Jack Wilshere's England
When did England last dominate possession like that? After being made to look like dumb animals in the last year by Hungary, Japan, Mexico and Montenegro, they finally played like a proper team on Saturday. Passing, movement, combinations – it was as if England had suddenly shed themselves of a century-long commitment to witless kick and rush. Or perhaps it was just to do with shedding Gareth Barry. With Jack Wilshere – who is brisker, sharper and braver than Barry – in the team, England had instinctive match-sense in midfield for the first time since the era of Paul Scholes. Wilshere tackles like Scholes and he passes and moves like him, too. Barry has a fight to get back into this team.
No James Anderson, no Stuart Broad, no imagination, no penetration no guile. England's attack against Sri Lanka on Saturday was as sharp as Inzamam-ul-Haq turning for a second run and about as lively, too. After months on the road injuries and fatigue are to be expected but when James Tredwell is in the team and Jade Dernbach is on the fringe then events have clearly departed from the plan. Seeing Tredwell, Luke Wright and Ravi Bopara bowl at Upal Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan was the most acute portrait of futility since Waiting for Godot. It was reminiscent of the 2006 flaying Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya gave to Liam Plunkett, Jamie Dalrymple and Alex Loudon, who were all probably close to a call-up last week.
The Celtic manager's one-man diplomatic mission continued on Saturday. His team were playing a friendly for charity against Athletic Bilbao, a club with whom Celtic have much in common, in terms of being a champion of regional identity. The game was to raise money for youth football in Bilbao. But, despite the fraternal setting, Lennon could not quite conduct himself in the spirit of the occasion. After just 33 minutes of the tie, a free-kick decision went against him and Lennon's complaints were such that he was banished to the stands. Childish behaviour in Old Firm games may be the point of the exercise, but in a charity friendly it is discordant. Even by Lennon's standards.