In the end the predicted rain reared it’s head and ensured that there would be no meaningful play on the 5th day, thus ruining the ECB’s desperate sales pitch that all FOUR results were possible today, so come and spend some money please. Whether England could have bowled Sri Lanka out on this pitch or whether Sri Lanka could’ve mustered an unlikely run chase for the victory became a moot point and in my opinion the draw was always the favourite to win out. As I’ve been out at a client event for most of the day and am currently writing this having just got home, it was a little bit of a relief that I don’t have to hunt about to try and watch the highlights this evening to write something a little more substantial about the day’s play itself.
As for the series itself, I’m not sure we learnt anything that we didn’t know before the first ball was bowled. Sri Lanka, like many subcontinent team aren’t great against the moving ball in May, Anderson & Broad continue to perform excellently when presented with these type of conditions and we still don’t have a convincing answer to the number 3 & 5 positions in our batting line up, nor do we have a convincing spinner. Also it also pays for every England player to make sure you’re firmly in the ‘inside cricket’ camp otherwise Newman, Pringle or Selvey will be set loose to attack both you as a professional cricketer and as an individual. That seems depressingly familiar, right? Oh and definitely don’t write a blog that might challenge the combined pearls of wisdom that our traditional press regally hands down to us from upon high, after all we’re the worst of them all, the bilious inadequates. Ca plus change….
On the plus notes from the series, you could clearly argue that Hales has had a decent series and improved enormously from his travails in South Africa when he looked anything but an international batsman. He still isn’t totally convincing as I mentioned last night, but there does seem to be something to work with as we continue to search for a foil for Cook. Woakes also had an encouraging series both with bat and ball and was England’s most potent looking bowler when the pitches at Durham and Lords flattened out. I wrote in my 2nd Test preview that I felt it was now or never for Woakes to show that he can perform at International level and all in all, he did not let himself down. Whether he can become a potent opening bowler for England is still very much open to debate, but he showed glimpses that he can be a reliable first change; Steven Finn will be under the most pressure when Stokes is fit to take his place in this line up.
The final praise must go to Bairstow the batsman (his wicket keeping has been discussed plenty, and despite taking a record number of catches behind the stumps this series, a major rick never seems too far away). Bairstow has been one of the few players to take his county form, where he blew away most county attacks this season and last, into the Test arena and scored the big runs that England have so desperately needed him too. I shudder to think what might have happened had Bairstow not been in the form of his life (coupled with the complete ineptitude of the umpires on show, Aleem Dar excepted) and genuinely feel that we could have been reporting on a completely different series otherwise. Bairstow has without doubt benefited from the positive approach of Bayliss and Farbrace and seems to back his own ability rather than the slightly unsure, technically deficient player that we saw under Flower and Moores. If the England camp does decide to take the gloves off Bairstow (and I’m torn by both arguments), then I hope they continue to give him the olive treatment, as he seems a player that benefits from an arm around the shoulder and a few words of praise in his ear.
As for the white ball part of Andrew Strauss’ SUPER Series (nope still not excited), the 50 over team was pretty much as expected bearing in mind current injuries; however it was heartening to see a couple of new names in the 20 over format. Malan has deserved his call up through sheer weight of runs over the past couple of years and has found some consistency to go alongside the natural talent that he undoubtedly has; whereas Mills is something we haven’t had for a long time, a bowler who can run up and bowl seriously quickly. I really felt for Tymal Mills when I heard that he had been forced to give up most forms of the game due to a congenital back condition, as he seemed like a bowler that had been earmarked for the National team; however he has got on with things and worked on his T20 skills (which were a weaker part of his game) and has genuinely looked like a really threatening bowler in the T20 Blast this season. I hope both go well, if they get the chance.
LCL and TLG will soon be back from their respective jaunts across the other side of the world, so with them back in the saddle, I’m sure it will be business as normal for the blog…..