The 1st Test Thread

Morning all. I’ve set up this thread so people can discuss the 1st test as it ebbs and flows. I’ll be updating it with reports as I go along. Instead of doing individual daily reports I’ll post everything here. It’s a bit of an experiment to see what works best.

I can see this turning into an ongoing journal of the action. It might be fun to see how emotions change quickly on the same thread. Feel free to discuss all the action in the comments. Cheers.

Day 1

Shortly after lunch, when England collapsed to 83-5, I was beginning to think that Sanath Jayasuriya was right all along. Maybe Sri Lanka do have the best bowling attacking the world? I’m joking of course. England’s batsmen were to blame for the team’s predicament more than excellent bowling – although the medium paced Shanaka did bowl very well in the conditions. In fact, he brought back fond (or should that be not so fond) memories of Neil Mallender and Tim Munton.

The main culprits were our two best players, Cook and Root. The captain’s wild slash was out of character and a hideous shot. It’s almost illegal to criticise the skipper, especially as he’s about to break a remarkable record, but his dismissal was a total horror show. Joe Root shouldn’t be too pleased with himself either. Perhaps over-confidence got the better of him. The ball wasn’t quite there to drive – especially for a batsman who’d just arrived at the crease. James Vince’s dismissal was quite similar.

The only batsman who can escape blame was the hapless Nick Compton. Anyone can edge a decent ball at the start of their innings but it just seemed so inevitable. The poor guy is woefully out of form and looks like the weight of the world is on his shoulders. It’s no secret that he wouldn’t be anywhere near by preferred England XI, but it’s impossible not to feel sorry for him.

The main talking point yesterday was Alex Hales’ unbeaten 71. Did he play well? Yes I suppose he did. Especially for Alex Hales. He left the ball a lot better than he did in South Africa, and was relatively patient, but I still don’t find him particularly convincing. He just doesn’t look like an opener to me. He’s obviously got a lot of talent, but I think he’d be more at home down the order. After all, that is where he started his career.

It will be interesting to see if Hales can complete his century today. It would be a real feel good story if he did. However, it’s worth remembering that both Adam Lyth and Sam Robson scored their solitary test centuries at Headingley. Runs here, against a very moderate attack, doesn’t mean that Hales has proved his critics wrong. Not yet anyway.

The real star of the show for me yesterday was Jonny Bairstow, who looks like a completely different player these days. The uncertainty has evaporated. Instead he looks composed, positive and full of runs. There was one lusty drive through extra cover, with a free flowing follow through, that had purists drooling. It was a dismissive shot that had high class written all over it. After Ben Stokes unsightly dismissal yesterday – he really is hit and miss – I would seriously consider promoting Jonny to six.

Day 2

Well, Friday ended up being exactly what many of us feared before the series: a one/sided affair in which the hapless Lankans were simply blown away. Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad were simply too good for them. It was a bit like watching Glenn McGrath bowl to England at Lord’s. You thought there might be a wicket every single ball.

Although the Sri Lankans struggled mightily – like many teams from their part of the world do in overcast English conditions – they didn’t do an awful lot wrong. Many of the wicket-taking deliveries were absolute beauties that would’ve dismissed players a lot better than them. Sometimes there’s little batsmen can do against perfectly pitched out-swingers early in their innings.

The bottom line is that this match is likely to finish on Saturday if the weather allows. Unless Mathews plays a blinder and finds an able partner, I can’t see Sri Lanka batting out the day. It’s unfortunate for those of us who wanted to see a contest, but I guess an England victory within three days is what most of us expected.

Before I sign off, I’d quickly like to mention Jonny Bairstow. What an excellent innings. To score half your team’s runs is a brilliant achievement in itself, but when you’ve come in as low as seven it’s sensational. Well played mate. You were completely dominant.

Day 3

Well that’s your lot folks. Sri Lanka’s second innings was much like the first: short and not so sweet. The tourists were completely blown away in bowler friendly conditions. They showed little backbone but they have my sympathy in a way. Not too many sides would’ve survived long out there. An inexperienced team with little batting pedigree stood no chance.

Jimmy Anderson stole the show with ten wickets in the match – the third time he’s achieved this feat in test cricket. He’s irresistible when conditions are just right for him. There was swing and plenty of movement off the pitch. It was a total masterclass.

Personally I hope conditions at Durham in the next test are a little more batsman friendly. This might be wishful thinking, as apparently the sun hasn’t shone at Chester le Streer since 1974, but another totally one sided contest is the last thing test cricket needs. It’s always nice to see England win of course, but it’s not very satisfying when it’s all over in two and a half days. We didn’t even have to work hard for it.

It’s not often that a team wins inside 3 days by an innings after scoring less than 300 in their first dig. On paper it’s incredibly impressive. I’m just not sure what it all means. Are England turning into a very good side or does the result say more about Sri Lanka and the standard of test cricket in general? It might be a combination of all those things to be honest.

James Morgan


  • I fear the England team must have read your column and taken it to heart (*sits down to watch editor’s head swelling*). Very complacent performance yesterday morning and early afternoon. Sri Lanka used the conditions well, but you’d expect seasoned England batsmen (especially Root) to know how to play at Headingley.

  • The thing is with Hales is that yesterdays innings was exactly the kind of innings people who want to write him off say he isnt capable of. He kept his head when everyone around him was losing their’s and eventually found a partner.

    If you want the perfect test opener, well, we dont have one, there isnt one in county cricket at present. I personally am happy to accept Hales is the best of an average bunch…. but the the only way critics are going to be convinced by Hales is if he scores 4/5 hundreds in the next calander year, and frankly, he probably isnt good enough for that.

    The alternative is we just keep giving different openers 7 tests in a row before moving onto the next one, which doesnt seem that appetising.

    • Quite agree Ian. Several openers have been tried by England, a few of them have had a successful start but then have been ‘found out’ as the experts say, and have succumbed to bowlers who know how to bowl to their weaknesses. Seems that Alex Hales has been found out also (they gave him plenty of chances to play unwisely outside his off stump) but he is trying hard to do something about it. Apart from a couple of lucky escapes yesterday, he succeeded. Okay so he may be fortunate that he’s now with a management that will give him a bit more time, but that’s the way life is. I’m a great fan so good luck to him!

    • What you mean getting away with a few flashes outside off stump and nicking it into lucky gaps?? Not to mention the amount of play and misses. His evening session performance was decent but that’s because he was able to hit through the line as it wasn’t moving as much

  • Bairstow played well, but Sri Lanka don’t have 90mph bowlers aiming at his chin. I remain unconvinced that he can deal with these deliveries.

    • But how many test teams have 90mph bowlers? And how many pitches with massive bounce do we play on? Why not focus on what he can do, rather than what he cant?

        • yep. So thats 1 series out of the 12 we play in any given 3 year cycle. And he’s our number 7 batsman, its not like he’d be opening.

          • Jonny played well in South Africa against some good bowling.

            I guess Jonny’s recent transformation should give Hales a lot of hope. It shows that talented players can indeed adapt and come good.

      • You pick the ones who can cope with the best.. Not the ones who can perform vs mediocre but fail when properly tested.. That’s just bizarre

    • Well England would be looking pretty sorry now without him, however unconvinced you might be.
      He can only play the bowlers who are playing.

  • All credit to Hales for his brilliant performance in shoring up the innings but is he not there to score with his customary style and panache? The failings of Cook, Root and the rest put him in a position that is not natural to him. Generally, Hales would be better at 3 which might give him more of a chance to excel at what he does best. Congratulations to him for his concentration and for knuckling down in the way that he did. He exceeded my expectations and probably those of many. He might make a good, dependable test player given time. He is worth persevering with but I have difficulty seeing him as an opening bat. The jury is still out on that. I hope he makes those triple figures because he so deserves it and given the right opportunity he is such an enjoyable player to watch.

    Bairstowe is looking fantastic but I would leave him at 7 which gives him the leeway to concentrate on his keeping. He has made such a transformation with his batting maybe he can do the the same behind the stumps. He has never seemed natural or instinctive there, but who knows. Time will tell.

    I like the thread. Good idea and I hope it works. :)

    • If he’s not much chop as a keeper by his age, then I’d say there is little hope for him so keep expectations low. He’s there for his batting and he’ll do a proper job on that front.

      • Better judges than I disagree with you – and even I can tell that he is improving as a keeper; notably his balance before moving doesn’t leave him flat footed so often when the ball goes the other way.
        For once, the coaching in the England setup seems to be having a positive effect.

  • Know what you mean about Hales, however yesterday was a bowling day and the most impressive thing for me was the way he dug in and didn’t give it away, especially with wickets falling. As Cook’s career shows, temperament is as important as talent, so yesterday was a tick in that box, but his technique has serious issues.

    As far as I can see, his problems arise from planting his front foot down the line of middle and off as the bowler releases which means he has to go at anything outside off with his hands which is why he gets into trouble there.

    I had no problem with Cook’s choice of shot, it was just poorly executed. Not sure what Root was thinking given the situation. Stokes was just a horrible misjudgement.

    Just shows that the dobber medium pacer is as effective a weapon in test cricket as he is in club games.

    • I totally agree re: Hales’ front leg. He’s also prone to moving it a little too much to the left when he’s playing the ball (or just afterwards). I mean after the initial big movement across to the right of course. This gives the impression that he’s getting opened up and turned around a bit. I’ll be keeping an eye on this. It seems to back away to the leg side a tad. Not sure if this is an illusion but it’s something that’s caught my eye.

    • From a different viewpoint, do we reasonably expect a new batsman to hit the ground running? Gooch and Gatting didn’t by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, Hales has technical issues, so does Cook still. I suggest wait and see, with fingers crossed.

  • Do not move stokes. For the love of god don’t. All batsmen are ‘hit and miss’ it’s the nature. Would you rather be just hurdled to a long drawn out 30? He has plenty to learn still but he needs to be no lower than 6. Bairstow much better off at 7

    • From nearly the same number of games, stokes’ record a fair bit better and has turned a game singlehandedly

      • Their test records are pretty much identical thus far. JB has a much better first class average.

        I just think that on current form Bairstow is a better batsman. It doesn’t really matter though. I rate Stokes highly by the way.

      • I think there are good arguments both ways.

        Bairstow, to my mind, is quite capable of batting at five – but that doesn’t mean that he should. One of the strengths of the England lineup is the ability to punish bowling attacks all the way down the order, and Bairstow can make runs quickly enough not to be too concerned about running out of partners.

        Another consideration is their rather different characters. Stokes doesn’t really have the mindset to be able to just stick around, which Bairstow has demonstrated on occasion. Bairstow is therefore more likely to prevent a rampant Stokes running out of partners than vice versa.

  • Its not that Hales is incapable of switching to Test Cricket, its whether he is going to have to make such significant alterations to his technique and gameplan that it makes it impossible to repeatedly switch back and forth between Test Cricket and T20 cricket.

    Some absolutely top-notch batsmen like Root are able to do it, but its no easy task. Buttler’s T20 form dipped significantly during his time in the test team.

    I guess the question is whether its worth potentially compromising one of our best short format batsman in order to try to make him into an average test cricketer?

    • You make a very good point about the difficulties of playing in all three formats. Hales is no Joe Root and personally I think Root is doing too much. The county players have made it known that they dislike constantly switching between the formats.

      The thing about Hales though, is that we are struggling to find an opening bat and he is in position. He wouldn’t be my choice and I think you are right about the danger of compromising his talent in the short form of the game.

  • Urrrggh. Hales gives it away on 86. Poor shot. Comes down the track to Herath, plays the big drive and slices it somewhat to deep extra cover.

    What a shame to get out like that after playing with discipline before. Feel for the lad. To be fair, he was dropped at second slip ten mins early though (playing away from his body outside off). Really looked like it was going to be his day at that point.

  • I thought 298 was probably about par, but it looks like Sri Lanka are Australia in disguise. 12/3 at present.

  • Orr.. England batted poorly and SL are the poor side we knew and will still be thrashed easily ???

  • Anderson has the ball on a string at the moment. They could quite easily make Sri Lanka follow on still. Still a bit reactive with the bowling changes though. The likes of Stokes and Finn have been given an over or two too long in their spells.

  • Our bowlers were just too good for them in home conditions. Anderson and Broad were an absolute handful, and Stokes and Finn also looked good. SL must wonder what hit them. Not too many teams would’ve lived with England today.

    • James, I think you’re wrong. A decent team with test batsmen would have been fine. I doubt the likes of sangakkara, kallis, smith, heyden, ponting and co would have struggled with our pop gun attack.

      Facts are facts, this SL team is really really poor and world cricket is at a 30+ yr low in terms of quality

      • This ‘pop gun attack’ harbours two of the top 5 bowlers in Test cricket. You play what’s in front of you at any given time – this England Test team regained the Ashes last summer and beat SA on their own patch last winter.
        Having read all your comments on this page, what would England have to do for you to give them even the smallest scintilla of credit?

        • Pop gun attack? Interesting description of Anderson and Broad, who are our most successful bowling partnership of all time. I doubt even those with very long memories can remember many better English bowlers.
          And I think we all rate Finn highly?

          • Their reign has come at a time when the standard of test cricket is poor. Batsmen unable to play swing or even the slightest movement, hence they both feast or famine in games generally.. Aka they have hot streaks or don’t do much

            Sure stats say one thing but then stats say balance is nearly world class so we know stats are useless in the modern game compared to before.

            Tbh, I don’t care. Test cricket is in a poor way and if you guys want to wax lyrical about a poor test team thrashing an even poorer team then it just shows that the modern fan only wants to crow about winning and not see high quality competitive cricket

            • Well I’m not doing much crowing. I recognise this is a poor SL team and most counties would beat them. We’ll be tested a lot more Pakistan but the real test for this England team follows with a trip to India , South Africa at home and the Ashes in the space of 15 months.
              Then we will see just how good we are.

              Test cricket isn’t vintage at the moment , its going through a bit of a down cycle, but we were spoiled in the 90’s / early 00’s by probably the best test cricket there’s ever been.
              Remember the 80’s ? The standard wasn’t that brilliant then either.

              I’m in my 4th decade of watching test cricket and I’m sorry but in my opinion we haven’t produced anyone better than Anderson or Broad especially in English conditions.

      • I realise SL aren’t exactly the best team out there (!) but not too many of the Sri Lankan batsmen played bad shots. There were several excellent deliveries that were right on the money, swinging away late. Anyone could’ve edged them. I thought Jimmy and Broad put on a bit of a masterclass. They’ve done this to better teams too. Australia at Trent Bridge being one :-)

      • Facts are facts – and opinions are opinions.
        Your opinion is not (necessarily) a fact.

        While it’s true that there is no current equivalent of the great West Indian fast bowling dynasty, and the two greatest spin bowlers of the modern era are retired, in most other respects I think overall standards are as high or higher than they have ever been.

        • Really?? The quality of batting is better?? Who compares ?

          Kohli isn’t close
          Williamson is good but not that close
          Root is being shown up if it moves
          Warner is a hitter
          The rest as we see, do well on flat tracks but as soon as it spins or swings/seams.. Absolute toast

          Again, I know most of you just like winning but the quality isn’t there which devalues these because it’s predictable that SL were going to get slaughtered. As it was Australia on anything but a road

            • Smith?? Really?? Against a moving ball rather than flat track?

              Ab is more of a white ball player and Amla is a higher end test player but not top class

              • Not really much point carrying on this conversation. You’re obviously just here for the wind up.
                Just go and have a look at Amla & AB’s careers.
                I’m actually questioning whether you’ve ever seen either bat.

              • I have no question where you sit, firmly on side ECB and you obviously enjoy hot and biff players in tests.

                Tests will die with that attitude. As we saw this match, pathetic contest, completely pointless game unless all you want to do is boost avg’s and crow

  • Sri Lanka now 93-5! Oh dear. Well, at least us bowling them out cheaply under grey skies is some compensation for all the times Murali made a monkey of us on spinning tracks in their backyard :-)

  • Interesting article in today’s Times has Collingwood complaining about county funding – and pointing out that Durham and Yorkshire between them have produced as many test debuts as the next four most productive counties.

      • Stop paying players the amounts and especially the administrators and coaches/analysts etc

        Also, stop funding all the jnr sides ‘county/district’ etc.. Players can still be invited to attend coaching but you don’t need to provide all the clothing and travel etc

      • And have been for a while.
        And continue to do pretty well despite that.

        Having to bid loss making amounts for hosting internationals really doesn’t help.


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