England's bowlers must strike balance

History suggests tourists need five-man attack to counter pitch and heat

Galle

England's selectors will finally try to resolve the four-bowler problem today. Four bowlers have taken them to where they are in the world: the best Test team. Four bowlers have swept aside some of the world's most formidable batsmen in the past two years. Four bowlers have become the new rock'n'roll. The fab four indeed.

But the side's status is hanging by a thread – and probably a flat pitch or two – and they have to decide if a quartet will be sufficient to prevail in the two-match series against Sri Lanka which starts tomorrow. It is perverse that it has come to this.

It was not the bowlers who let England down in the series against Pakistan in the UAE earlier this winter which has put their hard-earned ranking in jeopardy. The bowlers have done everything asked of them on any pitch put in front of them.

But history, which is often cricket's smartest tactician, shows that when England have won in Sri Lanka they have done so with five bowlers. Both their victory in the inaugural Test match in the country in 1982 and their epic triumph in 2001, when Nasser Hussain's craftily led side came from one behind to win a three-Test rubber 2-1, were achieved with a quintet comprising three seamers and two spinners.

The requirement for such a balance comes from the flatness of the pitches and the oppressive heat, which together drain bowlers' souls. The selectors' options have been altered by Ravi Bopara's side strain, which precludes him bowling. He might, just, have been able to bowl sufficient overs to help out but a combination of Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen would struggle.

"It would be nice to have a fifth bowler and Ravi would be ideal for that role," said Jimmy Anderson, the leader of the attack, yesterday, perhaps deliberately underestimating how nice it would be. "But unfortunately he can't bowl and the selectors have to weigh up whether Trott and KP can do that role or if they need someone else.

"We anticipate a long time in the field, and generally around the world we anticipate that. There are not many dodgy pitches around these days. The less time we spend in the field the better and if we bowl them out cheaply it is better for us, and in relation to the heat the less time we're out there the better."

England lack an authentic all-rounder, a fact that their coach Andy Flower has regularly rued despite the unimpeachable record pre-UAE. Back in 1982 they had Ian Botham; 19 years later the unsung Craig White had a quietly effective series, bowling 70 overs in the three matches and hitting the winning runs at Kandy to bring the series level.

"We have got used to it and we have acclimatised over the past couple of weeks, but it is just going to be a real balancing act with Andrew Strauss managing his bowlers," Anderson said. "It is a difficult place to take 20 wickets, but everywhere is difficult to take 20 wickets apart from Trent Bridge in April. It is hard to get wickets whether we bowl a team out for 200 or 450, it is still hard to take the wickets and we know it is going to be hard work. We're prepared for that."

The injury scare over Anderson's new-ball partner Stuart Broad – and everyone agrees the new ball is crucial to the fielding side's aspirations – has resurfaced. Broad played in the second practice match, seemingly without adverse effect on the ankle he sprained before the first match but did not bowl in the nets yesterday. England insist he will bowl today.

News
people And here is why...
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
Extras
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
Life and Style
health
News
i100
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?