Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Crossing the Gulf of Mannar

Not always convincing and certainly not always consistent but an unquestionably successful series against Sri Lanka, in both test and ODI formats. 


A shame that the test matches were so disrupted by rain because the utter dominance of England's batting could have easily forced a whitewash rather than the washout it turned into. Only the amazing collapse of the Sri Lankans gave England a victory at all, despite only being bowled out once in their 4 innings. We scored 496/5d, 486, 335/7d and 377/8d - an average of about 55 runs per wicket. You're not likely to lose a test series doing that. If Bell can keep up his series average of 331 (he was not out 3/4 times), we should be well set. A more telling average is that of Alastair 'Bradman' Cook, who added to his 127.66 average in the Ashes with a somewhat mediocre 97.50 here. If his form keeps tumbling like this I expect he'll be dropped and we can maybe get Ravi opening the batting?


At least the series had various other incidents to keep us interested, Sangakkara's rant/speech (delete as appropriate) about corruption in Sri Lankan cricket and its higher powers; Matt Prior breaking a window at the home of cricket with his bat, oh wait no his gloves, no, his gloves ricocheting into his bat, no I've got it now, he "rested his bat against the wall and it bounced off his other bat and into the window"; and even Aggers attempting to rival the famous "the bowler's Holding the batsman's Willey" with a discussion of the challenges of putting a rubber on.


If we just pretend that the Twenty20 match didn't happen, which I think would be for the best, we then had a fascinating ODI series. Two talented but extremely inconsistent teams made for a real see-saw series. Four crushing victories (two apiece) led to a grand finale at Old Trafford a lot more thrilling than the Champions League final at its namesake. It was positive to see that in a game that ebbed and flowed, England held their nerve to get the result. Defeating the World Cup finalists on a flat, spinner-friendly pitch is not to be taken lightly and should give us a lot of confidence for the rest of the summer.


And so with Sri Lanka finished off and sent packing to the Gaelic countries, we turn our attention across the Gulf of Mannar to another level of challenge. India arrive on our shores for 4 tests and 5 ODI (as well as a twenty20 and a bunch of tour games) looking to inflict on England their first defeat in 9 test series. Then again, the last time we beat India in a test series was in 1996 with Hussain and Atherton in the runs. More than half of their second innings runs came from one man, a little master if you will. At least 15 years later, there's no way he can still be playing to torment us, and I'm sure he'll be pretty rubbish by now even if he is still giving it a go. 


Although there are lots of things to work on, England can definitely be competitive against the ODI World Champions and top ranked test team, India. Cook and Kieswetter are showing very positive signs at the top of the order in one days, we have an extremely strong test middle order with KP, Bell, Morgan and Prior, Graeme Swann has just overtaken Vettori to become the official best one day bowler in the world and there is stronger competition to bowl alongside Anderson than ever, with Broad, Bresnan, Finn, Dernbach and Tremlett all trying to prove themselves. 


I reckon Strauss ought to look ahead with confidence. If he can show some form himself then this could be a massive chance to demonstrate to the world that the Ashes was no flash in the pan and that we're serious about being the best in the world. 


Early prediction, with lots of variables yet to be seen, 2-1 England.

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