Cricket England v Sri Lanka – Day 4 report
Match result – England beat Sri Lanka by nine wickets
It took a lot longer than expected but eventually England defeated the tourists by a comfortable nine wickets to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the test series. When Siriwaradana was dismissed early in the morning session, Sri lanka were still 83 runs behind and looking down the barrel of another innings defeat. In truth, if Chandimal had not been dropped (a regulation chance) by Bairstow, it is unlikely that England would have been forced to bat again.
However, buoyed by his life, Chandimal played beautifully and was ably assisted by Herath who supplied some expansive stroke play and together they took Sri Lanka to 430. Then Herath was trapped LBW by an excellent Anderson delivery and England managed to take the remaining 3 wickets for 45 runs, leaving a win target of just 79.
Watching England trying to mop up what is undoubtedly a very weak Sri Lankan tail had its uncomfortable moments. The last three Sri Lankan batsmen do not get behind the ball and are ripe for a fast inswinging yorker, the sandshoe crusher as it has been called. However, this was not tried at all and a mixture of length balls outside off stump and the occasional short delivery was allowing the tail to swing freely. One got the idea that Darren Gough in his pomp would have removed the last three Sri Lankan batsmen with very little fuss.
Be that as it may, England made the necessary runs pretty easily although Hales looked very uncomfortable against the spin attack. Siriwardana in his first few overs to him bowled utter garbage but Hales played the ball like it was an unexploded grenade. He eventually fell to said bowler to a very poor shot.
Although this was ultimately an easy win for England, not everything is perfect and there are some issues that need to be addressed. On the bowling front, Finn looks out of sorts. His rhythm is out and he is not delivering the ball with any confidence. His pace when things are right is around 90 mph but, at present, he is 5-8 mph below that and that is a significant differential at the highest level of the game.
Also sometimes England’s bowling attach can look a little one-dimensional on a slow wicket such as Durham. With Finn out of sorts, they did miss Stokes, who can really make the ball swing. The Sri lankan left-handed batsmen were able to leave everything pitched on off stump when delivered over the wicket as none of the England bowlers could get one to straighten significantly. Stokes would probably have been able to introduce a little uncertainty.
On the wicket-keeping front, Bairstow is an excellent batsman, who has made good progress as a keeper but is not a natural. He does struggle a little when standing up to the wicket and when he is wrong-footed eg by an inside edge to an outswinger. The compromise of using Bairstow as an all-rounder does deliver a very long batting line-up for England but, as with all compromises, quality has to suffer. There may come a time where a miss-stumping or a drop could mean the difference between victory and defeat.
On to the batting and Hales and Compton still do not inspire confidence. Yes Hales has scored runs but one must remember this is a weak Sri Lankan pace attack and he did not look comfortable against Herath and Siriwardana and Compton is just not scoring enough. I wonder how they will fare against a stronger attach such as that of Pakistan, who are touring in the second half of summer.
We now move on to the third and final test at the home of cricket, Lord’s. The match will start on Thursday 9th June. Let’s hope we get fine weather and a good fast pitch.