I’m writing this with the caveat that I’ve only seen a few of the highlights of the day’s play, so it perhaps won’t be as comprehensive as some of the Test match reports on here!
I think England will reflect on it as a decent but not spectacular performance. Hales, Root and Bairstow all played well but no one was able to go on and make that big hundred that would have batted Sri Lanka out of the game. This is a criticism that I have had with the English batting unit for some time as they’re frustratingly consistently inconsistent. When looking back at many of our victories over the past couple of years, it has generally been our bowling that has won us the game with the odd decent support act from one of the front line batsmen (usually Root). If England do have real ambitions to get to the number 1 test position, then our batsmen will have stand up and be counted on a more consistent basis and that starts with converting those 60’s & 70’s into big hundreds.
Cook and Compton both failed again, with the latter falling to a fantastic catch and the former playing a fairly ordinary shot. I don’t like to ratchet up the pressure on any of our batsmen, but you do feel that Compton needs to score some runs in the second innings to prevent the ‘sack Compton’ campaign going into overdrive, however even then it may prove to be too late. It seems that England on average give our batsmen 15 games to prove themselves as an Test player – Morgan, Ballance and Buttler are all stuck on the 15 game mark (though I hasten to say the latter two still have realistic chances of representing England in the Test arena again). This is Compton’s 15th game today and unfortunately it seems it may be his last. As for Cook, the ‘all praise our hero’ media bandwagon has again had to be tucked away ready for another day.
As for Sri Lanka, they seemed to bowl fairly well as they did at Headlingley and the catches that they took to dismiss Compton and Hales were absolutely top drawer. The pitch doesn’t seem to be doing as much as it did at Headingley and if they can bowl out England for 350 and apply themselves sensibly, then we might actually have a fairly even contest on our hands. I think the morning session of tomorrow’s play will probably be the one that defines this Test Match.
On a final note, do try and listen to Jonathan Agnew’s interview with Graeme Fowler on TMS around cricket and mental health. I thought it was a truly superb interview and Fowler was extremely candid about his experiences of poor mental health. It was also heartening to see Monty Panesar coming out in the press about the challenges he faced with his mental health and how he feels in a better place now. The fact that he has been made an ‘Ambassador for Mental Health’ by the PCA hopefully shows that cricket is finally taking this issue seriously and that players will hopefully have the right structures in place should they find themselves in a similar position rather than being branded as ‘difficult individuals’.
I did say this would be a brief post – Day 2 comments below: