The 2nd Test Thread

So here we go again. It’s time for the most eagerly awaited test match since last week. Will the weather hold? Will Nick Compton get off the mark? Will Alastair Cook score the twenty runs he needs to reach 10,000? And will Sri Lanka make it past lunch on Sunday? All these questions, and plenty more, will be answered in the coming hours. It might even be remotely interesting.

The big news so far is that Chris Woakes has been preferred to Jake Ball (or so it seems). That means England will retain exactly the same balance that has served them well in recent times. We’ll just have to wait and see exactly where Woakes bats. My best guess is that he’ll come in at 8, with Bairstow and Ali moving up a spot. If Woakes bats at 6, Mo’s blood pressure might make it above 120 over 80 for the first time in history.

Although the outcome of this test is probably a foregone conclusion, the interest lies in seeing how individuals get on. Nick Compton and Alex Hales are still very much under the microscope. Although the latter got runs at Headingley, let’s not forget that both Adam Lyth and Sam Robson made their test centuries there. The pressure will become excruciating again if he fails twice in Durham. As for Compo, I suspect he’ll need to look good, as well as making a couple of scores, to silence the summer whines.

Personally I’m looking forward to seeing if Hales leaves the ball as well as he did at Leeds. Then again, it might’ve been a different story had Sri Lanka set their slip cordon differently and held their chances. The weather for the next few days is likely to be overcast, so there should be plenty of swing to contend with.

Talking of swing, all eyes will be on the aforementioned Woakes too. If he doesn’t take wickets at Durham, when conditions should be tailor made for him, it’s hard to see where he’ll make an impact.

Although I’ve had doubts about Woakes in the past, I think he’s worked hard at his game and deserves another chance to impress. After all, Glenn McGrath only took 13 wickets in his first 6 tests. Everyone needs time to settle in and prove themselves.

Please add you comments below as the game progresses. I’ll add my daily reports to this post as we go along too. Cheers.

Day 1

It was a day of steady progress for England on Friday. The day could have been better – credit to Sri Lanka for pulling off some sensational catches – but ultimately I think we put enough runs on the board. And so we should have. Sri Lanka’s bowling was about as threatening as a four year old girl running around a Maypole.

The main talking point of the day – other than Cook’s surprise decision to bat first – was Alex Hales again. How do you think he looked? I thought he left the ball well, looked relatively solid in defence, and played some very handsome shots. In between these, however, there were still a few awkward moments. I’m not sure exactly what he’s proved, because we already knew he could play against county standard bowlers, but I guess these runs boost his confidence for sterner tests ahead. Whether he has the technical prowess to sustain a run in the team at test level remains to be seen.

The contrast between Hales and poor Nick Compton was stark. Everything’s going for one of them; the other looks like a tortured soul living in a world of pain. Once again Comp Dog looked tentative and his dismissal seemed to sum things up: a half-hearted pull shot that he top edged into the sky. Nobody was surprised when deep square leg pulled off a cracking catch. That’s how it goes when you can’t buy a run.

As for our other batsman, Alastair Cook edged one to second slip in a fashion we’ve seen many times before. It was a shame as he’d looked positive up to that point and looked certain to make the twenty runs he needed to reach 10,000.

Joe Root played superbly – he looks a class apart – but had a brain fart and lobbed a simple catch to short extra cover. He was absolutely furious with himself as he missed the opportunity for a cheap test century. Jonny B also looked good but got out just before he registered yet another half-century.

Moeen Ali also played a solid innings. He curbed his natural aggression and played a really sensible knock at an important time. Mo looks determined to make the most of his opportunity batting at seven. There were none of the loose swishes that have brought him so many runs, and a series of daft looking dismissals, in the past. I hope Woakes gives him some support this morning and we see an innings of real substance from the most stylish left-hander in the land.

In ordinary circumstances, a score of 310-6 would leave the game delicately balanced. Unfortunately however, Sri Lanka’s batting has looked so feeble that I suspect we’ve got enough runs on the board already. We shall see. Maybe one of their batters surprises us and Mathews makes a biggie? I doubt it but stranger things have happened.

Day 2

The second day was all about two players, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes. The former batted sublimely. He knuckled down to begin with, as if he wanted to show everyone that he can play like a proper batsman after all, and then accelerated beautifully thereafter. He completely demoralised the hapless Sri Lankans, who were absolutely murdered by Mo’s free-flowing bat. Is there a better player to watch in the country? I can’t think of one.

Although the Lankans dropped Mo twice, once when he was building his innings and a second time when the damage had already been done, this innings was a superb achievement for a lower-order player under pressure. Without Moeen, England could have been bowled out for 300 or 350. Yes, it was only Sri Lanka, so perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into things, but it’s worth remembering that Mo played some extremely valuable cameos against Australia last summer too. He can be a little streaky at times, but he’s box office. in my opinion. He even bowled tidily at the end of the day.

As for Chris Woakes, what an uplifting performance. He batted solidly – he looks better than some specialist county batsmen – and was an absolute revaluation with the ball. We wanted to know if he could be effective in conditions that suited seam bowling, and now we have our answer.

What impressed he most about Woakes’ performance was his pace. Broad’s speeds were down a bit (as happens to Stuart occasionally) and Steve Finn also looked a bit out of sorts. Therefore Woakes was England’s quickest bowler on display. According to Joe Root, he’s also the quickest England bowler to face in the nets.

It will be interesting to see whether Woakes can bowl above 85mph consistently over a long period of time, or whether he’s just giving it everything at the moment to prove a point. Ryan Sidebottom was never particularly quick at county level, but seemed to find an extra gear for England. The problem was that he ended up bowling himself into the ground on some occasions and picked up quite a few niggles. We’ll see what happens to Woakes.

I’ll sign off by making a quick, and pretty damning, observation about Sri Lanka. They were absolutely appalling yesterday and looked nothing like an international team. The wheels really came off. The bowling was completely toothless, the fielding an absolute embarrassment, and Mathews’ captaincy made Alastair Cook circa 2013 look like bloody Mike Brearley.

Are Sri Lanka the worst test team to tour England for a decade? I’m beginning to think they are. I really can’t think of a team with a weaker pace attack and a more fragile batting order. It’s a real shame and I feel for them. Touring England is a tough brief for any rebuilding side. Touring England up north, at the beginning of the summer, is even tougher. This series has been a complete mismatch.

Day 3

So Sri Lanka finally decided to show up. Thank heavens for that. Our bowlers finally had to put a shift in and didn’t have things all their own way. Congrats to the likes of Silva, Mathews and Chandimal for prolonging the game into the fourth day. Yes, it’s much easier to score runs when the game is effectively up, and there’s very little pressure, but at least they showed some pride.

Yesterday I speculated whether Sri Lanka were worst team to tour England in a decade. I still don’t think they’re particularly good, but at least I’m a little more optimistic about their future. Silva saw off the new ball and looks like a compact and organised opener, Mathews showed his undoubted class, and Chandimal finally played some of his trademark shots. Let’s not forget that Mendis has shown promise on this tour and Thirimanne can stick around too. Perhaps things aren’t looking completely bleak after all.

As for England, we finally started to learn a few things – or perhaps I should say ‘reminded’ of a few things. Nobody has ever claimed that we’re the finished article, and yesterday proved yet again that we’re not. Although we have two fine opening bowlers, the attack still lacks genuine pace and a world class spinner. Consequently we sometimes struggle when the pitch is flat and batsmen get their heads down – just like most teams in the world in fact.

Although Steve Finn’s lack of rhythm has attracted the most attention, I was actually most disappointed by Stuart Broad’s pace. When Broady’s tail is up, he consistently bowls in the high 80s. Yesterday his average was just 82. It reminded me of that Oval test in 2012 when the South Africans racked up 637-2. Broad simply isn’t effective when he’s bowling medium pace. Is he injured?

Finn himself was painful to watch. His action is terrible, his confidence looks shot, and the mental demons have resurfaced. We all know that Finn is a real handful when he’s bowling well, but he exasperates me at times. I was really excited when he emerged on the scene as a genuine 90mph bowler, but he’s nowhere the near the world-class operator I hoped he’d become.

Don’t get me wrong, Finn is still a very useful bowler. Cricketers are human and it’s unrealistic to expect them to perform brilliantly every time. What frustrates me so much about Finn is that his ceiling is so high. When he’s on song his absolutely awesome. But when things are going badly for him – and you can tell he’s thinking about things far too much – his bowling is a sorry sight. England’s management will be tempted to pick Jake Ball ahead of him at Lord’s.

It will be interesting to see if Sri Lanka can make England bat again on Monday morning. I guess much will depend on the atmospheric conditions. If it’s overcast, I expect Jimmy Anderson to clean up the tail pretty quickly. If not, and Sri Lanka set England a small total to chase, Alastair Cook might reach his 10,000 run landmark in front of two men and a spaniel. I’m sure he’d much rather do at Lord’s with a full house and the MCC members there to congratulate him.

Day 4

Victory is finally ours. It was a bit of an anticlimax in the end though. It was rather sad to see Sri Lanka pile on the runs again during the morning session. With the exception of Jimmy Anderson, who bowled beautifully, our other bowlers looked toothless on what turned into a very flat pitch. England just seemed to run out of ideas. It was a bit depressing.

The big talking point for me was the performance of Jonny Bairstow behind the stumps. Had he caught Chandimal in the first hour it would have been a completely different story. Instead he made a right hash of a regulation chance and Sri Lanka were temporarily off the hook.

It was a terrible drop. His foot placement looked wrong, and his weight was too far to the off-side; therefore when the ball took the inside edge he was unable to move back ever so slightly to his left to bag the catch. It looked very amateurish. Poor Jonny’s batting has come on leaps and bounds but his keeping still looks dodgy. He missed a difficult, but entirely gettable, stumping on day 3 too. The chorus calling for England to select the best pure keeper in county cricket is only getting louder.

When England finally wrapped up the innings, Sri Lanka’s lead had extended to 78. We knocked off the runs easily as expected. After all, the pitch had few demons by this stage. Hales was dismissed cheaply but Cook and Compton saw England home without many alarms. The latter even looked quite composed.

So England head to Lord’s with a 2-0 lead. It’s what everyone expected but I don’t think many predicted that Sri Lanka’s batting would improve so dramatically in the second innings. Their batsmen seem to be batting further across to the off-side, so they’re finding it easier to leave the ball. When England bowl straighter to target the stumps, they picked us off on the leg side. It’s not a particularly revolutionary way to play the swinging ball but it’s proving effective for now. Hats off to Graham Ford I guess.

I should quickly mention that Alastair Cook finally reached his landmark of 10,000 test runs during England’s mini-chase. Predictably there was much rejoicing. I’ll be writing about Cook’s fine achievement later today (stay tuned for that) but I think I can summarise it thus: whatever one thinks of Cook, and no matter how much critics point to weaknesses, he’s been a real stalwart for England over the years. To score the amount of runs he has, and play for one’s country for over a decade, takes amazing resolve, longevity, fitness and talent too. Congratulations.

James Morgan


  • With Sri Lanka having lost a couple of their leading seamers Prasad and Dushanta) and
    England having won the toss, I would expect a very big score and that there may not be much play for the bank holiday.

    As I type, England are 11-0 off 7 overs, a steady start, as was the case at Headingley. Doesn’t look as though there is that much happening for the Sri Lankan seamers. Then again it is probably that they don’t really have the ability to make the most of what may actually be there.

    • If England truly do want to develop an effective squad of players, then they need to be more ruthless with their selection policy. Finn had no real impact on the last game: his bowling style is more suited to southern pitches, where he can bang it in shorter and trouble the batsmen that way. It was clear that Durham would have the same sort of pitch, but they stuck with him anyway. Players like Jake Ball have earned a go against a very weak Sri Lanka side, and yet they are being deprived because of very conservative attitudes which remain in the background at the ECB. He will no doubt be thrown into action on a slow, spinning pitch in India this winter and then criticised relentlessly.

  • I’ve switched TMS off even though I’m on my own in the Office today and the Boss does not approve of the Radio on when he’s there.

    I Just don’t want to hear the Orgy of Congratulations when the Anointed One, St Sir Alistair the Magnificent get his 10,000 Runs and the plaudits of a grateful and prostrate Nation!

  • Just Heard – Now I can turn back on again – The ungrateful Lakmal has deprived the Man of his moment!

    • I agree the Cook adulation is likely to be a bit OTT but he’s played for the best part of a decade and served his county really well on the field. It’s a fine achievement to score 10k runs and he’s played brilliantly in Asia.

      • Hello there James

        Sorry if I went a bit OTT over Cook.

        I was brought up in an era when Sir Geoffrey getting over 8,000 Test Runs was lauded as a magnificent achievement, so to get 10,000 + deserves a tremendous round of plaudits and I wouldn’t be so negative as not to shake his hand and congratulate him over his achievement – There was a time when I was a great supporter of his.

        However, his (alleged) behaviour over KP and the the way the Cricket Establishment, particularly Giles Clarke and Andrew (****) Strauss practically fell over themselves to support him, dismissing those of a contrary disposition as being “Outside Cricket”, soured matters for me to this day-Still love the Game, TMS , Glamorgan and England, but I am more detached and less partisan about appreciating the finer parts of a Team performance.

        • I’m sure you’re not alone Andrew :-) I completely understand where you’re coming from.

      • Where’s the next Test match again?

        No, he isn’t, is he? Deliberately getting out here just to milk the applause from the members? Just not the same on a cold morning in Northumberland, is it?

        He wouldn’t.

        But the fact that it’s even slightly possible that somebody might think that – somebody not given to conspiracy theories as a rule – doesn’t reflect well on the dear leader. Or his employers.

        • It did cross my mind that Cook could pass the record at HQ in front of a packed Saturday crowd with the MCC members looking on! I’m sure he hasn’t planned it that way though. I really don’t think he craves the limelight that way. Usually seems awkward when in front of the cameras etc.

  • Contrary to all the doubters, that man Hales seems to be trying to show the captain how to play a proper opener’s innings…

    (Fingers crossed I haven’t just jinxed him.)

    • I just cannot see how to judge him against the SL seamers. He seems to play defensive back foot shots with limited movement back (often he seems in a back foot body position but a foot further forward in the crease than normal). This is fine against medium pace but I fear it would be rapidly dismantled by a 90mph bowler. I know he has a good eye but a test opener needs to be technically sound against true pace. Perhaps he can make this work against the real quickies – but why not move fully back if needed?

      • It was a curious inns again from Hales today. At times he looked pretty good. He obviously plays handsomely off the back foot, but once again looked vulnerable when the ball moves back into him. He left the ball well when it moved away though. I agree it’s hard to tell against this extremely limited attack. It’s division one championship standard imho.

  • I reckon Cook is going to get to 10,000 runs, then reveal he’s actually been right-handed all along, and his incredibly ugly technique has just been all part of a big wind up. He will then turn round right-handed and start batting like KP.

    • Agree with the bit before the first comma… but after that, I think it more likely that the search for a reliable opening partner for Hales commences.

  • Barely seen a ball today, looking forward to blue skies tomorrow and a Moeen hundred..

    • Scratch that. Looks like leaden skies until mid afternoon. Smash quick runs and get bowling.

    • Well we got the Mo hundred
      Chuffed to bits for him, one of my favourite players.
      He gets a lot of stick for his batting but he’s a wonderful strokemaker.

      • You missed the wafts and nicks then?? Guy is looser than the local bike!!

        This ‘test’ series is pointless.. Runs are stupidly easy to come by so tell us nothing, sl can’t bat at all so bowling is telling us nothing. Oh and sl’s bowling is clubbie in standard.. Shambles

        This is a disgrace for an excuse of test cricket. Farcical. It’ll continue tests dowmward trend as anyone other than hard core win and all costs people will be turned off by a non contest.

        • That’s Mo in every innings. We all know that, he’s very frustrating in that sense. But I’ve watched him for years and love watching him bat. Just sorry you don’t share the same enjoyment and look for the positives

          • No point being positive if you can see the issues plain to se that will prevent him doing. Any good against a decent attack (when it’s not a feather bed!) . That’s not positive, that’s reckless and short sited. Sure he’s ‘elegant’ in stroke play but hes technically not capable sadly so to persist or even laud him as some top batsmen is simply bemusing

  • Terrible as Sri Lanka were today, it was still a gem of an inns with some lovely stroke play. The way he ground it out for his first 50 and then put his foot down therefore was excellent. Proved that he can play like a proper batsman when needed. Well done Mo. He bowled tidily too at the end of the day.

    • Again, did you miss the wafty shits outside off that against decent bowling and catching would have seen him dismissed numerous times… People seem to forget the poor shots and just focus on ‘book says runs’.. He isn’t a top,six batsmen and never will be, way too loose. SL are a clubbie attack and he’s milked some runs.. Get some perspective.. This is like me turning up against a 5xi and plundering runs.. Utterly pointless runs

      • I’m not saying Mo will suddenly metamorphose into a world class test batsman, but that’s not really his brief. He’s there to score valuable runs down the order and he cashed in when others failed to do so. It’s hard not to applaud him for that. He can only play the bowling in front of him.

        • He’s now passed 1,000 runs and averaging close to 30. Decent for a number 7/8 surely?

          • Definitely. England’s 9, 10 and 11 rarely stick around for long, especially after Broad was hit on the head, so Moeen has to take risks and try to cash in while he still has company. I think he’s done ok in his career to date personally. You don’t find too many 8s averaging 30.

      • “did you miss the wafty shits outside off …”
        That’s no way to talk of Sri Lanka’s slip cordon.

  • I hope Woakes gets first use of the ball today, and a chance to scoop some tail-end wickets.

    That was an excellent spell from him yesterday, pleased to see a very likable and talented cricketer contribute with bat and ball.

  • Pleased for Moeen and Woakes but finding it hard to get excited given the paucity of the opposition and the somewhat predictable match situation. We haven’t even had a full- blooded England batting collapse to amuse/enrage us – just the unedifying spectacle of two England batsmen failing (neither for the first time) but once again only one of them copping criticism or having their place in the team questioned.

    • I share most of your feelings apart from your comment on the two noteable batting failures.

      The difference is that one of them is the captain coming very close to scoring 10.000 runs while the other one isn’t.

        • When a test opening batsman averages just 21.5 over his most recent 10 innings, surely his form must come under some scrutiny?

          • Is that right re: Cook? I didn’t realise his form was that poor. He hasn’t looked particularly out of sorts.

            • Unfortunately the figures don’t lie. Below are his most recent 10 test innings.

              Against South Africa:-
              Durban 1st innings: 0
              Durban 2nd innings: 7

              Cape Town 1st innings: 27
              Cape Town 2nd innings: 8

              Johannesburg 1st innings: 18
              Johannesburg 2nd innings: 43

              Centurion 1st innings: 76
              Centurion 2nd innings: 5

              Current series against Sri Lanka:-

              Headingley 1st innings: 16

              Chester-le-Street 1st innings: 15

              Total runs: 215
              Not out: 0

              • Well it’s not the first time he’s had a bad run. And yes I agree it gets overlooked. On previous occasions he’s looked technically all at sea though. I can see runs in him this time. Nothing fundamentally wrong from what I can see.

              • Well maybe he’ll post an imperious double century at Lords. I would add, “to silence his doubters” but that’s really my point: he’s not even remotely as consistent as he was a few years ago and is just as often part of the “problem” in our continuing opening partnership travails as whoever comes through the revolving door at the other end, yet there are never any doubters in the media. I agree though: from what little I’ve seen he doesn’t look like he’s struggling particularly. But then, unlike other players, he knows he’s not going to come under any pressure for his place, doesn’t he?

              • I would imagine that Cook puts himself under pressure. Too much if anything, this 10,000 saga may be getting to him. Sky/Nasser aren’t helping, what’s this interview all about. Its the kind of thing you do when you are retiring.
                Hopefully he’ll get them today, and everyone can move on.

  • I have just watched the Sky lunchtime piece on Murali and cannot believe the outright lies from Gower et al. The piece focused on the chucking controversy and the calls by Ross Emerson in 1999 (although it could equally have cited Darryl Hair in 1996). It claimed Emerson was proven to be wrong in his throwing call by subsequent scientific tests. This is libellous to Emerson. In 1999 the limit for spinners was 5 degrees of flex. Murali was tested at 11 degrees (Murali states that his arm is naturally bent at 27 degrees and extends to 38 degrees in delivery). The authorities than chose to extend the limit for all bowlers to 15 degrees in 2003 (it was already 15 degrees for quickies), largely because testing showed most bowlers exceeded 5 degrees of flex. So Emerson was right to call Murali under the rules at the time.

    I agree with the extension of the limit to 15 degrees for spinners. It has made for more variety and interesting cricket. However, professionals and commentators should check their facts. Gower and the producer of the piece should be sacked by Sky for incompetence.

  • A bit of resistance this innings from Sri Lanka, which is good to see. Silva playing a fine hand yet I guess that it is a bit of locking the stable door after the horse is bolted.

  • Agreed. Good to see that SL finally found their backbone. England had to work hard today. That’s the way it should be. I guess it’s easier to play when you’re so far behind (there’s no pressure when the game is up) but it should give them a little confidence for Lord’s.

  • SL might not the the strongest team, but I wonder how much of their dismal performance in heir first three innings of the series can be put down to needing to acclimatise to conditions (the north of England in May) that you don’t really see anywhere else in the world on the test circuit ?
    Now they’ve played themselves in, they don’t look quite so bad.

    • I do agree. I went to uni at Lancaster and dreaded the May games against Leeds and Bradford (and Newcastle on one occasion). The trip across the M62 with frozen waterfalls down the side of the cuttings in what the rest of the country thought was the start of summer…. Goodness knows how much worse it is in Durham. :)

  • Well, we got the win in the end. I’m glad SL made us work for it on what turned into a flat pitch. And of course Cook managed to reach his landmark too. A fine achievement whatever one thinks of past events and how good a player one really thinks he is. To be so productive for so long makes him a player to be admired. I’ll have an article on his achievement tomorrow afternoon.


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