England's brave face for a new world

These are changing times in Test cricket, and not only because England are fairly good at it again. This, their first series in Sri Lanka, will be their last under the old,
ad hoc regime. In future,
ad hoc will be part of the game only if it happens to be the name of an Indian spinner.

These are changing times in Test cricket, and not only because England are fairly good at it again. This, their first series in Sri Lanka, will be their last under the old, ad hoc regime. In future, ad hoc will be part of the game only if it happens to be the name of an Indian spinner.

The programme shortly to be in place will involve all 10 Test nations playing each other home and away in a five-year period. The schedule, including, heaven forfend, the length of Ashes series, could change forever. England, at least, should enter this brave new world and the rolling world championship with a big heart and a broad mind, a revolutionary advance considering both were the size of peas not long ago.

True, they still have abundant reason to fear Muttiah Muralitharan, who was often unlucky yesterday but who still befuddled his opponents. But batsmen are surely entitled to be a little worried and confused by the world's most insistent, troublesome spin bowler. Being beaten by him would not be a humiliation, failing to learn along the way would be unforgiveable.

They can learn from each other, too; they can learn, for a start, from Marcus Trescothick. His maiden Test century in this captivating ground was not a masterpiece of versatile strokeplay but it was a model of unflappability and selfdenial. It was, if you like, a model of Nasser Hussain's England. Simple, get on with the game, get out of the game what you put into it stuff.

Over the first two days of the First Test in Galle, England had already developed a little further as a team. Sri Lanka had won an important toss and from early on made it clear that they would not give their wickets away easily and would build a substantial total. England, however, never let them break free entirely.

Barely a year ago, and for some seasons before that, it is possible to imagine the opposition being allowed to disappear over some far horizon. But this England bowling attack has an attritional quality, demonstrated by the frugal figures of Andrew Caddick, who all but eschewed the old-fashioned theory that bowlers should take wickets occasionally, and the willingness of the two Yorkshiremen, Darren Gough and Craig White, to bowl off-cutters well below their normal pace.

If Ashley Giles and Robert Croft were not menacing this was not unexpected. Giles, after the success of his left-arm variation in Pakistan, was due a bad day or two. Here, round or over the wicket, he could not get his line right for long enough. Croft was never plundered by rampaging hordes but he had his pocket delicately picked time and again, maybe not at will but just when he wasn't looking. The chief picker was Marvan Atapattu, who scored his fourth Test double century with great stealth - and this after a total of 41 runs in six innings on Sri Lanka's South African tour. It remains difficult to envisage Croft bowling out the bulk of the opposition on any surface. This is not necessarily Croft's fault. He is the son of his native system.

But England, in the parlance, kept at it. These are unfamiliar conditions, where perspiration is a second skin, and the fact that the ground has the Indian Ocean lapping it on two sides and has palm trees on one side does nothing to cool the atmosphere. The fielding was not always precise but it was rarely less than persevering.

The Sri Lankans might have pushed it along a bit more quickly if their intention was to declare on the second day, but there were reasons for their circumspection. One was doubtless their acute awareness that they had batted recklessly and abysmally in South Africa; the other was that England kept to their word to stay with them in the match.

The tourists were tired, and justifiably so. But this is likely to be a permanent state in the international future. Tim Lamb, the chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, has been in town, and the vision he outlined did not allow much time for thumb twiddling, except on the dressing-room balcony.

Summers of seven Test matches and winters of up to eight more, with one-day series to be fitted in and around, leave no time to stand and stare. One of the casualties of this might be five-match Ashes series, the one enduring bulwark of a game which has been forced to adapt.

"We've even been talking to the Australians about maybe playing fewer than five matches when we next go there in 2002-03, which is a very hectic year with the ICC knockout, then the tour of Australia, then the World Cup," said Lamb.

It would only be a one-off occasion (England played a four-Test series for the Ashes in 1975 after the World Cup) but in the present climate it might also open the door to permanent reduction. "What we've got to ensure is that, although we might be undertaking more tours, the length of those tours, the breaks between those tours and the number of matches played is kept within reasonable bounds," said Lamb.

"It won't necessarily apply in the future that we play the same number of Test matches against different countries that we've been used to playing in the past. We've already been in discussions with West Indies about reducing the number of matches, and I flagged up with Ali Bacher that I didn't think it was right or feasible for England always to play South Africa in five-Test series." He also recognised the possibility of international players choosing either to concentrate on Tests or one-dayers. Certainly it will be harder to do both from now on. Certainly, also, international players will play almost no other cricket.

"We must respect the feelings of the counties but at the end of the day England come first," said Lamb. "We must not ride roughshod, we've got to get the balance right, but we have to recognise we need a more flexible policy. Within a very few years I hope we have a larger pool of players rather than the relatively small nucleus we have now."

In Somerset they can expect to wait a very long time indeed to see Marcus Trescothick again. They are old and deep friends, but after yesterday and with what is to come, they can expect no more than a nodding acquaintance.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
News
i100
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
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

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment