It was only carelessness that prevented England's batsmen from taking complete control here yesterday. The first four batsmen in the order all did the hard work and played themselves in although on this excellent one-day pitch it was not as difficult as all that.
Having established themselves, they proceeded to get themselves out to some unnecessarily poor strokes. Marcus Trescothick and Nick Knight set off with great confidence matching each other stroke for stroke and in no time at all Sri Lanka's bubbling enthusiasm for the one-day game was under pressure. Then, Knight was lbw trying to work a straight ball to leg and Trescothick was extremely well caught off a leading edge at cover when playing to leg. If this was not bad enough, Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe perished to Dilhara Fernando in the same over. Hussain played down the wrong line and was bowled while Thorpe hung out his bat to run a shorter and slower ball to third man. It is hard to find the rationale for this. Why should four such experienced batsmen have capitulated in such miserable fashion? They all know full well what the requirements are for this type of cricket and yet all four were guilty. A total of 330 would have been decisive while one of fewer than 300 gave Sri Lanka an outside chance.
First, Knight and Hussain allowed Sri Lanka a wicket when a good stand was fast swinging the match in England's direction. Then, Trescothick and Thorpe made the mistake of getting themselves out immediately after their partners and allowing the bowlers the chance to attack two new batsmen at the same time.
One could only wonder if the batsmen themselves were really saying that this type of cricket is not worth bothering about as much as Test cricket. They have just come through a most successful Test series against Sri Lanka and maybe felt instinctively that this was small beer in comparison.
It beggars belief that all four could ever have been guilty of such errors in a Test match. Indeed, in three innings in succession in the recent series England, for the first time in their history, scored more than 500 in three successive innings. They knew what it took to bat for a long time then. No doubt, all four would throw up their hands in horror if this explanation was even suggested to them, but how else can find a reason for what went on?
After all, Test cricket is an examination while the one-day game is, in essence, an exhibition although one would have thought that the financial rewards from the one-day game would have concentrated minds too much for this.
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