Sri Lanka vs England, 2nd Test: Victory

That England took the last three wickets to fall relatively quickly is not so surprising, that England have taken the series reasonably comfortably perhaps is. Sri Lanka certainly aren’t the side they were, and have a better justification for the usual excuse for defeat (“rebuilding”) than most do, but it remains a difficult place to go, as South Africa found to their cost only a few months ago.

England haven’t won an away series of any description for three years, and haven’t won in Asia/UAE for six, so there should be a recognition that this is a meritorious achievement. Perhaps most strikingly, they did so through their spinners, Leach, Rashid and Moeen all performing well, and perhaps surprising a few people. Nasser Hussain won a series as captain there, and observed afterwards that by creating pitches exceptionally conducive to turn, the hosts brought England’s more limited slow bowlers into the game – it may be that the same error has been made here again.

Certainly Leach has come out of the series to date with credit, but Moeen Ali for one has also to some degree answered those who maintained his away record was too poor for consideration. It’s just two Tests of course, and doesn’t alter what went before, but nor can it be ignored when he does do well. As for Adil Rashid, he remains a potent weapon, and if perhaps a luxury at times, that’s what wicket takers often are.

Perhaps the difference most of all was to be found in Joe Root’s century, as is often the case when a standout player raises himself to levels others cannot match. Pietersen did that in Colombo on a previous tour, appearing to be playing a different level to everyone else, and if not quite so startling this time, Root certainly showed he is a player of rare ability. There has been too much focus on his failure to convert fifties into hundreds and too little on his ability in the first place in recent times, a batsman being held responsible for the failures of others.

As for the openers, they have performed creditably enough. In neither case can they be said to have permanently cemented themselves, but equally neither has the Cook of the last few years been missed. In a match where it has been so spin friendly that England’s seamers failed to take a single wicket, to come out on top having made contributions counts as a win on more than one level.

England have endless problems off the field, but at times on it they simply deserve credit. This is one of those. A fine win, and a better series win.

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18 thoughts on “Sri Lanka vs England, 2nd Test: Victory

  1. Gareth Nov 18, 2018 / 2:04 pm

    Really, really enjoyable game of Test cricket.

    I know Sri Lanka are not the team they were, but winning away in alien conditions is always a feat to be applauded. That England have done it with contributions from inexperienced players (Burns, Jennings, Curran, Foakes, Leach) augers well for the preparation and team spirit.

    On that note – its great to see that while England have a plethora of great all-rounders, there is still room for specialists. Openers, wicketkeeper and spinner have all contributed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Benny Nov 18, 2018 / 3:19 pm

    I’m in agreement and like Gareth, pleased to see some specialists succeeding. I’ve seen some comments elsewhere that SL aren’t very good so England winning doesn’t count for much. Rather silly imho. When we beat an underperforming Indian side at home a few years ago and mashed a weak Aussie team, it was cheered.

    Thing is that we are building a new England at last and the players are gaining something very valuable – experience. If Burns, Curran, Foakes, Leach come back feeling at home in Test cricket, the future will be brighter.

    It’s also a big plus that these matches are very watchable

    Like

    • thelegglance Nov 19, 2018 / 11:53 am

      Across all sports, there’s a certain kind of person who can’t accept England have done well at anything. You saw in the football World Cup people queuing up to say England hadn’t beaten anyone decent (while saying they’d lose before they won), and then trying to now claim Spain are rubbish because England beat them, and finalists Croatia aren’t much cop either because they had an easy run to the final.

      These people will never accept England won because they were better. It’s the same with SL how if we win at home it’s because the conditions are alien to them, but winning away it’s because they’re crap.

      It’s tiresome.

      Like

      • quebecer Nov 19, 2018 / 2:56 pm

        Actually, I think to win away from home these days you need quite a few things to fall in to place. This is simply because it seems that if you are away and coming up against a team that is strong and firing, the pitches cross over from fair (like the ones we’ve seen in Sri Lanka) to genuinely favouring the home team to a significant degree (like the ones we had in England this summer), and on top of that you can’t seem to win a toss, then basically, you lose.

        I think in the modern game you need all of the above to not be true to win – or at least give yourself the chance to win if you play well.

        I’m perfectly happy to say that this Lankan team was not the strongest ever, that they are in transition, that players like Kushal Mendis have been off form, their captain has been injured, the left arm leggie they had seems to have disappeared, their best spinner is under a cloud of chucking suspicion, conditions were abnormally in our favour (or, at least, not as against us as they cold have been), and we won both tosses. Because we prepared well, selected the right team, and played well, we gave ourselves a chance to take advantage of these things and took it.

        I remember seeing Mahela Jayawardene on (I think) one of the masterclasses, and the discussion had got to where he was asked how he’d feel if player X in the opposition wasn’t in the team he was facing (asked with the expectation that the reply would be something along the lines of, well, you always want to play against the greatest players), and Mahela giggled and looked at his shoes and said, “Yeah, I’d take that. It’s hard enough as it is.”

        Like

      • Ab Nov 20, 2018 / 11:09 am

        It is true though that Sri Lanka aren’t very good, at least compared to their standard of performance in the 90s and 2000s. This isn’t an anti England agenda, it’s just honest realism. Its delusional to claim otherwise.

        Like

    • Mark Nov 19, 2018 / 12:17 pm

      Benny….“When we beat an underperforming Indian side at home a few years ago, and mashed a weak Aussie team, it was cheered.”

      That’s because Cook was captain. “Redemption for COOOOOK!!!”

      His period as captain marked a time of total insanity in the English cricket media. Normal service of scepticism is slowly rerurning because the English messiah has gone back to farming.

      Like

  3. d'Arthez Nov 19, 2018 / 10:36 am

    Meanwhile in the UAE, Pakistan, chasing 176, collapsed from 130/3 to 164/9. Azhar Ali, in company of Abbas just could not make it. Pakistan all out for 171, and New Zealand win by 4 runs.
    That collapse was due to bad shot selection, and some dodgy running (just one run out though). Yes, the pitch took spin, but was not unplayable by any stretch of the imagination.
    Wagner provided the initial breakthrough, and bowled 13 overs unchanged. Also serious credit to Ajaz Patel, a debutant, who picked up five wickets in the second innings, including the Azhar Ali one – Pakistan can consider themselves unlucky (but so would New Zealand if they could have reviewed it if it was not given), since the pitching in line decision was umpire’s call.
    A good Test, where whenever one side grabbed the advantage, they seemingly were only too eager to try and tip the balance to the other side. As evidenced by New Zealand collapses in the first and third innings (after Watling and Nicholls had put up a century stand in the third innings), and the Pakistan collapses in the second and fourth innings.
    This was anything but a straightforward Test; Pakistan should have won, but the lower middle order and the tailenders did not bother to play to the situation in the fourth innings, and that cost them the Test.

    Like

  4. Edoardo Albert (@EdoardoAlbert) Nov 19, 2018 / 10:51 am

    While it’s too early to be certain, there does seem to be a certain mental freeing up happening in the England set up now Cook has retired. They are also becoming more likeable as a team.

    Liked by 1 person

    • oreston Nov 19, 2018 / 12:19 pm

      It probably is too early to be certain, but that could be the case. If there is something going on I’d say It’s not merely down to the absence of Cook. Broad hasn’t played so far in this series and Jimmy hasn’t featured that much, so perhaps it’s the absence of the old guard collectively and the impact of some really exciting and talented younger players (Curran, Foakes, Burns, Leach etc.) who haven’t been a part of the England setup for long. Also, there’s been a willingness to try something different than just picking four right arm seamers and hoping for the best. So what we’ve seen is something of a revolution in both personnel and strategy. Interestingly though, this has happened without a change of head coach. Does that imply that Bayliss’s contribution is completely incidental?

      Liked by 1 person

      • thelegglance Nov 19, 2018 / 12:21 pm

        There’s a case for saying most coaches have only an incidental contribution – they can make things worse, but substantially better? I remain sceptical.

        Like

        • oreston Nov 19, 2018 / 5:59 pm

          It’s a difficult thing to assess, isn’t it? I remember Duncan Fletcher getting quite a lot of credit for England’s resurgence around the turn of the century and for the 2005 Ashes victory, but would he have succeeded without the players and captains he had at his disposal? Very likely not.

          Like

          • thelegglance Nov 19, 2018 / 6:03 pm

            Very much so – and humans have such a confirmation bias when things either go well or badly, that they point to something involved and assume it was pivotal. So coaches always get the blame or the praise. I’ll kind of take the England football defeat to Iceland as an example – when Roy Hodgson got so much stick. But I’d suggest there that if I’d been the England coach and told the players to “spread out lads”, they’d have won more often than they would have lost.

            Liked by 1 person

          • nonoxcol Nov 20, 2018 / 8:59 am

            Would you have put Harry Kane on corners and left Rooney on until the 86th minute though?

            Hodgson at Euro 2016 made Graham Taylor in Oslo 1993 look like peak Brian Clough.

            Like

          • Mark Nov 20, 2018 / 11:10 am

            Nonoxol, I totally agree……

            Hodgson was completely useless. He should have been fired after the World Cup in Brazil when we came home before the malaria tablets kicked in. The FA stuck by him as he was a company man, and it duly backfired on them with the humiliation against Iceland two years later. There was no system, and he had no clue who is best side was. We ended up with all five strikers on the pitch against Iceland…… mostly playing out of position, and like rabbits in the headlights

            He also seemed a very arrogant man to me, and refused to answer questions afterwards. He did come back the next day for a press conference, but it smacked of complete disrespect to the paying fans. He gave off an air of superiority, which was at odds with his uselss performance.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Mark Nov 20, 2018 / 11:17 am

    I see the Aussies are now thinking of rescinding the punishments they imposed on the players who cheated with the sheets of sandpaper strapped to their fingers.

    Hilarious, and by all accounts because the new look team, with extra special morals, and best mate status is going down the pan. As ever with the Aussies the invisible white line of what is acceptable is once again moving in whatever direction is needed to help them win.

    Hats offf to Mitchell Johnson for coming out and saying they should serve their time. Perhaps he should run Aussie cricket?

    Like

    • dlpthomas Nov 22, 2018 / 1:18 am

      It was the players association that was pushing to get the bans reduced and they had very little support from the media.

      The report into “the culture” of Cricket Australia found it consisted of sycophants and bullies who made it very clear to the players that Australian Cricket teams do not loose. The players association argued that since CA encouraged “a win at all costs” approach, the penalties were too harsh. Or to put it another way, a win at all costs attitude lead to cheating and the players were banned but now the team is loosing so we need to lift the ban so that we can start winning again. Now move on because there is nothing to see here.

      Like

      • LordCanisLupus Nov 22, 2018 / 2:59 am

        I’ve just read Geoff Lemon’s book on the subject. The first half is, frankly, abominable. All the worst traits of Aussie writers who think they are Gideon, and instead come off as poor impersonators. But when he gets off the Ashes and on to the proper stuff, it gets better. I may write a review of the tome, post test match, but what comes off to me is the Aussies just never got that we were laughing at their pompous piety, and not judging at all. Chandimal getting done for ball tampering, lying about it to the bosses, and he got one game. But it was so much more serious because an Aussie did it. Give me a break. Let the Aussies self harm. It’s funny.

        BTW, the book is really good on David Warner. It’s very tough on Steve Smith.

        Like

        • dlpthomas Nov 22, 2018 / 2:05 pm

          I just finished it as well. There are some good bits but I found it really annoying when he would say “what if” something happened such as
          eg what if David Warner was sitting on something so explosive that it would blow Australian cricket wide open if it got out
          eg what if Lehmann knew about the plan to use sand-paper on the ball but the players covered for him. Then when he saw the players fall apart he got so guilty he resigned

          It comes across as if he is making accusations that he can’t back up so he does it in the form of a hypothetical (which shits me)

          The thing that amazes me is that there were so many red flags that Smith was struggling with the captaincy and every-one ignored them. And now people in the media, who should know better, are already talking about him captaining Australia again. I think he has the wrong temperament for the captaincy and I wouldn’t let him anywhere near the job.

          Like

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