Monday, 20 June 2011

Picking The Bones Out of England v Sri Lanka

Nimal Mendis! Michael Ondaatje! Prof. Cyril Ponnamperuma! Can you hear me Prof. Cyril Ponnamperuma? Your boys have taken one hell of a beating!

Googling eminent Sri Lankans aside, England have won the first test series of the summer 1-0. That makes it their fifth test series victory in a row, (which makes it seven out of eight since Andy Flower took over permanently - and the other one was a draw), but weirdly it seems like they've won by default. Other than a mad couple of hours as Sri Lanka imploded at Cardiff, all three tests could / should have been drawn, which probably would have been the apt result to what's been a fairly unsatisfactory series.

Dogged by poor ticket sales, poor wickets and worse weather, the opening salvo to the English summer of cricket has been not much more than a very damp squib. While England did play the better cricket, Sri Lanka did what they had to do to not lose the games, and but for a mindless collapse, would have saved the series very easily. Sri Lanka were unfairly underestimated before the start, and while there were some iffy performances, there were some flashes of brilliance which shows just how difficult a task England will have in the subcontinent when they take Sri Lanka on in their back yard this winter.

England will take a lot out of this series, even if the series is unlikely to make it to a 7 disk DVD collection. England were on top in all three games, and but for the rain would have won them all. In Cardiff they got a lead, applied the pressure and forced a result, and were attempting to do so at both Lord's and the Rose Bowl. The bowling was hit and miss, with some brilliance in amongst some utter filth but the one constant was the excellent batting. Strauss aside, each of England's seven bats produced this series, and are looking a very formidable outfit. And while the Anderson-less bowlers struggled at Lord's, man-of-the-series Tremlett came of age in his first home series in four years, producing some quite exquisite displays. In partnership with Anderson, England have a new-ball duo that can frighten any team in the world. (As long as Tremlett is actually given the new ball).

It was by far a vintage series for England, and while the series failed to capture the imagination of the general public, England got an awful lot out of it. Ultimately, this series was a warm-up for the Indian tests later this summer, and all England needed to do was to limber up ahead of it. Most of the batsmen got runs, and most of the bowlers took wickets. They continued that winning (or at least, not losing) feeling, and come out of the series with far more answers than questions. In the annals of time this won't be seen as one of the classic test series, but going forward, this could be one of the classic England teams.

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