Well that was about a one sided day of cricket as you could possibly have wished for. Sri Lanka undid all of their good work in the field on Day 1 by dropping 2 dolly’s in the opening hour and then unfortunately the wheels truly fell off. Mooen played beautifully for his century and Anderson & Woakes in particular bowled extremely well, but this was quite horrible from Sri Lanka. They looked like a beaten team going through the motions and wanting to be off the cricket field and back at the team hotel as soon as they possibly could. Whereas you could have some sympathy with the tourists at Headingley when the ball was swinging round corners, there can be no sympathy here, the wicket is flat, the sun was out and there was hardly any swing, just a procession of poor shots from their batsmen.
Angelo Matthews was synonymous of this laissez-faire attitude and he can’t have had too many worse days as captain. From the 2 atrocious reviews in the field (and the equally atrocious review when he had clearly edged it) to the quite baffling field placements when Moeen was batting with the tail. Matthews looked absolutely lost on the field and it brought back memories of Day 4 of the Headingley Test back in 2014 when Cook absolutely lost the plot against the very same opponents. The fact that this Sri Lankan team has regressed so quickly is a sad indictment of the lack of talent they have coming through their domestic system and also clearly shows how much they relied on the superb Sangakkara and Jayawardene. With this Sri Lankan team stripped of these two talents, it looks a long and arduous road ahead for them.
As for Moeen, it was genuinely pleasing to see him convert a score into three figures, which is something he hasn’t done enough based on the talent he has. There is something bewitching about watching him bat from the languid covers drives to the stunning straight sixes he unfurls. Yes, he is slightly inconsistent and yes, you always feel that he could quite easily get out next ball (I don’t think he knows the word leave), but one thing I do know is that he is an entertainer with the bat, and we don’t have too many of them in this current England team. It is interesting that he has made both his century’s from number 7 (which I feel is probably his best position) as he didn’t have to spend most of his innings batting with the tail, the only problem being where do you fit Bairstow and Stokes in this batting line up when they are all fit? I’ll leave that one to the selectors, but in a way it’s a nice problem to have.
It was also good to see Chris Woakes have a positive impact with both ball and bat, though the former was the most important thing in my opinion. I wrote in my preview that Woakes really had to stamp his authority on the game to avoid being branded a ‘county trundler’ and I thought he bowled with decent pace and good rhythm and deserved the wickets that he got. It is clear that he has bulked up from when he first came onto the international scene and he is was the quickest of our seamers today. One swallow doesn’t make a summer and he needs to kick on now and start performing regularly on the International scene, but it was certainly a good to step in the right direction.
The one worry in our bowling unit is Steve Finn, who again looked out of rhythm and un-threatening. When Finn is bowling well, he bowls around 86 mph and hits the wicket hard (I’m afraid the injuries coupled with a certain David Saker have meant that the 90 mph bowler we once had, is sadly no more); however today and to an extent at Headingley, Finn was operating around the 82 mph mark and the ball seemed to be looping out of his hand, making him totally ineffective against what was shell-shocked Sri Lankan batting unit. Finn does seem to be the ultimate confidence bowler and when on form he has the ability to be as good as anyone out there, as he showed with some extremely good bowling displays in the Ashes last year; however when he is slightly out of form or low on confidence, the bowling action seems to fall apart a bit and he becomes almost docile. What you do with Finn at the moment is a tough one for Farbrace & Bayliss, drop him and you risk denting his confidence further or stick with him in the hope he comes good at the risk of carrying a passenger in the field, it’s not a call I would particularly like to make.
As for tomorrow, if England roll out the final two wickets early, then you would expect them to ask Sri Lanka to bat again and there beckons another 3 Day Test, which will also ensure a hefty loss for Durham. Whatever your thoughts on this England team or on Test Cricket in general, days like today are not a good advertisement for the longer form of the game. The reason I fell in love with Test Cricket was the duels and sub-plots of the longer game, the fair battle between bat and ball, not to see a match where one side continues to absolutely hammer another side. Perhaps I am being ungracious and maybe I should be over the moon that England are so in the ascendency in this Test series, but I personally think that rather misses the point.
Anyway Day 3 comments below (and just for WCTT’s information, I have not been paid for this article)…..