Much of the excitement about England's inexorable rise towards the top of the Test world has been created by fast bowling. The quality and the quantity of the production line are apparently such that they could revitalise the country's manufacturing industry.
It was instructive, therefore, to watch the cream of the crop (or most of it) in action on the third day of the second Test here yesterday, when someone must have thrown a spanner in the works. The rain that arrived soon after lunch did not exactly save England but it spared their embarrassment.
When rain swept in to cut almost 50 overs from the day, Sri Lanka were on 372 for 3, 114 behind England, when considering the way things were going they might have been 114 ahead had the sun shone. What went England's way in Cardiff went against them here, but then they did not help themselves sufficiently.
On a pitch that has been largely friendly for batting - and aren't they all - England's three tall guys conspired to make it pleasanter still. Too many balls from all members of the trio slipped down the leg side, and they muddled their lines more than the supporting cast in the local am-dram society.
At least England's bowling coach, David Saker, made no bones about the matter. "You could say that over the last 12 to 18 months we have set extremely high standards, and in the last two days have been nothing like that," he said.
"There were probably some technical issues there because I have never seen this team bowl so many balls down the leg side. We know that in this game if you become lackadaisical it has a danger of biting you on the bottom. But I don't think it was that, but [it was] poor execution of skills."
There were, as well, some extremely exacting deliveries but these irritatingly not only declined to take the bat's edge but also underlined the paucity of the rest. It was far from what England have been striving towards in the past two years and further still from what will advance their cause to be the No 1 ranked team by the end of the summer.
Against a batting order as proficient and gifted as Sri Lanka's this was wholly inadvisable. Tillakaratne Dilshan, the tourists' captain, took his overnight 127 to 193, three more than Sidath Wettimuny made in his country's maiden Test in England on the ground in 1984.
Dilshan was as capricious as he had been in the early part of the innings the previous day, intermittently flailing wildly at the ball for no apparent reason other than that it must have seemed like a good idea. But at other times he was fleet of foot and bat, not least to a perplexed Graeme Swann whom he kept dashing at, undoing the spinner's length.
All in all, this was a bold, defiant innings by Sri Lanka's captain. Nothing could have more adequately expunged the harsh memories of his side's unseemly collapse at Cardiff, which could well cost them this series. He reached his best Test score with two fours in an over from Stuart Broad, a push through mid-on and a pull through square leg.
Dilshan lost his overnight partner, Kumar Sangakkara, to the fourth delivery with the second new ball, a good one from Chris Tremlett, but he seemed assured to become the first Sri Lankan to make a double hundred at Lord's when he was hit a fearful blow on his right thumb by Tremlett.
It was a nasty delivery, dragging the batsman forward and rearing just enough to make that movement uncomfortable. Having already been severely bruised there 24 hours earlier, Dilshan was clearly in pain and it was no surprise when he was bowled by Steve Finn, deigning not to commit himself fully to one that came down the slope.
His innings contained 20 fours and two sixes and spanned only 253 balls. It was probably good practice for England's fast bowlers since they have to contend with Virender Sehwag later in the summer, an opening batsman who makes Dilshan seem pedestrian.
England have undoubtedly missed Jimmy Anderson, the hero of the Ashes, in this match. This has been exacerbated by the presence of three tall bowlers who, if not exactly clones, do not either bring vastly different qualities. Broad has been disappointing in this series so far.
There is a growing suspicion that he simply does not take enough wickets. He averages around three a match, compared with Anderson at almost four a match and nearly five in the last two years. Tremlett and Finn average five and four wickets a match respectively, though their Test careers are much younger.
These figures are never necessarily what they seem. Broad can be a difficult customer to deal with and helps other bowlers to take wickets, something we saw more than half a century ago with Brian Statham on behalf of Fred Trueman. But it is still an argument that goes only so far and Broad, while hardly in need of wickets as much as Kevin Pietersen is of runs, might like to consider upping the ante.
Medical reports suggest Anderson expects to have recovered from his minor side strain in time for next week's third Test at the Rose Bowl. But England will be taking no risks and his absence might provoke them into awarding a first cap to Jade Dernbach.
The second new ball still offered England a chance at redemption and a first- innings lead. Mahela Jayawardene was beaten a time or two outside off stump but he also glanced and glided some languid boundaries when offered too many leg-side opportunities, like a man who looked at home on the Lord's slope - eminently possible as he has scored two Test centuries on the ground.
The loss of play yesterday and the deadly slow over-rate, which remains difficult either to forgive or understand, make it unlikely this match will end in anything but a draw. But since it is only a week since the events at Cardiff, that would be a dangerous prediction.
Lord's (Second & third day of five): Sri Lanka are trailing England by 114 runs with 7 first-innings wickets in hand
Sri Lanka won toss
ENGLAND - First Innings
Overnight 342-6 (Cook 96, Morgan 79, Bell 52)
†M J Prior b Herath 126
131 balls 0 sixes 19 fours
S C J Broad lbw b Welegedara 54
51 balls 0 sixes 9 fours
G P Swann c Paranavitana b Welegedara 4
5 balls 0 sixes 1 fours
C T Tremlett not out 24
41 balls 0 sixes 3 fours
S T Finn b Herath 19
32 balls 0 sixes 4 fours
Extras (b3 lb7 w4 nb10) 24
Total (112.5 overs) 486
Fall: 1-5, 2-18, 3-22, 4-130, 5-201, 6-302, 7-410, 8-414, 9-452.
Bowling: U W M B C A Welegedara 28-4-122-4 (2wd) (5nb) (7-2-23-1; 5-2-9-1; 3-0-16-0; 3-0-17-0; 8-0-53-2; 2-0-4-0), R A S Lakmal 25-2-126-3 (1wd) (10-0-38-2; 6-2-14-0; 3-0-27-1; 4-0-40-0; 2-0-7-0), M F Maharoof 17-5-57-0 (1wd) (5nb) (10-2-28-0; 4-2-16-0; 2-1-12-0; 1-0-1-0), C R D Fernando 17-2-77-1 (9-2-35-0; 1-0-8-0; 3-0-14-1; 2-0-6-0; 2-0-14-0), H M R K B Herath 18.5-1-64-2 (6-1-21-0; 4-0-9-0; 4-0-19-0; 4.5-0-15-2), T M Dilshan 7-1-30-0 (2-0-2-0; 2-0-17-0; 2-0-11-0; 1-1-0-0).
SRI LANKA - First Innings
N T Paranavitana c Strauss b Finn 65
184 balls 0 sixes 10 fours
*T M Dilshan b Finn 193
253 balls 2 sixes 20 fours
K C Sangakkara c Prior b Tremlett 26
93 balls 0 sixes 4 fours
D P M D Jayawardene not out 40
69 balls 0 sixes 7 fours
T T Samaraweera not out 1
16 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
Extras (b19 lb20 w7 nb1) 47
Total (for 3, 102.2 overs) 372
Fall: 1-207, 2-288, 3-370.
To bat: †H A P W Jayawardene, M F Maharoof, U W M B C A Welegedara, H M R K B Herath, C R D Fernando, R A S Lakmal.
Bowling: S C J Broad 26-4-98-0 (5-2-5-0; 5-0-28-0; 4-0-17-0; 6-1-17-0; 4-0-29-0; 2-1-2-0), C T Tremlett 24-5-74-1 (1nb) (6-2-21-0; 5-1-20-0; 5-1-9-0; 3-0-8-1; 5-1-16-0), S T Finn 24.2-6-84-2 (7wd) (4-1-11-0; 3-1-7-0; 5-0-30-1; 4-0-11-0; 8.2-5-25-1), G P Swann 24-4-65-0 (11-2-35-0; 1-0-3-0; 6-1-12-0; 6-2-15-0), K P Pietersen 4-0-12-0 (3-0-11-0; 1-0-1-0).
Progress: Day Two: England 350 in 89 overs, Broad 50 off 47 balls (9 fours), 400 in 95.1 overs, Prior 100 off 107 balls (17 fours), 450 in 104.1 overs, Lunch: England 486 all out. Sri Lanka 50 in 15.5 overs, Dilshan 50 off 58 balls (5 fours, 1 six), 100 in 27.1 overs, Tea: 101-0 (Dilshan 54, Paranavitana 32), 150 in 40.3 overs, Paranavitana 50 off 142 balls (8 fours), Dilshan 100 off 129 balls (11 fours, 2 sixes), 200 in 51.4 overs, Close: 231-1 (Dilshan 127, Sangakkara 13).
Day Three: 250 in 68.4 overs, Dilshan 150 off 192 balls (15 fours, 2 sixes), 300 in 82.2 overs. Lunch: 344-2 in 91.0 overs (Dilshan 187, M Jayawardene 25), 350 in 94.3 overs, Tea: 372-3 in 101.3 overs (M Jayawardene 40, Samaraweera 1), Close: 372-3 (M Jayawardene 40, TT Samaraweera 1).
Match Umpires: BR Doctrove (WI) & RJ Tucker (Aus)
3rd Umpire: Aleem Dar (Pak)
Match Referee: J Srinath (Ind)Reuse content