Well as expected Sri Lanka won the match but not in the manner expected, by me at least. England could have rolled over and put us fans out of our misery but no they made us suffer all day, raising our hopes before cruelly dashing them at the very end. In doing so at least our team restored its pride and Moeen Ali played an extraordinary innings. Hopefully this is the beginning of something special.
This short series has been an absolute cracker, both matches going to the final over of the fifth day with games in the balance. England may feel hard done by losing a series in which they played the better cricket for eight of the ten days, yet Sri Lanka deserved to win this match. England may have gained more and learned more in defeat than they would have done so with a win.
So what is there to make of England’s selections through this short series? Some of the team are inked in so no need to dwell on them, I’ll focus on the newer players here. Robson and Ballance have both stepped up with good hundreds so they’ll keep their place in the side, for a while at least. Surely Ben Stokes will be making a return soon which made Moen Ali’s selection strange. Was he picked as a temporary all-rounder just to see if his spin bowling is up to the mark? Today’s brilliant hundred showed he has what it takes to make runs at the highest level but we have not really learnt much about his bowling. It looks like the top six will remain unchanged against India. Going forward England will need a top class spinner and right now Ali hasn’t shown us he’s it.
If we have to play a proper spinner then who is the man? If Monty Panesar has his mind right then he’d be my pick for sure but that doesn’t look likely at the moment. In the counties the men in form are veteran Gareth Batty of Surry or Lancashire’s Kerrigan who was battered by the Aussies last summer.
Assuming the long term plan is to bring Ben Stokes back into the side then Jordan and Plunkett have been in a shoot-out for the final seam bowling place. Based on these two matches Plunkett looks the better bowler. Surely Stephen Finn will return some time in the future. A bit of time honing his craft in county cricket may well be the making of him. I think England would be better off picking the attack on a ‘horses for courses’ basis. Have a squad of bowlers to cover all options and select those that would best suit the conditions. After two matches England’s selectors still have as many questions as answers.
Finally Cook’s captaincy is definitely under scrutiny. If this is affecting his batting then he should step aside as his runs are just too valuable to England. In truth he has never impressed me tactically, he just doesn’t seem to have a ‘Plan B’. If Cook steps aside who else is there? Prior in VC at the moment and other being mentioned include Bell and Broad.
Players in the frame for India; It seems certain that Cook, Robson, Ballance, Bell, Root, Ali, Prior, Broad and Anderson will all play? Then we’re picking two players from seamers Stokes, Jordan, Plunkett and possibly Finn. Spinners under consideration may be Panesar, Kerrigan and Batty.
A home test series defeat to Sri Lanka just isn’t good enough. The newer players have done quite well but in truth the big name players have underperformed in this series. However despite the defeat there are reasons for England to feel positive about the future.