Things to be gleaned from the warm-up match England played here in Colombo yesterday: it is all but impossible to glean anything from warm-up matches.
Several conclusions could rightly be drawn from the routine 80-run victory against the ordinary opposition offered by the Sri Lanka Board XI: it is jolly uncomfortable playing in oppressive humidity; Ian Bell has become a significant batsman; Kevin Pietersen hits the ball a long way; Monty Panesar still has a long way to go as an international limited overs bowler; Graeme Swann has a light year.
But all those judgments could have been made long before play began. The purpose of the proceedings was hardly more than to provide glorified match practice. The bearing on the one-day series which begins on Monday is barely meaningful enough to be negligible.
There was more curiosity, however, in the announcement that Allan Donald had declined to be England's bowling coach. Donald had been an immensely popular and effective addition to Peter Moores' backroom staff, partly because of the 602 international wickets he took for South Africa, but decided against taking up the job full time.
"After 11 years on the road I feel the commitment I would have to make to touring would be too great," he said.
Instead, Donald is likely to take up an offer to join Ashley Giles' coaching staff at Warwickshire, together with the county's former all-rounder Dougie Brown.
Ottis Gibson, who is with England in Sri Lanka, is now likely to be offered the post permanently if he fits in over the next few weeks.
This subject did not quite entirely dominate the day. It is an increasing delight to watch Bell and Pietersen in unison, as they were for almost 10 overs which yielded 91 runs. Pietersen, who was suffering the after-effects of the stomach bug which has stricken several members of the team, played as if he was in a hurry to make another assignment with the toilet. There were three immense sixes in his 29-ball fifty.
Bell started his time at the crease with comparative sedateness: it took 72 balls for him to score his first 50 runs. But he then harvested 81 from the next 49 balls including four sixes in five balls, the first a beautifully constructed straight drive. There was also a half-century for Alastair Cook and England accelerated enthusiastically towards the end.
They then launched a blistering assault of short-pitched bowling that the opposition were ill-equipped to handle. Considering there was scant pace in the pitch at PS Stadium – scarcely used these days but famous for being the site of Sri Lanka's first Test match – the bowlers did their work well.
The use of the fast, rising ball will clearly be a ploy against Sri Lanka as it was, with extreme effectiveness, against India in the recent one-day series at home. While it might be wise not to overuse it against Sanath Jayasuriya, who will hook until the cows come home, or on especially anodyne pitches, it is a worthy experiment.
England used seven bowlers in various combinations to help them to decide their line-up on Monday. Dimitri Mascarenhas was not among them because he bruised a hand in practice.
It was perhaps notable that the captain Paul Collingwood broke up the potent James Anderson-Stuart Broad opening partnership and invited the returning Ryan Sidebottom to take the new ball. On the grounds that the best bowlers could be included all three may play.
Panesar varied his pace more than hitherto in one dayers. Perhaps nothing definitive should be read into Swann's first spell for England since he took 0-24 in his only ODI appearance at Bloemfontein nearly eight years ago, but he hardly glided in and would be a risk.Reuse content