Pats On The Back All Round

Overseas wins for the England cricket team are rare. Two wins in a row is rarer. And series wins are even rarer than sightings of Lord Lucan and Elvis Presley. England have therefore achieved something quite impressive this month. This is the side, remember, that couldn’t even win in Bangladesh two winters ago. Instead they were humiliated by a teenager.

The fact this game has been won in spinning conditions is even more impressive. 38 wickets fell to spin at Kandy (a world record) and England’s spinners have generally out-bowled their Sri Lankan counterparts all tour. This is quite remarkable when you think about it.

Last winter we didn’t seem to have a slow bowler capable of landing it on the strip. Everyone was bemoaning the dearth of spin options in county cricket, and the future looked bleak with the championship being pushed to the fringes of the season. Yet now we’ve suddenly got 3 spinners who can not only land it on the strip but also do a little damage too. What’s more they complement each other beautifully.

The thing that’s weird, however, is that I’m struggling to fathom what this series win means for our long-term prospects (if anything at all). This was such a unique series, where seam bowling played a negligible role, and Sri Lanka were much poorer than billed. Their spinners basically looked club standard. And it’s clear they weren’t pulling in the same direction both on and off the field. The hosts really were there for the taking.

On the other hand think how many times England have failed to put away inferior opposition away from home? At least we did the job this time. The aforementioned draw against Bangladesh, plus our pitiful tour of the West Indies under Peter Moores, are just two examples of how we’ve underperformed when victory should’ve been assured.

The reason we didn’t screw up – and this is just a working theory – is that our attacking style of cricket actually worked big time on this occasion. All the stars aligned. Although this approach can occasionally go wrong (see the first innings at Galle) and I’m sure we’ll have plenty of bad days in the future too, England’s attacking mindset kept the hosts under pressure throughout. And Sri Lanka simply didn’t have the class or confidence to cope.

When England have attacked against better teams the positive intent has often been our undoing. Our batsmen have been out-thought and out gunned. And in these circumstances we look frenetic and naive. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, simply didn’t have the required resilience or talent to weather the storm and strike back. They basically fell in a heap. It all worked out very conveniently.

One can’t criticise England for the opposition’s limitations, however. All we can do it beat the team in front of us. What’s more, several players have emerged from this tour with their reputations enhanced. The problem is that their emergence now makes selecting a final XI really difficult moving forwards – especially as future series will be played in very different conditions.

Although it was great to see Keaton Jennings make a ton at Galle, for example, we still have no idea whether he’s a viable long-term test opener. In fact, his ton might simply have bought him more time that could / should be invested in someone who isn’t a walking wicket against pace bowling.

The emergence of Foakes was also a huge positive but poses some questions. I love seeing England pick a specialist keeper, and we should definitely persevere with Ben, but I also hate the idea of Bairstow sitting on the sidelines. Jonny is probably our second best batter when he’s on form. Foakes’ emergence now means it’s even harder to fit all our talented stroke-makers into the side.

The No.3 position also remains a real headache. And I’m afraid this was always going to be the case once England decided to kick the can down the road by putting Moeen there at Galle. The subsequent Stokes at 3 experiment also backfired. And Bairstow himself is clearly no number 3. Who bats 3 in the West Indies and in the subsequent Ashes series is anyone’s guess.

Finally, the emergence of Jack Leach as a proper / traditional test spinner (i.e. someone who can take wickets but also give the captain control) is also a double-edge sword. In my opinion he’s the best slow bowler in the side. But you can bet your bottom Barbadian dollar that he’ll be the first person dropped when England select their test XI in the Caribbean.

Moeen and Rashid are an incredibly likeable partnership but they do leak too many runs for my liking. They almost need a Jack Leach to balance things up. Mo will probably play in home test matches – and his record at home is very respectable so I have no issue with this – but he’s still no banker away from home. He bowled better on this tour but there are still a few question marks. If you asked Joe Root (in confidence) which spinner he trusts most, his answer would be fascinating.

Overall, this has been a great win. And we should definitely celebrate this series as a great one-off victory. But I still feel uneasy about the future. After all, most of our runs were scored by either the lower middle-order (again) or by an opener who might be surplus to requirements in the near future. What’s more, a large proportion of the wickets were taken by bowlers who probably won’t play in different conditions. The future balance of the side is so up in the air.

Perhaps the most constructive thing to do, therefore, is to celebrate small individual successes. I think Rory Burns equipped himself relatively well in his debut series. Unlike Jennings, at least Burns has no glaring weaknesses against seam bowling. I also think that Jos Buttler played pretty well and justified his place as a specialist batsman.

The captain enjoyed a good series as well, and his hundred at Kandy was clearly one of his best test innings for some time. I know this will piss off half TFT readers but Root is so much better at 4 than 3. It suits his game better. It’s just a shame we have absolutely no other viable options at 3. Jason Roy is currently batting 3 for the Lions by the way. Jason bloody Roy. That’s how bad things have got. Unless he has a technique transplant he’ll be a sitting duck if he ever plays test cricket.

My gut tells me that the West Indies tour will probably tell us a little more about England’s development as a test side. Granted the Windies aren’t exactly great opposition either. But at least they have a few useful pace bowlers (when they’re all fit). And perhaps we shouldn’t forget what happened to The Lions the last time they toured the Caribbean. I imagine that tour still gives Andy Flower nightmares.

The positive thing, however, is that this very unique win in Sri Lanka will at least raise morale and give the team some much needed belief. They say that winning is a habit. And although this expression is undoubtedly a cliche, it’s a cliche because it’s true. The pressure is off for a while and England can bask in the glory of some positive headlines.

Root and Bayliss will delighted that we’ve finally won a series overseas. And Ed Smith deserves some credit too. He picked a specific squad to do the business in Sri Lanka and it worked. Where we go from here, however, is anyone’s guess. It’s going to be a fascinating ride.

James Morgan

2018-11-19T11:39:24+00:00November 19th, 2018|SL v Eng 2018, Test Cricket|53 Comments


  1. fengunner November 19, 2018 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    What does Moeen have to do to convince people? He doesn’t take wickets = he’s rubbish. He takes wickets = he’s rubbish.

    The argument of those who say he can’t play away is rubbished by his stats in this series, yet people still say it.

    Who else is going to take vital wickets especially straight after a break?

    We just won a series away and people are still carping.

    Just WHAT did Anderson do on this tour?

    • James Morgan November 19, 2018 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      Who is saying that Moeen is rubbish?

    • Alexander Ferguson November 19, 2018 at 1:33 pm - Reply

      He batted well, and kept it tight bowling-wise. PROMOTE ANDERSON TO THREE.

      • James Morgan November 19, 2018 at 3:02 pm - Reply

        Shouldn’t we just reverse the entire batting order?

        • James November 19, 2018 at 6:40 pm - Reply

          I thought we had!

  2. John November 19, 2018 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    I quite agree with you about Root. He is such a good batsman he should play where he is most comfortable and successful and the rest of the batting line up should be built around him. Shoving your best batsman into the place where there is the biggest problem – and one which he is unlikely to solve – is madness. I would persevere with Stokes at 3 as I think he is our best prospect there, but needs time to adjust. Also, as you point out, Jennings’ (very welcome) ton doesn’t of itself solve our opening issues for the summer.

    I would put money on Root trusting Leach more than any of his spinners, but say what you like about Mo, but he does have a knack for taking wickets – often big ones – at home.

    Talking of which, I’ve just been filling in my guest applications for the Lord’s Test. Grandstand and Compton Upper for the first three days are £150! Compton Upper are a bargain £100 on Saturday, although a section of that stand has been designated ‘Premium’ at £150 also.

    • James November 19, 2018 at 1:46 pm - Reply

      I agree John. You wouldn’t find India trying to shoehorn Kohli into the no 3 slot (though it does help that Pujara is a natural no 3). I’m not sure, though, that Sri Lanka is the be all and end all for this kind of team. Most West Indies pitches these days are slow turners (a legacy of a misguided attempt by the WICB to save money). I’d change the pace attack a bit (Woakes for Curran, probably), but think about keeping the spin attack more or less as is. Having said that, it clearly won’t work in places like Australia, but that needs a lot of thinking.

      I do think West Indies are improving, and they’d be better with Darren Bravo back in the fold (possible, I believe) and Andre Russell playing test cricket (less likely). Gabriel and Roach are a good new ball pairing (probably far too good for Keaton Jennings, I’m afraid).

      Q:How do you lose a test match needing 46 to win with 7 wickets in hand? A: Ask Pakistan: they just did it. And oyu thought being an England fan was bad.

  3. Doug M November 19, 2018 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    Good article James.

    I don’t think Foakes would ever had got in if Bairstow hadn’t injured himself though, so I wouldn’t give Smith much credit for that or not picking Denley at 3 for that matter. Not sure why they took him or Anderson for that matter. May as well have given Stone a shot.

    But a win is a win in Asia, albeit against a side not much better than Surrey Seconds. Number 3 is going to be a problem, but short of going back to Bell or trying Hildreth is a hard one. Maybe, just maybe they should have persevered with Vince!

  4. JC November 19, 2018 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    I’m not sure anyone has given me a good explanation why batting at 4 is so much different to batting at 3 ? In the last test Root was in one ball after the number 3 – he could actually face the 3rd ball of an innings, he could be in in the 50th over of an innings. Number 4 can actually face a ball before the number 3 batsman !

    Sri Lanka are a poor poor side by the way – in the past they always had 1 or 2 x factor players in their side, now I’m not sure if any of their players would get a game in the England side whatever the conditions

    • James Morgan November 19, 2018 at 1:24 pm - Reply

      Hi JC. Yes technically 3/4 doesn’t make much difference but a 4 is more likely to come in when the ball is a bit softer. Some may disagree but I think Root plays with too much of an open face to be a world class 3 (although I think he’s talented enough to be a good one). He makes a lot of runs just backward of point, and I think this can be exploited somewhat by a harder / newer ball. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Joe averages more and more the lower he bats. He averages more at 5/6 than he does at 4 (and certainly more than he does as a opener) if my memory is correct.

      There’s also the psychology to consider. Root is a very attacking batsman these days and he’s more likely to be get out when the ball is moving around. His conversion rate, for example, is worse at 3. It’s also a matter of where he feels comfortable batting. It’s a strange and somewhat intangible thing, but if he feels more comfortable at 4 then he’s probably more likely to score runs there.

      • James November 19, 2018 at 6:45 pm - Reply

        James, the same point that JC makes also applies to a no 3. A no 3 can come in 2nd ball, but he might feel more comfortable doing that than opening (I know Rahul Dravid, one of the great no 3’s, hated opening). Maybe this extends further down (at least as far as 4/4). I can’t for example imagine Kevin Pietersen batting 3. I can’t imagine Trott batting anywhere else.

    • Marc Evans November 19, 2018 at 1:45 pm - Reply

      Traditionally you put your best strokeplayer at 4. The theory is that by the time he gets in the shine and bounce will have gone off the new ball and you can initiate an increase in run rate, laying the foundations for domination against less threatening bowling.
      No 3 is psychologically a more pressured position, more about game management, where you need a more flexible approach, able to play both the defensive long game if an early wicket falls, but also the strokeplaying game if things go well early on.
      As an opener I always hated batting 3. The pressure always seemed greater as you had to protect more vulnerable batsmen from having to face the new ball. You always seemed the last line of defence and this restricted your natural instincts, even when the bowling was poor.

      • James Morgan November 19, 2018 at 3:04 pm - Reply

        You’ve expressed that really well Marc. Although I actually like batting 3. It’s because I’m an opener that frequently eats too much cake at tea. I need the extra time to let my food go down.

        • Marc Evans November 19, 2018 at 7:29 pm - Reply

          We had a really sneaky club captain whose missus was in charge of catering and she always made sure the oposition were well supplied with heavy duty fodder. She was a great baker too, so very few complaints on that front. She held back our helpings on this front till after the game, though if we lost the captain would withhold them. This proved a major incentive. For teas we were given lighter stuff to graze on, even to the extent, if sandwiches were on offer, of using thick cut white bread with plenty of salted butter, whereas we got wholemeal and marg. no one ever seemed to notice as no remarks were made. This was pretty far sighted for the 70’s, when food fads were still in their infancy.

  5. Nick November 19, 2018 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    Most of the problems mentioned are good problems to have, having Bairstow who has averaged 40 with the bat since his 2015 return sitting on the sidelines is an odd position to have got into but if he can’t bat higher than five (and his success comes at 6 and 7) then he will have to wait for an opportunity and with VC and darling of the setup in front of him it could be a decent wait. England could bring him in for Curran for the third Test as Sam contribution has been 90% with the bat and Stokes could bowl the two overs with the New Ball

    For me Leach needs to stay even when they return to England, Rashid appears the luxury bowler and was a bit of a spectator during the home summer and even Moeen Ali would drop out before Leach for me. His batting over the last 18 months is near the 20 avg mark which isn’t enough although England have messed him around. A huge bonus for both Leach and Foakes is they are Test Specialists so won’t have all the wear and tear of a World Cup Campaign by Ashes time

    Think you have forgotten the 2015 WIs Tour?

  6. Jackie Litherland November 19, 2018 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    Are you judging Bairstow as a batsman or wicket keeper batsman? If the latter then he’s out played by Foakes if the former – second best bat after Root – then he should be tried at 3 because you are saying he’s better than Stokes. What is an all rounder with a batting average mid 30s doing at 3 anyway? The management aren’t treating this Test side seriously. It’s the pinnacle of the game not an add-on to give an outing to your one day players.

    As for Ed Smith he presumably selected a few on the side lines deemed not good enough like Denly and Pope. Bairstow is a victim of ignoring the problem at 3 and maybe 2. I agree about Jennings. We need to see him against pace. If England want Bairstow then he has to be tried. He can’t be given the chance to choose his spot like Root. The aggression worked for Root because he’s world class. He ought to realise, but doesn’t, that nobody else is and they can’t pull it off the way he did. Curran was helped enormously by the hapless Lakmal who either can’t captain at all or is working to another agenda. I do think Sri Lanka were playing under the cloud of the on-going corruption investigation.

    • Nick November 19, 2018 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      Since Ed Smith came in Jonny was asked to bat five with a wink he would soon be losing the gloves no matter how well he played because you know Jos is a future England Captain and workload WHAT WHAT. He played at five, was leading the run tally Vs India when he injured his finger, he continued playing when he should have declared himself injured but he won’t be the last to do that. He then got injured playing football, a warmup that every player takes part in and have continued to do so.

      Then suddenly the guy who Ed Smith brought in to take his role during the summer doesn’t fancy it anymore, would rather have Jonny’s batting slot thank you every much. If I were Bairstow I would be wondering if I had been stitched up

      • Sophie November 19, 2018 at 2:03 pm - Reply

        I think you’re ascribing too much agency to what was probably more like a series of unfortunate circumstances for Bairstow. I think they wanted him to bat on 5 while keeping, and he did it, because they thought he’d be up to it. I might be wrong, but I think the handing the gloves over to Buttler thing was more a media fantasy than anything the England camp came up with by themselves. Of course, it wasn’t particularly considerate of them to then go, “Yeah, well, I don’t know…” either. And I’m not sure Buttler was particularly keen on it. I thought he looked knackered towards the end of a day’s keeping in the summer and he doesn’t seem to have been practising particularly enthusiastically either in Sri Lanka, judging by the limited overs games. Not saying they couldn’t have handled things better, but there’s all sorts of factors to lead to this here outcome.

    • James Morgan November 19, 2018 at 1:18 pm - Reply

      Hi Jackie. I was talking about Jonny as a specialist batter. As far as I’m aware Jonny has never really batted 3 for Yorks either. His game is suited to 5/6 imho although he can get away with batting at 4 at county level. He’s a pugnacious shot maker, and he doesn’t have the sound defence and soft hands one would expect of a No3. He is, however, a good attacking batsman with the ability to play robust meaty shots all around the wicket.

      • Sophie November 19, 2018 at 1:29 pm - Reply

        Technically, he’s been batting on 5 for Yorkshire, but since their top order has been much like Englands over the last few years, the expected time for him to come in would have been like 40/3 if they had a good day.

        • Cricketcricketcricket November 19, 2018 at 6:48 pm - Reply

          Batting top order in cc doesn’t mean a dam thing now. We sadly have to go off their technical ability and YJB sadly isn’t upto top order batting

      • James November 19, 2018 at 6:49 pm - Reply

        I would prefer Jonny to be a specialist batter: we have far too few of them in the side! I realise he wants the gloves because of his dad, but that’s not a reason to accommodate him. It’s worth bearing in mind here that the great Kumar Sangakkara averaged about 48 with the gloves, and close to 70 in tests where he didn’t keep. If Jonny could make a similar improvement …

        • Cricketcricketcricket November 21, 2018 at 9:01 pm - Reply

          Bairstow isn’t even the league below sangakkara with the bat.. why are people even considering him in the top 4!! Christ sake he isn’t bloody good enough technically. Way too loose

          Same with stokes et all. We have a bunch of middle to lower order players.. too many and everyone thinks this team is suddenly great and has depth.. it literally only has depth at 6/7

  7. Simon H November 19, 2018 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    Delighted for Jack Leach – and also kudos to Root for sticking with his spinners after tea when there were many reverting to the default position of English cricket and urging for a seamer to come on.

    It’s good to see the shambles of SL cricket being exposed at last. They’ve covered up their weaknesses with a three year strategy of dodgy pitches and winning the toss. It’s not substitute for proper player development. They’d be investigated for “good governance” if the ICC was a governing body worth its name – but that sort of thing’s not for full members.

    This SL team is poor. The traditional benchmarks for quality test players are batsmen averaging over 40 and bowlers averaging under 30 (with a minimum games qualification). SL had one test quality player (Mathews) playing by those measures. The team England beat in 2001 had five batsmen (Jayasuriya, Sanga, Aravinda, Mahela, Dilshan) and two bowlers (Murali, Vaas) of proven test class, at least two of whom would feature as all-time greats. It isn’t trying to deny England’s achievement to point this out – as James rightly says, England haven’t beaten weak opposition away in recent years and any away win is difficult at the moment in world cricket. It’s just a call for some sense of proportion.

    Finally, the usual question – what does it mean for the Ashes? Dial up five bunsens?….

    • Cricketcricketcricket November 19, 2018 at 6:51 pm - Reply

      ‘The traditional benchmarks for quality test players are batsmen over 40 and bowlers averaging under 30’

      Right.. so…

      How many of this England lot (who are now the best team since sliced bread) quality ??


      Umm umm umm

    • James November 19, 2018 at 6:51 pm - Reply

      5 Bunsens for the Ashes? That would probably work (until Australia called Shane Warne out of retirement!).

    • Anon November 19, 2018 at 10:58 pm - Reply

      Well said. As a Sri Lanka fan I am secretly relieved that our tactics backfired. We just don’t have any good test standard players in our team barring Mathews, and maybe Chandimal. And instead of developing talented youngsters the Sri Lanka cricket board mask our weaknesses by dishing out raging turners and picking club standard spinners to win matches at home (and even abroad). It’s truly embarrasing. What’s even more embarrasing is seeing the same spinners on overseas tours. Whenever I see someone like Malinda Pushpakumara or Akila Danajaya or any of the other muppets being given the ball in England or Australia when it’s still new and hard my heart sinks, you just know they’re not going to do anything. Our captains have no faith in our seamers, they’re only expected to do a holding role even in pace friendly conditions. If you don’t believe me have a look at the field settings next time Sri Lanka play away – it’s almost always defensive. I can’t see Sri Lanka getting any better as a test team because we will continue to employ these ridiculous tactics. I don’t expect things to change either, knowing how incompetent the cricket board is. It certainly must be a good time to be an England cricket fan.

  8. Ian November 19, 2018 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    Surely now we have won the series they could try out Denley at 3 and bring in Stone instead of Anderson.

    Foakes has to stay at 7 in my view, so Butler, Bairstow, Moeen, and Stokes will have to compete f

    • James Morgan November 19, 2018 at 3:07 pm - Reply

      Stone could come in for either Curran or Anderson. I guess it depends on the pitch.

  9. Alexander Ferguson November 19, 2018 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    I’ve read the article and read the points so here we go:
    1) For the third test (we might have won the Series but there’s still one to go!), I think we put in Bairstow over an injured Curran. It gives us even more batting depth, and Stokes and Anderson can open the bowling if we want to go for a fast 1-2.
    2) Having great depth in the side is a great problem to have. But bear this in mind: Bairstow hasn’t been in form for what seems like ages. Dropping him for what is frankly a better keeper is no bad thing.
    3) How can we give Joe Denly a chance?

    • Cricketcricketcricket November 19, 2018 at 6:53 pm - Reply

      What is his ‘great depth’ so many are banging on about ??

      Name our depth in slots 1/2/3 ??

      What people mean is we have so many 5/6/7’s but little else .. Jesus anyone would think this side is something special.. it’s bloody crap !! Sad reality is the rest of the test world is worse !

      • Marc Evans November 19, 2018 at 7:35 pm - Reply

        It’s not crap, it’s just unbalanced, largely due to the preponderance of white ball batting techniques. Most of the test playing countries have similar problems when looking for top order batsmen with technique and application, the staple requirements.

  10. oreston November 19, 2018 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Those calling for Joe Denly to bat at three for England should perhaps be mindful that he’s a 32 yr. old who averages only 36 in the County Championship. Is he really the best prospect we have?
    That said, he’s in the tour party so perhaps he should be given his chance in the final Test rather than risking Curran playing with a side strain.
    Then again there’s Bairstow – but as he’s far from a natural number three, and is apparently averse to playing as a specialist batsman, that might not be such a great idea.

    • oreston November 19, 2018 at 3:53 pm - Reply

      Oh, I mentioned Joe Denly’s age not because I think 32 is too old. After all, I’d have preferred bringing back Bell or even giving Hildreth a shot. No, I mentioned it because I think he’s reached a point in his career where he’s done his growing and development and there probably isn’t much likelihood of major improvements in his performance – particularly if asked to step up to Test level. A harsh assessment? I’d prefer to call it realistic… and to cite it in support of the view that, while he’s made some very good calls, Ed Smith doesn’t quite walk on water!

      • James Morgan November 19, 2018 at 3:59 pm - Reply

        Fair comment. But Denly was picked precisely because he was seen as a late bloomer after his initial promise as a youngster went unfulfilled. He had a good year last season and has done pretty well in the T20 Leagues … not that I think Smith should pick on T20 form 🙂

        • oreston November 19, 2018 at 5:42 pm - Reply

          He may have had a good year in T20 (and I agree, James, that Smith shouldn’t be selecting Test players on that basis) but 828 runs at 34.5 in the Championship this year? I know he made three centuries but those figures don’t suggest to me that he’d be able to score heavily consistently enough at international level.

    • Doug M November 19, 2018 at 4:28 pm - Reply

      Yes and Denley gets his runs in Div 2. Hildreth averaged 42 this season in Div 1 and doesn’t get a look in. Bell is even better but would be considered to “old” by Smith. The point is though Denley was selected to bat in the top 3 and hasn’t been picked. I don’t think either Stokes, Moen, Bairstow or Butler is a no 3. If Curran is fit play him, he’s got us out of trouble several times, in fact try him at 3! Why not.

  11. Hamish November 19, 2018 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    You have to give them credit because they’ve won 2 games in a row and only India have won in SL in recent times. The aggressive tactics paid off in Kandy but still make me nervous as we’re as likely to collapse in a heap as make a decent score.

    If they’re going to try Stokes at 3, they need to give him till the end of the WI series to see if he can make a fist of it – you’re right, he’s better suited than Bairstow to 3.His technique is solid and he did dig in during the summer when England were collapsing – needs to find a middle gear between blocker and bludgeoner but would be interested to see how he goes. There’s not a lot else out there.

    Curran is talented but he causes England a problem because his bowling is just not strong enough to play as a bowling allrounder, it has to be in the top 6. It may be harsh, but you have to pick 2 from Curran, Stokes and Bairstow in the top 6 and as top 6 batsmen, Stokes and Bairstow still ahead. Lower order hitting with the tail is very different to building an innings and scoring centuries which is what England need. I also think Stokes will take more wickets than Curran in the long term unless he adds 5-10mph.

    All in all, progress has been made. Tougher challenges ahead and still some of the same questions unanswered.

    • James Morgan November 19, 2018 at 4:01 pm - Reply

      I agree re: Curran’s bowling. Long term he’ll be a batsman who bowls a bit. So at some point he’ll have to move up the order. Having said that, he does provide variety to the attack and hasn’t let anyone down at all. But there’s no way he should play ahead of Broad (outside SL) if he’s being picked primarily as a bowler.

  12. muffin November 19, 2018 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    There seems very little point in picking Anderson for the third test. Give Stone a go. He and Stokes should be able to manage the ten overs necessary between them. I’m assuming that Curran won’t be considered – side strains in bowlers need careful looking after – so YJB (or Woakes?) could come in for him.

    I ask again – why do so many posters here misspell Buttler’s name?

    • muffin November 19, 2018 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      On the Sky verdict, Carlos Braithwaite (who came across as a very insightful pundit) came to exactly the same conclusion as I did!

      • Sophie November 20, 2018 at 8:06 am - Reply

        It’s “Brathwaite”, btw. 😉

  13. Anon November 19, 2018 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    I personally think Sri Lanka could have been a bit more competitive by deploying slightly more seam friendly wickets and picking atleast three fast bowlers (Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara and Chameera). I know this sounds a bit left field, and maybe even slightly bonkers, but for a start England arrived on the island awaiting a trial by spin on raging turners. So there’s always that element of surprise. Besides the series is being played at the tail end of the monsoon so the pitches may have some moisture for the pacemen. Secondly, non-Asian fast bowlers have traditonally struggled with the lengths on Sri Lankan pitches, that is unless they have someone with an X-factor. You need skiddy fast bowlers like Lasith Malinga or someone with out and out pace (think Dale Steyn) to prosper here. Pacemen who can also outthink batsmen and use the windy weather conditions in places like Galle can also do well (Mohammed Asif, Chaminda Vaas or the New Zealand trio for example when they last visited). But hey, the Sri Lankan management is hell bent on spinning teams out that something like this will never be considered. Oh how I wish we had an Ed Smith in our ranks!

  14. David Deakin November 20, 2018 at 12:11 am - Reply

    Marc Evans said you play your best stroke maker at no 4. Really, obviously no one told Viv Richards or Brian Lara or Kane Williamson to bat at 4 and they were far and away the best batsmen in their respective teams. Leave Root bat at 4 (2 centuries in his last 3 tests) and try and find a specialist no 3. I suspect, in the long-term, Ollie Pope might be the man.

    • Marc Evans November 20, 2018 at 12:59 am - Reply

      Being a side’s best batsman doesn’t always mean being the best strokemaker.
      I think you’ll find Richards and Lara spent much of their careers batting at 4 and had their best averages there. Lara was always a reluctant 3 and only batted there when the Windies had no alternative. As for Richards, Kallicharran was Windies 3 when Richards was in his pomp and later on it was Larry Gomes. Richards batted at 3 in the interim, but being something of a freak was a law unto himself. He always said he preferred to bat 4.
      Kane Williamson is a fine technical player and accumulator with a great temperament, rather than being a brutal stroke-maker, so would be effective in either position.
      It’s always tempting to put your best batman in as high as possible to give them optimum crease time, but the mental difference between batting 3 and 4 is huge. Lara had to carry the Windies batting for years and the pressure clearly told on him. Richards on the other hand rarely had to deal with that kind of pressure as the Windies quicks generally turned over the opposition cheaply, so big runs were rarely required, coupled with the fact that he had the likes of Greeenidge, Haines, Kallicharran and Lloyd to play alongside.

  15. Marc Evans November 20, 2018 at 12:16 am - Reply

    I think it’s pretty clear that no firm inclusions can be drawn from this series with respect to the Windies or next summer’s ashes. Good to see a specialist keeper coming good and the likes of Burns and Leach, who have been knocking at the door some time, doing them selves no harm. Hopefully they will be persevered with and we play the likes of Denly and Stone for the last test, at least giving them helpful international experience. I guess if Curran is out Woakes is the obvious all round replacement rather than Broad, unless you play Denly or Bairstow and limit seam to Stone and Stokes. This way at least you keep faith with the middle order.

  16. Simon H November 20, 2018 at 9:40 am - Reply

    CA not lifting those bans just yet.

    Let the pressure keep building until they reluctantly acquiesce….

  17. David November 20, 2018 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    The issue with spinners going forward is fascinating. I’m a big Rashid fan but Leach is clearly the most effective & reliable spinner. But England are gaining a lot from having momentum-shifting, game-changing contributions from Rashid and Ali. Games are being won by the batting from 7 to 11.
    Can they go on playing 3 spinners? Surely not. Not unless Mo starts being worth his place as a batsman again. But if they can keep all three close to the team and keep the good squad atmosphere, they might all contribute in the series to come

  18. Simon H November 20, 2018 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    The ICC back the BCCI in their dispute with the PCB (over sending a letter pledging India would resume playing Pakistan in return for the PCB not opposing the Big Three power grab in 2014).

    It’s Claude Rains’ time again….

  19. Inland Sailor November 20, 2018 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    Amazing what happens when you pick your best spinner and your best keeper-batter, isn’t it?

  20. Hungerpang November 21, 2018 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    Cook retiring was the key delivering the change in approach. Not because he’s good, bad or anything else, but because of the way younger players and leaders feel liberated when old lags like him are no longer around. It’s the same with all teams in all walks of life.

  21. Marc Evans November 22, 2018 at 12:46 am - Reply

    Disappointed to see the selection for the 3rd test. Seems an unimaginative lost opportunity. We need to find a no. 3 going forward and Bairstow, whatever he does in this match is clearly not that. We took Denley as a legitimate 3 and choose to ignore him in favour of the ‘old pals act’. The same can be said of Broad’s selection ahead of Stone. Even Broad himself was philosophical about being left out, saying he would not have made a significant difference in these conditions, so let Stone, who at least has greater pace, try his luck.
    It is these kind of decisions that cast doubt for me on whether Root has enough imagination to be a good captain. When your resources are limited, as his certainly are, this is an important attribute. Whenever he’s interviewed he comes accross as a rather distant figure, lacking in personality and trotting out the same tired old cliches we hear all too regularly. He ever seems to have anything interesting to say.

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