Just about Stuart Broad's first act as captain of an England side was to leave out his best batsman. If it was bold and uncompromising, it also turned out to be spectacularly wrong.
The inclusion of Ian Bell might not have changed England's fortunes as they went down to Sri Lanka by nine wickets on Saturday here in Bristol, in the only Twenty20 match of the limited-overs series between the sides, but it was still part of the reason that England were so brutally exposed.
True, Bell had not been part of the great triumph in the Caribbean last year but nor had either Ravi Bopara or Samit Patel, who went in at five and six in the order instead. In the past few months, Bell has been in sublime touch in all forms of the game. Broad and the coaching staff must have decided that sublime does not cut it in T20.
Bopara, who has been badly out of form since being overlooked at the last minute for the first Test of the season, looked precisely that for the majority of the 22 balls of his innings.
Poor Patel, recalled after being ignored by the selectors for not being fit enough, faced only three balls. If this was unfortunate, the manner of his dismissal, run out rather dozily as he wandered out of his ground, did him no favours.
Those two dismissals condemned England to an uncompetitive total of 136 of which the tourists made mincemeat. Sri Lanka looked a different side from the detached bunch who showed up for too many sessions in the Test series.
When they sensed England were in a corner they never gave them room to manoeuvre, which may be ominous for the one-day series of 50-over matches which begins at the Oval tomorrow.
England seemed to have overcome their poor start after both openers, Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb, were out blazing away. A masterly partnership of 83 between Eoin Morgan, whose first scoring shot was a straight six, and Kevin Pietersen, seemed certain to take England to a testing score.
But after they were out – both a little carelessly, although that can happen in T20 – England foundered. While a total of 136 had been sufficient for England's women to beat Australia in the curtain-raiser earlier in the day, this was altogether different.
After Sanath Jayasuriya went early in his penultimate international innings – the last will be at the Oval – Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara played any tune they liked in engineering victory. Nothing that Broad did would have made any difference, though it was strange to see the captain lurking at deep fine leg.
In the crazy world of the international fixture list, England will play no more T20s until another solitary game against India in August. It makes the tardy decision to have two back-end T20s against West Indies in late September look like a masterstroke.
Although there may be too much international cricket, scant regard is paid to Twenty20, the big money spinner. Since the World Twenty20 final last May in Barbados, there have been only 24 international matches. Either T20 is part of the programme or it is not. At present it is neither in nor out.
Twenty20 International, County Ground: Sri Lanka beat England by nine wickets
Sri Lanka won toss
M J Lumb c Malinga b Lakmal 2
6 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
†C Kieswetter c Kandamby b Kulasekara 4
7 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
K P Pietersen b Jayasuriya 41
27 balls 2 sixes 3 fours
E J G Morgan c Jayawardene b Malinga 47
32 balls 3 sixes 4 fours
R S Bopara b Jayasuriya 19
22 balls 0 sixes 1 four
S R Patel run out 0
3 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
L J Wright c Perera b Lakmal 9
12 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
C R Woakes c Mathews b Malinga 7
9 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
*S C J Broad run out 0
3 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
G P Swann not out 0
0 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
Extras (b3 w3 nb1) 7
Total (for 9, 20 overs) 136
Fall: 1-3, 2-12, 3-95, 4-101, 5-102, 6-125, 7-131, 8-136, 9-136.
Did not bat: J W Dernbach.
Bowling: K M D N Kulasekara 3-0-15-1, R A S Lakmal 4-0-26-2, S L Malinga 4-0-15-2, N L T C Perera 2-0-35-0, S Randiv 4-0-24-0, S T Jayasuriya 3-0-18-2.
D P M D Jayawardene not out 72
57 balls 1 six 8 fours
S T Jayasuriya c Pietersen b Dernbach 8
8 balls 0 sixes 1 four
†K C Sangakkara not out 43
39 balls 0 sixes 5 fours
Extras (lb3 w11) 14
Total (for 1, 17.2 overs) 137
Did not bat: A D Mathews, *S H T Kandamby, B M A J Mendis, K M D N Kulasekara, N L T C Perera, S L Malinga, S Randiv, R A S Lakmal.
Bowling: C R Woakes 3-0-31-0, J W Dernbach 3-0-18-1, S C J Broad 3.2-0-29-0, S R Patel 2-0-18-0, G P Swann 4-0-26-0, R S Bopara 2-0-12-0.
Umpires: R A Kettleborough and N J Llong.Reuse content