The world champions, under new management, came crashing to earth yesterday. When Stuart Broad envisaged how matters might proceed in his first match as captain of England's Twenty20 team, this would have been prominent in the category of nightmare scenarios.
England began slowly but recovered brightly before their innings virtually stultified in the stand-alone game against Sri Lanka, a curtain raiser to the 50-over series that starts on Tuesday. The total of 136 for 9 was barely enough to give Broad anything to work with and the tourists, so out of sorts in the recent Test series, cantered home by nine wickets with 16 balls to spare.
It was an old-fashioned hammering of the sort England regularly used to receive in this form of the game. Mahela Jayawardene, who seemed to have forgotten how to bat in the Tests, was at home. It was as if he stepped off the plane only two days ago from the Indian Premier League and the month in between had never happened. He made an alluring, unbeaten 72 from 57 balls which included eight fours and a six. His unbroken partnership of 97 with Kumar Sangakkara came from 86 balls.
Broad, do not forget, was taking over a side which a year ago vanquished all before it in the World Twenty20 under Paul Collingwood and which subsequently set a record of eight consecutive victories. It was a benchmark that was always likely to be difficult to emulate and the new England wasted no time in demonstrating why.
There was not, in truth, much that Broad could do. England seemed to have overcome their poor start after being put in. The openers, Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter, reunited for the first time since the World Twenty20, departed attempting to hit the ball into the stratosphere, which is a trickier proposition in this country than elsewhere. But the innings improved markedly under the wisely belligerent guidance of Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan. Morgan's off-the-mark shot was a drilled straight six after he danced daintily down the track and there were two others from the same top drawer. Pietersen was booming off the front foot as usual, but also fashioning leg-side shots from outside off with something approaching delicacy. While they were together, a challenging total of around 180 seemed probable.
And then it unravelled. It was noticeable that Sri Lanka, lethargic in the field by the time the Tests ended, were full of brio and even when England's third-wicket pair had their foot on the gas their energy did not diminish. The dismissal of both batsmen within eight balls completely undermined England. Morgan slightly under-clubbed a pull to square leg, where Jayawardene took a shrewdly judged running catch. Then Pietersen tried to make room against a fizzing straight one from Sanath Jayasuriya and was bowled. He is not the first to have made that error against Jayasuriya, who was playing in his penultimate international match. Indeed, Ravi Bopara did it later in the innings.
England hit only one boundary in their last eight overs and never had a response to Lasith Malinga, perhaps the best T20 pace bowler around, who showed what the tourists missed in the Tests. Jayasuriya gave the debutant Jade Dernbach his first and England's only wicket. But the old partners and former captains did what had to be done with easy élan and England were run ragged. Broad now knows what he is in for.
Almost Stuart Broad's first act as England captain, presumably after discussion with the coach, Andy Flower, was to drop England's best batsman, Ian Bell. It seemed foolhardy since Ravi Bopara had made two double-figure scores in eight innings.
Broad gave the new ball to Chris Woakes, in his third T20, and Jade Dernbach, in his first, retaining himself in his usual first-change slot. Woakes went for 17 in his second over.
He noticeably encouraged all the good work in the field, not something he has always done while in the ranks when things have not gone his way.
He talked animatedly to the bowlers at the top of their runs and himself fielded in a variety of positions, from mid-off through fly slip and long leg.
He was not afraid to ring the changes and England used six bowlers in search of a breakthrough.Reuse content