Andrew Strauss (26 and 27) – Batsmen, especially openers, know that they’re going to get a good one early on from time to time and spend the day in the pavilion. So once they get through the first hour, they want to cash in and set the platform for the strokemakers to come. A minute or two after the hour in both innings, Strauss was out essaying forcing shots. Poor decision-making and poor execution are not a good combination and Strauss’ huge credit built up over the last three years is diminishing with every match. England can’t carry him through to the end of the back-to-back Ashes series of 2013 no matter what he brings beyond runs – so he needs some soon.
Alastair Cook (0 and 14) – Another man with plenty of credit who needs to make runs rather more consistently than he has since his extraordinary form in Australia. Ironically, he looks much more at home in ODIs than in Tests, but he’ll take some comfort from the fact that he was one of few England batsmen who could not be accused of contributory negligence in either dismissal.
Jonathan Trott (12 and 112) – Played an astonishingly ill-judged across-the-line hoick to york himself and be stumped in the first innings, but was back to something like his best form in the second, punching cover drives and working the straighter balls through the onside. Brought out the reverse sweep regularly to move the field around, a calculated risk that paid off, this time. Took England into a position from which the win was possible but received support from only Matt Prior and that wasn’t enough.
KP (3 and 30) – Two poor shots just after re-starts were punctuated by an almost painful display of concentration late on Day Three as he strove to work without the pace on the ball he so craves. That Sri Lanka fancied getting him caught close in front of the wicket on Day Four and that he was almost caught and bowled just before he was sent back just as Mahela planned, will give him something to ponder before taking guard in Colombo. That’s if he has any time for such luxuries as pondering with two Tests scheduled so closely together.
Ian Bell (52 and 13) – Hit, or rather timed, his way back into something approaching form after his travails with Saeed Ajmal’s doosra. Was peeved (and no batsman does peeved quite so peevishly as Bell) to have his second innings LBW decision upheld giving every indication (including holding up his bat in a way that might attract the attention of the match referee) that he had edged it. If a batsman pre-meditates a sweep to a fullish ball and then has to rely on the non-Hotspot version of DRS to get a reprieve, he’ll be out sooner rather than later anyway.
Matt Prior (7 and 41, 2 catches and 1 stumping) – Got himself into a terrible mess with indeterminate footwork in the first innings to be out playing French cricket in front of his stumps. Looked altogether more confident in the second dig for his 41 that was terminated unluckily by short leg’s unwitting catch. Kept well in the heat with few errors and found time to give plenty of loud (and, sensibly, some quiet) support to Monty. Almost unrecognisable from the boorish man who sledged so charmlessly early in his career.
Samit Patel (2 and 9, 2-27 and 0-9) – Spun the ball and deserved his wickets, but won’t often have the comfort of bowling behind two frontline spinners. Likewise, he won’t often bat at 7 if he is to play Test cricket regularly, though the protection did him no good in the first innings when all at sea, back when he should have been forward, and LBW like half his team-mates. Presure too much for the debutant in the second innings.
Stuart Broad (28 and , 1-71 and 1-33) – Figures belie a strong performance with the ball spoiled by overstepping and allowing the Lankans to add 47 more runs to their second innings and a reluctance to bowl at the tail’s stumps in a match groaning with LBWs. Swept his first ball (as he often does) and then batted very positively before pre-meditating another sweep to be dismissed for 28 a score that matches his average, but not his batting talent.
Graeme Swann (24 and 1, 0-92 and 6-82) – Targeted in the first innings, there was just the beginnings of a slump in the shoulders after a difficult winter that prompted whispers about whether he should continue as an automatic choice to circulate. Come his time to bat (at 122-7) he strode on to the field in an old-fashioned cap and with just a touch of the trademark swagger. Having blocked and biffed as usual, he carried his revived confidence through into the evening of Day Two, taking four wickets to bring England back into the match. The whisperers were silenced.
Jimmy Anderson (23* and 5, 5-72 and 0-26) – Bowled like the master craftsman he has become to flog five first innings wickets from a batsman’s pitch and pass fellow Lancastrian craftsman Brain Statham on England’s all-time wicket-taking list. Batted with the all the quirky lefty effectiveness of Daniel Vettori in a knock that showed exactly how easy the bowlers thought the wicket was, despite the what the scoreboard read.
Monty Panesar (13 and 0, 0-42 and 2-59) – Kept running in, kept putting the ball in the same place and kept having it blocked back to him. He blocked up one end without providing a wicket-taking threat the balance of the side demanded. Eventually got a couple of wickets that his persistence deserved, but with some comedy (and costly) fielding errors, it’s hard to believe that Tim Bresnan would not have offered more.