Wednesday, 28 March 2012

England's Brittle Batting Galle(ing)

Rangara Herath 6-74
Sri Lanka added just 29 on the second morning and Jimmy Anderson claimed the last two wickets to finish with five. His victims included Mahela Jayawardene, who rode is luck through an innings of 180 which rescued his side.

The English turn at the crease was simply a continuation of the form they showed against Pakistan a month ago. Apart from Ian Bell, who looked all at sea early on but blossomed once he found the confidence to get down the wicket to Ranga Herath, the rest were an ordinary bunch. At 6-92 in the 27th over with Herath having four of them, England were dreadful. Had it not been for 8 to Jack, they might not have made 120. As it was, 193 was a disastrous lead to hand to Sri Lanka on a pitch which isn't just taking turn from the foot marks but is dry and dusty and the ball is regularly going through the surface.

Alastair Cook, the only batsmen in this side with more than 40 runs in Galle, was plumb to a ball from Lakmal which moved in at his pads from off stump for a rare duck (only his fourth in 132 Test innings). Trott was out in a farce worthy of the Pythons, running down the pitch to Herath, missing a full toss, being stumped by Prassana Jayawardene and then in his hurry to turn and get back, head butting the keeper's gloves and knocking himself flat on his back! So much for poise and grace. Andrew Strauss swept at a full delivery from Herath, was given not out by Asad Rauf but was marched on review. Kevin Pietersen pretty much bowled himself, playing loosely to an ordinary ball outside off stump from Welegedara and inside edging back onto his stumps. Prior went right back to his stumps and missed and new boy Samit Patel did the same, both to Herath.

Ian Bell found some confidence
Bell found support from Stuart Broad (adding 30) and Swann (adding 35), before he and Swann left in consecutive overs. Bell, for all his good work, played inside a straight ball from Herath, perhaps looking for monsters and finding teddy bears and was bowled. Monty Panesar and Anderson added a very useful 36 for the last wicket. Herath finished with six, four of them lbw, part of a group of six lbw decisions for the innings and not a local umpire in sight to blame.

Sri Lanka had the same poor start as the first innings, this time 3-14 and Jayawardene among them. Swann was on early, replacing Anderson after only two overs and made an immediate impact. He bowled Lahiru Thiramanne with a ball that dipped rather than turned and Jayawardene edged a straight ball to Anderson at slip. Samaraweera lead the resistance, losing Kumar Sangakkara along the way. Samaraweera had looked untroubled by any of the bowlers but an error in judgment rather than any great deception saw him advance down the wicket and miss a ball delivered around the wicket from Swann and Prior effected the easiest of stumpings. Randiv, the number 8, came out as night watchman to protect Prasanna Jayawardene, the No 7. Go figure.

Swann gets Jayawardene
caught by Anderson at slip
Sri Lanka lead by 209, with 25 wickets falling in the first two days (17 of them today). Given the low confidence in the England camp and the fact that no side has ever chased a total over a 100 at Galle and won, it seems obvious that Sri Lanka might already lead by enough. In fact, the highest fourth innings total at the ground in any of the 19 Tests played here was Sri Lanka's 253 in losing to Australia last year. England made 9-210 nine years ago when they just managed to hold on for a draw. Showers are predicted for each of the next three days but not enough to save Strauss' men. No, it will be win or die for England at a time when they have failed to pass  200 in five of their seven Test innings following a five month break from Test cricket.

Should Sri Lanka win here and and next week in Colombo, England will return home for their summer and a show down with South Africa as the No 2 team in the world. That wasn't a scenario their planning expected in mid January.