Twenty20 England v Sri Lanka: A new era, but some of the old problems still persist
While England's run chase may have lacked momentum at points, it was their loose bowling at the end that cost them this game
the kia oval
Tuesday 20 May 2014
Unless you have been living under a rock, or perhaps so far 'outside cricket' that you haven't heard the repetitive churning of the ECB PR machine, this is a 'new era' for English cricket.
After the hibernis horriblis that England endured, dramatic changes and earnest promises were made as they tried to rebuild the sandcastle that had been stomped on by Australia and then kicked in their faces by the Netherlands.
While the new regime was given something of a soft launch in the ODI with Scotland earlier this month, tonight's T20 clash with reigning world champions Sri Lanka was much more like its grand unveiling.
Some have labelled The Oval soulless following its semi-recent redevelopment, but on evenings like this, it is anything but.
If Lord's is the traditional home of English cricket, then The Oval could reasonably lay claim to being the home of modern English cricket, as an enthusiastic near-sell out crowd would no doubt testify.
It is perhaps then a little disappointing that England's new era did not get off to the flying start that Peter Moores and Co. must have been hoping for.
There were undoubtedly bright points, Harry Gurney, was particularly impressive on his T20 international debut, picking up two wickets and denied a third by the simplest of drops from Michael Carberry.
Gurney is the first Harry to play for England since 1934 but given how well he bowled at the end of the innings, he also felt almost like England's first half-decent death bowler in as long.
However many of England's changes were not so successful. Perhaps the most inexplicable was the axing of Michael Lumb at the top of the order, breaking up an established opening pairing with Alex Hales that has yielded on average over 40 runs an innings at a run rate of nine an over.
Lumb's replacement Carberry is of course a fine T20 player, but you have to question the logic of changing the one consistent part of the side - an argument not helped by Carberry's costly blunder in the field and all too brief stint at the crease.
Another puzzling selection was that of Ian Bell, playing his first T20 game of any variety for 1222 days, and slotted in at number three. Moeen Ali, left out of England's upcoming ODI squads to allow him to play more red ball cricket, must have been particularly confused to be brought down to London just to sit watching on from the sidelines.
Again it was not a decision that paid off as Bell played a predictably rusty knock to leave England's run chase stuttering.
For all that this has been branded a new age, there were of course many similarities with the old one.
Hales picked up where he left off against Sri Lanka in the World T20, his innings of 66 from 41 balls at times threatening to lead England to victory again, but a Lasith Malinga slower ball destroyed any chance of history repeating itself as it clattered into his stumps.
Sadly however this much-hyped bright new dawn for English cricket still appeared to share some of the problems of its predecessor.
England's star limited overs batsmen, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and in particularly Ravi Bopara all feel like they are batting too low in the order, their influence on the game reduced with every ball they miss out on facing.
Then there is the perennial problem with England's T20 cricket - their bowling at the death.
After their horror show in Bangladesh, Dernbach and Bresnan were out, but Gurney aside, their replacements faired little better as Sri Lanka plundered 61 runs from the final five overs.
While England's run chase may have lacked momentum at points, it was their loose bowling at the end that cost them this game.
Overall though it was not all doom and gloom, Sri Lanka won the recent World T20 for good reason, and for large parts of this game England matched them. The new era might not be quite here yet, but it at least felt a little nearer.
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