England v Sri Lanka: Three talking points as hosts romp to victory
England v Sri Lanka: Three talking points as the hosts win by 10 wickets to take a 2-1 series lead at Old Trafford
They don’t like it up ‘em
That’s a bit more like it. Of the various criticisms directed the way of the England cricket team over the last few years, perhaps the most persistent has been of their perceived negative style of play, of a lack of aggression and hostility. Let us not forget, if there is one moment which signalled the start of English cricket’s most recent golden era, it was Ricky Ponting removing his helmet at Lord’s in the early skirmishes in 2005 to reveal both a bloodied cheek and a furrowed brow which suggested that now, maybe for the first time against the old enemy, he felt threatened. What better way, then, to call back those past glories than unleashing a young Bajan-born tearaway in the overcast heights of an English spring. Chris Jordan, deserved winner of his second man-of-the-match award in three games, ripped the heart out of Sri Lanka with a spell of sustained pace and accuracy, and was ably supported by captaincy which saw three slips and a short leg in place within the first 15 overs. And this is not to mention James Anderson, whose opening spell of 2-10 off seven overs on his home ground set the Sri Lankans reeling and set the tone. All this in a week during which Andrew Flintoff stepped up his potential comeback with a return to training with Lancashire, too. The previous match in this series had prompted this author to observe that this Sri Lankan team “is rarely ruffled”. Today, they were more than ruffled. They were roughed up and routed.
But what will Moores have learnt?
Peter Moores has, of course, only been in his job as England coach (this time round, at least) for a couple of months. But even within that time frame, he would have already worked out that Jordan is fiery and promising. We all know, and have done for years, that Anderson is nigh on unplayable in helpful conditions. In reality, what today’s game actually taught anybody was pretty minimal. Coming in chasing 68 to win, no professional team will feel under any real stress, and Alastair Cook and Ian Bell duly knocked off the required runs with ease – although granted, also with no little aplomb. England’s bowlers rode the crest of a wave expertly, but needed to exercise no great ingenuity to earn their scalps. Ultimately, it was difficult to avoid the perception that this match came rather too soon to a state of meaninglessness. There is still some time to go until a World Cup which will be played in markedly different conditions to those which prevailed today. This was the middle match of an early-season series, and it came on the back of Sri Lanka having already achieved a major trophy win this year, with their eyes perhaps a little off the ball as a result. Sport, at its highest level, is defined by pressure, and the reaction to that pressure of its participants. For England at least, today lacked that.
Bring back the Northern soul
It has been announced in the last few weeks that the 2015 Ashes series will feature no Test match north of Nottingham. Even allowing for the arguments of the schedulers that population density demands more matches in the southern regions, that does not seem right. There is great passion for the game in the north of England; and, what is more, England tend to be successful up there. The hosts have strong records in both Test and limited overs cricket at both Headingley and (last Sunday’s result notwithstanding) Chester-le-Street. Old Trafford, meanwhile, the site of today’s game, is England’s best one day international ground amongst the more established venues in terms of win percentage. At the risk of abusing the hoary cliche relating to the grimness of life north of the Watford Gap, it might be noted that today’s game was played under the threat of drizzle, with the cold hands of Lahiru Thirimanne spurning an easy catching chance to dismiss Cook. Carlos Tevez famously didn’t like the weather up here; neither, it seems, did the Sri Lankans.