Swann on song as Sri Lankans crumble

Anderson and Finn also take three apiece to help tourists win by an innings

Colombo

England no longer make the mistake of using tour practice matches as elaborate experiments. They hit on the idea a couple of years back of playing them as if they were games of cricket to be won (or lost) rather than an exercise hatched in some cricketing laboratory involving multitudes of players coming on and off the pitch, retiring out, not fielding, bowling a bit, generally messing around with the laws of the game without clear purpose.

It was preparation for international cricket devised by Baron Frankenstein. Lately, however, everybody knows what they might be doing when the serious stuff starts, there is an outside chance of players being match-hardened and, as a neat sideline which seemed to have eluded previous managements, it is much more respectful to the hosts.

In keeping with this revolutionary policy (11 men play 11 men in game of cricket shock), the tourists duly won the opening contest in Sri Lanka yesterday. England's efficiency was buttressed by the Sri Lanka Board XI's complete lack of gumption and it was a perfectly straightforward victory, by an innings and 15 runs, except in one regard.

No doubt frazzled by the heat and the umpires' refusal to play ball with what looked like a wholly legitimate appeal for a slip catch, England showed their annoyance. That it was Andrew Strauss, their captain, who was claiming to have caught Dilruwan Perera, moving forward and scooping the ball, merely magnified the incident. Strauss is generally assumed to make Caesar's wife seem like a trollop, and for the umpires not to take his word clearly perplexed him and the team.

Jimmy Anderson, the wronged bowler, said afterwards: "Straussy thought he'd caught it and the batsman questioned it. The umpires couldn't see it so they couldn't give it out. It was just frustrating; with Straussy being the honest upstanding citizen that he is, he wouldn't lie about something like that. Add the heat into it and it was a lesson for us that situations like that are going to be hard to deal with and we have to deal with them well."

As a whole the match gave England a proper opportunity to examine their options for what is a tricky little assignment. At stake is their status as the world's top-ranked Test team. While England are assured of the $175,000 (£110,000) bonus from the ICC for reaching 1 April in the top spot, they could still go home a week later in second place.

Assuming South Africa complete a 2-0 series win against a hapless New Zealand in the next fortnight, England must defeat Sri Lanka to stay in front. Whatever happens it adds plenty of spice (as if that were needed) to the three-match contest between England and South Africa this summer.

First, however, it would be extremely handy to defeat Sri Lanka, something England have fallen far short of doing on the previous two tours, though Muttiah Muralitharan was still around then. England have to decide whether they think four bowlers will be enough take 20 Sri Lankan wickets in sufficient time for them to win at least one of the Tests,given the stifling, humid heat and the standard of the opposition.

The signs from this match, despite the light years separating the batting quality of the Board XI from that of the Test XI, are that it will. Anderson and Steve Finn were a handful with the new ball in both innings and took early wickets, which is likely to be crucial in at least one innings of a Test.

Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar bowled well in tandem, and it may not be a bad thing that a little sideshow competition is developing about who is the more effective. Swann is still the man in residence and will presumably remain so for lots of reasons – not least his astuteness, his batting and his slip fielding – but it is healthy that Panesar is stating a case. How uplifting it would be for both to play regularly, but that is for the realms of fancy.

England have enviable fast-bowling resources of a depth perhaps not seen since the Fifties and early Sixties. Despite the wilfulness of their opponents it was a pleasure yesterday to watch the particular duo on duty in operation. England declared overnight on 303 for 8, leaving the run machine, Alastair Cook, 163 not out, and Anderson struck in the first over of the day when Ashen Silva obligingly drove him on the up to cover.

Shortly after, Finn had Bhanuka Rajapaksa caught at second slip, half-heartedly driving. Wickets tumbled thereafter, mostly to catches behind the wicket from balls that had to be played but were not dealt with well. Swann took three wickets, more than Panesar for once, and it was all done before tea.

Colombo Scoreboard

Sri Lanka Board XI First innings 169 (WAAM Silva 66, MS Panesar 5-37, JM Anderson 4-19)

England XI First innings 303-8dec (AN Cook 163no)

Sri Lanka Board XI Second innings

Balls 4s 6s

WAAM Silva c Bopara b Anderson 0 3 0 0 FDM Karunaratne b Swann 31 71 3 0 PBB Rajapaksa c Swann b Finn 9 21 1 0 ARS Silva c Strauss b Anderson 12 81 2 0 †*HAPW Jayawardene c Anderson b Finn 0 6 0 0 SC Serasinghe c Cook b Swann 5 9 1 0 MDK Perera c †Prior b Finn 6 36 1 0 KG Alvitigala c †Prior b Swann 0 4 0 0 HMCM Bandara not out 28 70 3 0 TP Gamage lbw b Panesar 19 38 4 0 WGHN Premaratne lbw b Anderson 0 1 0 0 Extras (lb 9) 9 Total (56.4 overs) 119

Fall: 1-0, 2-25, 3-51, 4-51, 5-62, 6-62, 7-63, 8-79, 9-118.

Bowling: JM Anderson 11.4-5-21-3; ST Finn 13-5-24-3; MS Panesar 18-8-32-1; GP Swann 14-5-33-3.

Umpires: RA Kottahachchi and RR Wimalasiri.

England XI win by an innings and 15 runs

Suggested Topics
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor