Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 17, 2014

England vs Sri Lanka First Test – England Report Card

A Thriller!

A Thriller!

Alastair Cook (17 and 28) – He batted like a man not entirely at ease with his game – understandably so after the last six months’ turmoil led to his overseeing the award of three new caps for the second Test in succession. He lost the toss, but was happy to bat and happier still when his team piled up 575. His captaincy in the field was undemonstrative as usual, but showed signs of innovation when stationing a leg slip for Prasanna Jayawardene, who immediately obliged in the first innings and a claustrophobia inducing ring late on the fifth day as a shot at victory unexpectedly broke the rhythm of a drifting day. He might have declared England’s second innings on Sunday evening, but the lights were on and the umpires may have sent the players in with the overs consequently lost. He rotated his bowlers regularly, as he sought second innings wickets and when England got close enough to land the decisive blow, he backed his bowlers to the hilt. Like his opposite number, he was culpable for the Test’s dismal over rate, an insult to a very decent and appreciative crowd and, with 17 overs lost from the match, a key factor in the draw.

Sam Robson (1 and 19) – As a small boy, he would have dreamt of a Test debut in glorious sunshine on his home ground. That ground turned out to be Lord’s rather than the SCG, but the Sydney-born opener was no less nervous as a result, scratching around for twenty minutes on the first morning suspicious of a pitch that held its green tinge for not much longer than that. He nicked off, but openers do. His second innings dismissal was rather more concerning. Having played himself in for an hour, he was late on his stroke and bowled off the inside edge. He’ll go to Headingley knowing that Alex Hales is beginning to score runs in red ball cricket and that when Hales scores runs, people notice.

Gary Ballance (23 and 104*) – Plays from deep in the crease and looks a candidate for any bowler who can get the ball to seam in or out, but a first class average of nearly 55, having converted almost half his fifties into hundreds, suggests that he may join a long list of highly effective Test match batsmen with a less than exemplary technique. Of course, temperament is as important as technique in Test match cricket, and he showed plenty of the right stuff in the second innings, watching five partners trudge back to the pavilion as England risked throwing away a strong position. On Sunday afternoon, with just four wickets left and the lead 243, he needed to graft and then press on to the declaration – which he did, securing his maiden Test century in the dash to the line, time ran out on the day. If the adjective exists, one could describe the knock as Trottian (at least you could until that century raising six!)

Ian Bell (56 and 9) – Surrounded these days by nervous newbies, somewhat unorthodox techniques and a captain looking for form, his “textbook on legs” batting stands out even more than it did in his golden summer of 2013. His 99th was a low key Test personally, but he’ll want to mark his 100th with a hundred – if so, the Yorkshire crowd are in for a treat.

Joe Root (200* and 15; 3-1-7-0, 4-3-7-0) – Struggled to get his feet moving early on when England were in plenty of trouble at 74-3, but toughed it out before reaping the reward of his hard work with what turned into a fluent double hundred on what must be his favourite ground. Poignant would be too strong a word, but one could not help but be pleased to see two of the casualties of the winter Ashes debacle share the stand that took England’s first innings since the Sydney horror show from 209-5 up to 380-6. That won’t be the last substantial stand between Joe Root and Matt Prior this summer.

Moeen Ali (48 and 4; 16-2-56-1, 12-2-35-0) – Played with fearless freedom in the first innings, exemplified by his lifting the first ball he faced from Rangana Herath over the boundary for six. Herath is no mug though and got his man when Moeen was undone by his aggression, edging to first slip, trying to hit the ball too hard. It was a similar, if shorter, story in the second dig, with a big shot followed immediately by a dismissal, as Herath proved too smart again. He will have learned much from being suckered twice by Sri Lanka’s outstanding spinner, a lesson he can also apply to his bowling which looked innocuous, if enthusiastic.  That said, he will always have Sangakkara c.Prior b.Ali as a first Test wicket.

Matt Prior (86 and 16; 7ct) – After Jos Buttler’s astonishing white ball innings a fortnight ago on this very ground and repeated media updates about his fitness, England’s Player of the Year 2012 had much to prove on his recall to the colours. In sport you need luck, and he got his share with a very tight LBW referral going his way early on. Like the old pro he has become, he used that luck to build a typically busy innings in the early evening sunshine, scampering singles and pinging the four balls top the fence as the bowlers tired. The 76 runs he scored in the last session of Day One was a reminder of his momentum shifting ability, England raising their score from 195-4 at tea to 344-5 at the close to “win” the day. His keeping was similarly lively and efficient and, as long as he has no reaction to the demands made on his body, he looks set for another summer with the gloves.

Chris Jordan (19 and 35; 27.4-4-102-3, 18-10-34-2) – The figure of the aggressive all-rounder has been embedded in the England cricket fan’s psyche since at least 1981, gaining a significant boost in 2005 a series that did the myth no harm at all. On debut, Jordan promised much, if that is to be his brief. He bowled fast and into the body when required and batted with a mix of booming drives and better than expected defence, particularly during his 96 minutes at the crease in the second innings. Such was his hostility in the match’s last hour, he was given the new ball to propel at Nuwan Kulasekara having earned the right with the vicious Waqaresque inswinging toe-crusher that ended Prasanna Jayawardene’s 93 minute resistance. He might never be good enough to bat at six, as all-rounders should, but he showed that the package he brings to the team is plenty enough to warrant his place in the bowling quartet and as a late middle order batsman.

Stuart Broad (47 and 24; 29-8-67-1, 21-9-43-3) – Bowled with plenty of craft and enough hostility without ever assuming the “Enforcer” role that seemed to distract him in the past. His figures do not reflect his contribution with the ball, as he flogged a bit of life out of a track made for ten days, never mind five. His last over was a good one – good enough for the umpire, but not for the DRS, something he probably knew. Once again, he batted just on the right side of reckless, proving an extremely dangerous customer at 9 against a tiring attack.

Liam Plunkett (39 and 2*; 32-2-116-2, 16-5-39-0) – Having terrorised a few county pros with renewed pace this year, the Yorkshire fast man returned to the Test XI after seven years away, during which he sometimes struggled to get a game for Durham. Bigger than he was in 2007 and less mechanical in his delivery stride, he showed that this season’s reports of 90mph spells were well founded as he troubled all the batsmen, bowling with confidence and vigour. He hit the ball hard too at Number 10, a handy slot to bring in a man with two centuries and 17 fifties in first class cricket. He may only be keeping the slot warm for Ben Stokes, but he’s back as an option for the England selectors.

Jimmy Anderson (9*; 31-7-93-3, 19-10-25-4) – Like all the bowlers except Sri Lanka’s admirable Shaminda Eranga, he often struggled to get the ball off the straight in the air or off the seam in excellent batting conditions. But he bent his back and bowled some hostile short stuff that tickled up even the most experienced of visiting batsmen and, when reverse swing eventually did turn up late in the game, he showed that he is still its master. His seven wickets haul took him closer to Ian Botham’s England Test record, a figure that we’ll talk about much more after next winter’s World Cup.

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Responses

  1. Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed!
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  2. Well thought-out, and a reminder of how much more clearly things can be put when there aren’t marks out of ten or stars out of five.

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