It was another desultory day in a Test series that should seriously be exercising the attention of Dignitas. But into each life falls the occasional ray of sunshine and it was provided yesterday by the resurgent England fast bowler, Chris Tremlett.
Before the rain once more swept in from the Hampshire hills, restricting the second day of the third Test to a mere 23.2 overs, Tremlett immobilised Sri Lanka's first innings. His speed and accuracy, allied to steep bounce and disturbing movement, was altogether too much for the tourists to handle – they were on 177 for 9 by the time they scurried for the dressing room.
If it was, yet again, a fairly inept exhibition of the craft of Test match batting, that should not detract from the manner in which Tremlett went about his work. He has been England's best bowler in this three-match series and although he, like his colleagues, was awry in line in the second match at Lord's, he is on the button again.
In 32 balls, Tremlett took four wickets yesterday to complement the brace he had on the first day, and ended with his best Test figures (so far) of 6 for 42. The way Sri Lanka capitulated suggests he could easily add a seventh by the time he has delivered the four balls remaining in his 19th over today.
The movement alarmed the batsmen and their response was to play strokes which were as poorly executed as they were conceived. Tremlett would have been a handful to anyone, anywhere, in this mood and it represented a quite wonderful homecoming for him, perhaps the zenith to date of his new career.
Hardly a year ago, it was possible to surmise that Tremlett's international career was over. He was injury-prone and it was suspected not truly ambitious enough. He was a Hampshire lad and a Hampshire lad he would stay.
He surprised most observers by leaving for the bright lights of London and joined Surrey. It spoke of an untapped resolve and he caught the eye of England's new bowling coach, David Saker, who knew nothing of the past but knew what he saw in front of him.
Taken on the tour of Australia, he gained entry into the team after the second Test and was immediately incisive. Tremlett it was who bowled the ball that confirmed the series victory.
It took him six balls yesterday to end Sri Lanka's relatively stubborn partnership for the fifth wicket. He had already rapped Thilan Samaraweera a fearful blow on the gloves with a rasping lifter and the shot that ensued four balls later stuck out, so to speak, like a sore thumb. The batsman drove to gully, bat too far away from body.
In Tremlett's next over, Thisara Perera, who had spent six balls demonstrating that he wanted to get the hell out of there, had a wild fling at the fullest ball of the over and was smartly caught at the wicket.
Rangana Herath sliced to fine leg and Suranga Lakmal was horribly exposed trying to pull a short ball for which he was horribly ill-equipped. Only Prasanna Jayawardene showed the proper approach. His method was sound and he tailored his shots impeccably until, attempting to slog sweep Graeme Swann's second ball, he was caught in the deep.
There were no wickets for Jimmy Anderson or, not unusually, for Stuart Broad. There was no doubt that Broad was unlucky at times but he also appeared to be obsessed with the short-ball attack, almost at the expense of all else. There were too few men close to the bat when he was bowling.
This lean spell must be perplexing for Broad, who has taken six wickets in this series, 22 in eight (and a half) matches since the start of last summer. All cricketers have dark spells (ask Chris Tremlett) but sometimes Broad does not help himself.
At one point yesterday, Ian Bell missed a ball he perhaps should have stopped at square leg as Jayawardene and Dilhara Fernando showed the only resistance Sri Lanka mustered. Broad stood with hands on hips for a few seconds, then ambled back to his mark shaking his head.
All very well, but when Bell pulled off an excellent diving intervention next ball, there was no corresponding applause from the bowler. Maybe they know him and laugh in the dressing room.Reuse content