Reluctance to learn leaves England in a spin


Click to follow
The Independent Online

As shots at redemption go, England's efforts on the second day of the first Test against Sri Lanka were up there with the soak who signs the pledge one night and is to be heard slurring "Set 'em up, Joe" the next. Having failed in the United Arab Emirates against spin, the tourists demonstrated that they could perform quite as ineptly in Sri Lanka.

With a sequence of ill-advised strokes, they were dismissed for 193, conceding a first-innings lead of 125. Had the last four wickets not added 101 – Ian Bell was the sole (qualified) success among the batsmen with a half-century – the position would have been direr still.

It was spin what did it in the UAE and it was spin what did it here. For Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman of Pakistan, read Rangana Herath and Suraj Randiv of Sri Lanka.

Herath, pictured, an orthodox left-arm spinner, deceived England utterly, as much as they deceived themselves into thinking they could play him. He won four lbw verdicts and took six wickets in all, as many as he took in the entire series in England last summer. Randiv, an off-spinner, took two others and the whole innings crumbled in 46.4 overs.

That England are still in the match and might win it if they play only a smidgeon better in their second innings is entirely down to their bowlers. Faced with this mountainous deficit they once more created upheaval in their opponents' top order. Sri Lanka finished the day on 84-5, a lead of 209, Graeme Swann undoing both the left-handers in the top order.

In the morning, England allowed Sri Lanka's lower order a few too many runs but Jimmy Anderson took both wickets needed to finish with 5 for 72, his 12th five-wicket haul in Tests.

In the 16 overs before lunch England's top three were gone. Alastair Cook was lbw to the new ball, excusable because these things happen when the shine is still on, but runs were coming a little too freely for the liking of Sri Lanka's captain, Mahela Jayawardene and Herath was given an early call. Jonathan Trott was stumped by Prasanna Jayawardene, who then inadvertently knocked Trott over as he charged to celebrate. In the next over, Strauss chose to sweep a length ball on the stumps. He seemed to have escaped when umpire Asad Rauf rejected Sri Lanka's strident appeal. But they asked for a review and the replay showed that Strauss was hit in line with the stumps. Kevin Pietersen then played a loose drive at Chanaka Welegedara to the first ball after lunch and was bowled off an inside edge.