England v Sri Lanka: Three talking points as Mathews’ men clinch series
England v Sri Lanka: Three talking points as Angelo Mathews's men win in the one-day international series in controversial fashion
Mathews stands by the Mankad
This match will not be remembered for Sri Lanka clinching a see-sawing series 3-2, for a flicker of form from Alastair Cook, or, for that matter, for Harry Gurney’s two-ball 0* and 0-46. No, it will go down in the record books as the day of the Mankad in the Midlands. The day that Sachithra Senanayake sinned. Having already warned England’s latest great hope, Jos Buttler, once for leaving his crease too early while backing up, the Sri Lankan spinner, with an air of weary minor rebellion against many years of drip, drip persecution, took his opportunity in the 44th over to remove the non-striker’s bails. Umpire Michael Gough gave the visitors’s skipper, Angelo Mathews, the chance to withdraw the appeal, which was not taken, and so Buttler had to go. It all brought to mind, of course, the ‘Spirit of Cricket’, as usual being wielded as a nebulous moral stick with which to beat people who had, strictly speaking, done nothing wrong. In a similar vein, keen observers of English (and indeed sub-continental) cricket will recall England’s second Test against India in 2011. On that occasion, with the ball having apparently run away for four and most of the players beginning to wander off for tea, it was Abhinav Mukund who spotted that Ian Bell was out of his ground and that the ball was still alive. Of course, in the space of twenty minutes back then, a cacophony of boos turned to a chorus of cheers, as Bell emerged again after the interval, reprieved by Indian captain MS Dhoni. And perhaps that is the fundamental point of today’s incident. Mathews had no obligation to withdraw his appeal. He, and Senanayake, cannot be seriously criticised for upholding it. But this was an opportunity to take the moral high ground.
All power to the one they call Pingu
Many observers, both professional and armchair, have speculated in past weeks over the likely make-up of England’s Test squad, to be announced on Thursday. Among the 20 or so names thrown into the mix have been at least three spinners, namely Simon Kerrigan, Scott Borthwick and Moeen Ali. Monty Panesar would probably be in there too were it not for his, ahem, timekeeping issues. Granted, both Borthwick and Moeen have given the selectors a serious nudge this week by way of their performances with the bat. But even so, it seems a little odd that just about the one English tweaker not to have been mentioned in despatches is the man in possession of the aqua blue number 53 shirt in this one day side. James Tredwell has had a notable, if not spectacular, series, a solid addition to his notable, if not spectacular, England career. And today it was his intervention which provided the brief moments of hope for the hosts in Sri Lanka’s run chase, with the dismissal of Tillakaratne Dilshan (to a blistering catch from Joe Root) followed by a ripper to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara, the forgotten centurion from Lord’s. Tredwell is no spring chicken, but then neither is Michael Carberry, and nor, for that matter, was Graeme Swann. His first-class record stacks up comparably against any of his rivals (with a notably better economy rate than Borthwick or Ali), and – let the significance of this not be underestimated – he has shown himself worthy at international level. He is not the exciting, forward-thinking choice which, say, Buttler may represent behind the stumps, but England could do a lot worse.
Have a little patience
Once upon a time, not too long ago in fact, 250 was a good score in a one-day international, certainly in England. 220 wasn’t peanuts. But such has been the change in scoring rates and batting expectations in both Test and limited-overs cricket in the last 20 years or so that, if it weren’t for the coloured clothing, the white ball, the lights, the music between overs – okay, if it weren’t for a lot of things – this could have been a Test match. Cook’s 56 took up 85 balls – a strike rate of 66, almost unheard of these days – and after an initial flurry when Sri Lanka came to bat, for the period between one edge which would have gone straight down the throat of halfth slip but which both Buttler and Chris Jordan waved on through, and an odd lollop up in the air which was safely claimed by James Anderson, Mahela Jayawardene was the very definition of ‘positive but watchful’. It didn’t feel like the same sport which we had been watching at Lord’s. Some might call it boring. For others, though, this was the true start of summer.