Tuesday, 27 March 2012

England Play Three Who Spin But None Who Catch

Jimmy Anderson struck
twice early
It was a radical move but the English captain and his selectors, so badly shaken up by the drubbing they received from Pakistan in the UAE in January, chose three spinners for the first of  two Tests against Sri Lanka. Along with Graeme Swann and the resurgent Monty Panesar, left arm orthodox Samit Patel debuted in Galle, meaning Matt Prior would bat at six, with the allrounders Patel and Stuart Broad to be followed by the bowlers.

Sri Lanka won the toss and batted, something which didn't exactly play into England's plans but on a day when only skipper Mahela Jayawardene passed 30 and Thilan Samaraweera was the only other batsmen to bat long than an hour, England bowled well. They made the perfect start, removing Lahiru Thiramanne, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan in the first twenty minutes as Sri Lanka slumped to 3-15. Jimmy Anderson struck twice, being on the hatrick after Thiramanne edged to Swann at second slip and then Sangakkara snicked his first ball to Prior. Jayawardene entered and started resolutely against the hostility and great line from Anderson and Broad. He square cut a rare short ball from Anderson early but then went into a defensive shell as he and Samaraweera started the rescue mission. His second boundary - a six off Swann's first over- came off his 56th delivery and set the tone for a day in which he treated the off spinner with contempt. Samaraweera left at 67 and 29 overs which added only 52 but held England at bay.

Mahela Jayawardene 168x
A series of handy partnerships kept lifting Sri Lanka's cause - 61 with Dinesh Chandimal, reinstated to Test cricket after the Australian tour; 42 with wicketkeeper Prassana Jayawardene, also reinstated; and 62 with Ranga Herath. Jaywardene was superb. After his early stout defence, he blossomed as wickets fell but in doing so took some risks. On 64, he gloved a ball off Swann which Anderson couldn't grab at slip. On 89 he hit a return catch to Anderson who let an easy chance go through his hands. Jayawardene came down the wicket next ball, Anderson dragged it down short to stop him and they picked it out of the crowd at mid wicket. His 8th hundred at Galle was raised a short time later off 200 deliveries. He has more than 2000 runs here at an average of 84, scoring a century here last year against the Aussies. Amongst an array of shots, he was dropped twice more, after the new ball was taken, once of each off the new ball bowlers, Anderson and Broad but both times the culprit was Panesar, who hardy got skin on two easy chances.

Oops Monty - everything
old is new again
The day finished even but despite the quality of the bowling from Anderson and Broad who were threatening and Panesar who was tight, as many of the modern day left arm spinners are. Patel twice got important breakthroughs when they were needed, despite being given far less opportunity than his more fancied spin fraternity. Swann bowled without conviction and his predictability made him an easy target for Jayawardene. Since the Ashes tour, he has slipped dramatically and regardless of ICC rankings, Ajmal, Rehmann, Herath are more effective spinners on current form. In fact, he's not even the best spinner in his team.

England may pay for the chances missed on an opening day where they would have preferred to bat. It would be hard for their own turn to the crease not to be on their minds and not only because of their recent failure against the spin of Pakistan. Apart from Cook's second innings 118 in Galle four years ago, the rest of the batting line up has 89 runs @ 12.7 to show from Tests at Galle Stadium, including ducks in their only innings for Andrew Strauss and Jonathon Trott! With Sri Lanka scoring 100 more than they deserved through English ineptitude and the Pakistan hidings, perhaps the vastly experienced Englishmen might be feeling more like beginners when their turn comes on the second day.