In his first international match at Headingley, Tim Bresnan looked as though he might never play another anywhere. He and England were taken to the cleaners by Sri Lanka in a humiliating defeat which was as much an ordeal as it was a game.
Bresnan bowled two overs for 29 runs, pummelled by Sanath Jayasuriya in one of his more merciless moods. There was no time to bring him back for more because Sri Lanka chased down a total of 321 in the 38th over. Jayasuriya finished with 152 from 99 balls.
The only reason it did not qualify as torture under any human rights act imaginable was that it did not last long enough. It secured a 5-0 series win and Bresnan, who had played four matches, each of which was more grotesque than the last, was casually dubbed as a lad from Pontefract who was too fat and too slow in every sense.
It is a measure of his stubborn nature – his Yorkshire nature, that is – as well as many other attributes that Bresnan will return to the scene of the crime today as a prized member of England's one-day team for the second one-day international against the same opponents. Not only is he a go-to bowler in that he is entrusted with overs both early and late in the innings, but he is a batsman of methodical calmness who calculates what needs to be done quickly and does it.
Bresnan is an engaging soul who puts up with the attention rather than revelling in it and he has quite clearly had enough of being reminded of Headingley 2006. "We got nailed in that series," he said. "It wasn't great. I've been asked a lot about this down the years, how much it has influenced my career and my bowling. Nothing much has changed."
Determinedly pragmatic though he is, Bresnan was presumably quietly pleased to dismiss Jayasuriya in his last international innings at The Oval on Tuesday night when England took a 1-0 lead in the series. It can only have added to the moment that the downfall was caused by a rasping square cut, precisely the shot that Jayasuriya has made his own down the years. But instead of heading to the boundary at the speed of light it ended up in Eoin Morgan's hands at point.
"I bowled him a short wide one the other night and he cut it straight to Morgs," said Bresnan. "That is when it is not his day, it is my day. He had a great year in 2006 so I deserve one back from him." Bresnan does not do over-excitement. He has a bowler's righteous world-weariness about him but he knows that his is not to question why, but simply to get on with it.
There were concerns that he might miss most of this summer after a recurrence of a calf injury in April. But he has responded well to intensive treatment and after only two Twenty20 games for Yorkshire he was drafted into England's squad, a measure of the player he has become in the last five years.
He played a significant role in the last two matches of the Ashes series and he is a serious candidate for the longer form of the game. He brings accuracy, nous, sense and, as his greatest fans will tell you, has a surprisingly heavy ball.
He affects not to be bothered about laying the ghosts of Headingley from five years ago. "Everyone has moved on a lot since then. We are a much better one-day unit," he said. "Everyone has got a lot more confidence. We have not got all the debutants as we did in that game. We have got quite a lot of experience.
"As a unit we did not have a lot of belief whereas now we are quite confident. I am a lot fitter now than I was back then. If you look around the team we are quite athletic and quite in your face as a fielding unit. We are described as quite a hard team. We are under the batsmen's skin as a fielding unit and you can only do that if you are creating that buzz."
England A N Cook (capt), C Kieswetter (wkt), I J L Trott, K P Pietersen, E J G Morgan, I R Bell, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J W Dernbach, J M Anderson.
Sri Lanka T M Dilshan (cap), D P M D Jayawardene, L D Chandimal, K C Sangakkara (wkt), S H T Kandamby, A D Mathews, B M A J Mendis, K M D N Kulasekara, S Randiv, S L Malinga, R A S Lakmal.
Umpires B Bowden (NZ) and R Kettleborough.
Weather Dry and sunny, becoming overcast later. Maximum temperature: 17C.
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