President's XI 500-5dec v England: Harmison fails to impress on England return
Thursday 22 November 2007
England found out that Sri Lanka's administrators are far more accommodating than their players following a second successive hot, sweaty and ultimately fruitless day in the field against the President's XI. After permitting England to play all 16 members of their squad in the opening game of the tour, it was widely expected that the President's XI would declare sometime around lunch, a gesture that would allow Michael Vaughan's side the same amount of batting time as the hosts.
Yet Tillakaratne Dilshan, the President's XI captain and a man hoping to win a place in the Sri Lankan side, would have none of it. Dilshan asked his batsmen to bat on and on and on, keeping Vaughan's weary troops in the sun until a third member of his side had reached three figures and the team had amassed 500 for 5.
When the declaration came it then began to rain, depriving England of time in the middle. In order to obtain the practice they require England's batsmen will need to make the most of today's play and hope their captain wins the toss in the second warm-up match starting on Sunday. If Vaughan were to call incorrectly in the final warm-up match before the first Test, and the opposition captain were to take a similar stance, England's batsmen would travel to Kandy desperately short of time in the middle, a factor that affects confidence and form.
Though frustrating, and for the moment forgetting about the batting, this was exactly the type of examination England needed. It may be unwelcome hard work but bowlers need innings like this to find out where their game is at. Peter Moores, the England coach, and Vaughan would have found out plenty about their bowlers after two tough days in the field. Sadly, though, little of it was positive.
Stephen Harmison had his first proper bowl since arriving from South Africa and in an unimpressive spell either side of tea he looked well short of Test form. Harmison bowled six no-balls and a wide, conceding 48 runs in six overs. His preparations were not helped by the fact that his kit bag, containing his bowling boots, spent an extra night in Dubai. The boots were delivered to the ground mid-afternoon and as soon as they were laced to his feet he was out there bowling.
"It was mixed emotions when I saw Phil Neale [the team manager] walk through the door with my kit bag," said Harmison jokingly. "No, it was good to get the boots back on and be on the field for England again. I enjoyed it even though it was hot and the pitch was flat. You have to get used to the conditions and it was tough out there. All of the bowlers got something out of the game and hopefully now the batsmen can get the same, the result is irrelevant.
"I felt I was getting better with each day in South Africa, but I'm not going to lie to you; the first game, 6 for 91, probably looked good in England but it wasn't in South Africa. I'm realistic. I want to play for England but at the moment I have not got the shirt – June was the last time I played for England. All I am trying to do is go out and fight for my place. If I'm ready then I will be playing on 1 December. If not then the people who have earned the right to play in the side will keep their place in the side.
"I went to South Africa to prove that I wanted to play for England. A lot of people have doubted that I want to do that but all I want to do is play for England whether it be at home or abroad. I need to spend some time on the park and if I can do that and bowl properly, I feel that I am as good as anybody in England."
England's spinners fared little better. Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann appealed a lot but they rarely looked like taking a wicket. It is still a little early for England to panic, but their lack of cutting edge, and the dismissive way in which the local batsmen played the pair, must be a concern to Moores and Vaughan.
If Panesar and Swann are not taking wickets they must offer control while the fast bowlers rest. Against Chamara Kapugedera and Thilina Kandamby they failed even to do that.
The approach of the hosts may not have pleased England but they too did little to win friends by placing a note next to their viewing area that read: "No autographs please. It is a disturbance to the players – please understand." To the 30 England supporters sat close to the cordoned-off area it must have seemed rather pathetic.
Tour Match: Second day of three
Sri Lanka President's XI won toss
President's XI - First Innings
(Overnight: 218-3; W U Tharanga 92 no).
W U Tharanga c Bopara b Hoggard 112
C K Kapugedera c Shah b Swann 141
S H T Kandamby not out 107
†J K Silva not out 54
Extras b4 lb5 w3 nb6 pens 0 18
Total: (5 wkts dec, 131 overs) 500
Fall: 1-41 2-123 3-126 4-255 5-397.
Did not bat: K T G D Prasad, C M Ban-dara, K M D N Kulasekara, H M R K B Herath, A B T Lakshitha.
Bowling: Sidebottom 14-3-46-1; Hoggard 18-7-45-1; Anderson 20-3-68-0; Broad 17-3-42-1; Collingwood 3-0-9-0; Swann 25-3-112-1; Panesar 27-3-117-1; Bopara 1-0-4-0; S J Harmison 6-0-48-0.
England: *M P Vaughan, J M Anderson, I R Bell, R S Bopara, S C J Broad, P D Collingwood, A N Cook, M J Hoggard, †M J Prior, M S Panesar, K P Pietersen, R J Sidebottom, O A Shah, P Mustard, G P Swann, S J Harmison.
Umpires: P G Liyanage (S Lanka) and B B J Nandakumar (S Lanka).
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