You can look at it two ways: England shaded a
typically topsy-turvy series in characteristically mercurial fashion; but
equally, they showed a newfound ruthless edge to clinch a tight challenge.
Sri Lanka are officially (well, according to those ICC
rankings) the fourth best side in pyjama cricket, while England are one place
lower: it was always supposed to be a finely balanced series, and so it proved.
The hosts showed their composure in the final
encounter of a five-match money-spinner which failed on the most part to seize
the public's imagination, but which ended with an engrossing finale at one of
the country's increasingly neglected grounds, Old Trafford.
As far as one off matches go, this was a classic: the first
international game at the ground since the pitch was flipped 90 degrees to stop
the setting sun getting in the eyes of the batsmen with fine weather and a
pitch which implored the use of as much spin as possible.
will be made of the fact that England next take on world champions India and
subsequently are yet to face their stiffest challenge of a long and arduous
summer of cricket.
But let's not
forget the fact that Sri Lanka were the runners up in the recent ICC festival
of fun on the subcontinent and represent a mighty fine scalp for an England
side which has been on the wrong end of Messrs Muralitharan and Jayasuriya for
many a year.
It would be all
too easy to note the key lessons England have learnt over the last
five ODIs, and so that is exactly what Cowers will do...
1. Stuart Broad is not an
integral component in the England machine. For a long
time now, it has been said that Broad is 'undropable' - that as an all-rounder
his skills are far too priceless to be spurned in favour of a less versatile
cricketer. The blond Cosmo pin-up will be back, make no mistake about it, but
today won't be the last time that he is omitted.
2. Samit Patel may not be fit,
but he is mighty effective. England have finally got over
the fact that, no matter how many warning they give him, Patel will never be
prepared to shed the excess timber he carries around his midriff. Regardless of
what that shows about the Notts man's commitment, there is no doubt that he is
a very important asset for the squad.
3. Kevin Pietersen is currently
on his eighth life as an England ODI cricketer. There is only
so long that anyone can go without scoring runs consistently as a frontline
batsman. Pietersen has not performed with the bat for England for a very long
time and his stats are not remotely pretty. Andy Flower is near the end of his tether
- he has the India tour to survive.
4. Timmy Bresnan has to be taken
seriously as a frontline bowler in ODIs. When will
Bresnan get the recognition he deserves? Another sterling display with the ball
saw the Yorkshireman take the wickets of the top three Sri Lanka batsmen. But
for a shocking dropped catch from Jade Dernbach, he would have claimed the
scalps of the entire top four.
5. Alastair Cook can not only bat
in pyjama cricket, but keep his cool as captain. Yes, every
move Cook makes in the field will be heavily scrutinised; and yes, every time
he fails at the top of the order his merits will be questioned. But Cook's 95
at Trent Bridge was a truly inspired knock and his maturity and cool head as
leader in the field at key points was admirable.
6. Graeme Swann is the best
one-day bowler in the world. Okay, so this is already borne
out as fact with the official rankings, but Swann's mere presence prompts a
palpable tension to affect the opposing batsmen in the middle overs and the
spinner consistently performs for
England when they find themselves under the cosh. He is worthy of his lofty
status, no doubt about it.
7. Jonathan Trott should be
embraced for the essential player he is. Still hugely
unpopular, Trott's style of play and mannerisms at the crease continue to see
him derided and his innings much maligned. The stats bear out that he is
England's best player, and his 72 in a fragmented, stuttering England innings
rightly saw him claim the man-of-the-match award in the crucial deciding match of
8. Jade Dernbach has the
temperament to excel at the top level. The Surrey
Brown Cap dropped an absolute clanger to deny Bresnan of the key wicket of
Mahela Jayawardene, but he showed his solid mentality and strength of character
by responding to take two crucial late wickets and end the match as England's
most economical bowler.
And for Sri
Sangakkara will be a huge loss upon his retirement and his wisdom and common
sense simply HAS to be respected and welcomed within the Sri Lanka cricket set
up. Players, and leaders, of his calibre do not come about very often. *
USER COMMENT OF THE DAY:
best ever ODI squad in terms of averages (who have played 10+ games) would be
Batting: Trott, Amiss, Morgan, Pietersen, Lloyd and Knight...bowling would be
Gough, Anderson, Botham, Flintoff and Swann....what a team!!!! (AJ).
SHOT OF THE DAY: Not much
was expected from Sri Lanka number 10 Lasith Malinga as he came to crease to
face the final ball of Jimmy Anderson's 10th over, but he shimmied down the
wicket and bludgeoned a heroic six over long on.
STAT OF THE DAY: 14 for three in the
batting powerplay followed by 35 without loss in the bowling powerplay. Perhaps
England should just forget about taking their batting powerplays early and
realise that it simply does not work for them.
TWEET OF THE DAY: "Gutted not to be
playing today but taking full advantage of being told to get my feet up!!" (Stuart Broad, pictured below) enjoys a day of Cream Soda and Toblerome.)