with England just 62 runs short of first innings parity and returned to the crease to see England over the line in a display of the mature and considered batting that characterises so much of his work. Did not field particularly well, but was not alone in that regard. Will be champing at the bit to get out into the middle as soon as feet touch English soil where he can add to an increasing range of stroke that is rounding off the complete opener package.
Jonathan Trott (64 and 5) – Carried on where he left off at Galle in a first innings of batting that played every ball on its merits, dispatching the bad ones to the boundary and the good ones back up the pitch with the full face of the bat. That such orthodoxy is so praiseworthy speaks less of the business-as-usual calm that Trott brought to much of his work in Sri Lanka and more to England’s strange winter of pre-meditated sweeps, poor judgment of length and panicky prodding.
KP (151 and 42*) – Sure he has technical issues and needs to play with a straighter bat, but, more than anything, he needs to release the inner Stifler and dominate the bowling and his team-mates and leave the language of self-help manuals and sports psychologists at home – it doesn’t work for everyone (from my England vs Pakistan Series Report Card). The Stifmeister was in full flow in Colombo smashing the ball to all parts of the island, celebrating like it’s 2005 again and looking like the Cock of the Walk. Man of the Match after hitting 8 sixes and 20 fours during two knocks in which he appeared to be playing a different game, a game that had far too much for his opponents.
Ian Bell (18) – A quiet match in which his main role was to stand at the other end while KP made a handy position into a winning position. Will take each game as it comes (naturally) but will want to spend time with the Merlin spin-bowling coaching machine before going back to the subcontinent for the India Tests in the Autumn. Might be the only batsman in world cricket who is looking forward to facing Steyn, Philander and Morkel as a little light relief after his trials by tweeking this winter.
Matt Prior (11, 4 catches) – Failed (for once) to launch the assault towards 500 and had a difficult time behind the stumps in conditions that would have tested the best of keepers, of whom he is not yet one. As a member of a batting unit that failed too often over the five winter Tests, he knows he has work to do, but his culpability is mitigated by his all-rounder role and an approach that has never been too far from what’s needed.
Samit Patel (29, 0-32 and 1-54) – Bits and pieces numbers from a player who may have to show that he’s more than that in the ODI format if he is to get back into the Test XI in time for India in November. His captain clearly valued his bowling’s capacity to contain, giving him 41 overs in the match (from which only 86 runs were scored). Did nothing to convince that he could score a century or take five wickets in an innings and that possibility – even if remote – has to be on the table if a place in an Andy Flower England XI is to be secured.
Tim Bresnan (5, 2-47 and 0-24) – There’s those figures and there’s the one that says that he has played 11 Tests and won them all. Bowled dry (as he always does) with plenty of off-cutters as England waited patiently for the second new ball. Perhaps his major contribution in this match was simply to be there – a reassuring presence with the bat if required down the order, and the man to give you six overs for 14 runs if another bowler is going round the park.
Graeme Swann (17 4-75 and 6-106) – Pipped by KP’s pyrotechnics to the Man of the Match award, but this was a wonderful performance from a complete bowler. The figures hardly flatter him – dropped catches and a fluffed stumping cost a few wickets – and he never stopped asking batsmen questions on a pitch that offered him some help, but was hardly unplayable. Now sits seventh on the list of England’s fiverfer men and is undisputed Number One spinner in any England selection.
Jimmy Anderson (2, 3-62 and 1-36) – Off the back of four consecutive defeats and having lost the toss, England’s players wouldn’t have been human had they not slumped a little in the shoulders as they took the field in steamy Colombo last Tuesday. 45 minutes later, the tone of the match had been set by Jimmy’s three wickets in another masterful display of new ball bowling. He and Swanny are not McGrath and Warne, but they aren’t a bad double act. The beers will taste good for both tonight.
Steven Finn (2*, 1-51 and 2-30) – Looked rusty at times in the field and with ball in hand, but can bowl a delivery that jags away and a delivery that rears up – batsmen don’t like either. Was curiously left clicking his heels while all four other bowling options were used by Strauss on the last morning, before his extra pace and lift removed a charging Matthews to keep England’s chase very manageable. Will rotate in and out of England’s XI for a few years yet, but won’t let anyone down.