England were handed the ideal Headingley pitch for them to wrap up the two match series against Sri Lanka, it may have come down to the last over again but they blew it.
Much like England wasted their chance to win the first match of this two match series against Sri Lanka they wasted a number at Headingley as they lost the first start of summer mini-series since their introduction, handing the visitors their first series win – two or more matches – on English soil.
It was there in the grasp of their hand but they bumbled and fumbled their way to defeat. Every part of the game saw a shambolic performance that not only wasted this perfect pitch for the seam attack but also two maiden test centuries and a five for.
From bowling, to batting, to fielding, to review decisions, to captaincy every part played it’s part in the defeat that came with the second last ball of the match.
Captaincy. At times it seemed like one long resignation exercise. Alastair Cook was wound up beforehand due to remarks made by Shane Warne which Cook thought were personal. They were, what ever Warne says he’s on a revenge mission for his friend to see that the man they see as getting Pietersen the sack has a hard time of it.
The problem for Cook is what Warne is saying about his captaincy isn’t just revenge but it’s true. Cook’s captaincy is defensive and clueless. If it’s not the latter then it has no authority on the pitch.
The Headingley pitch was prime for pitching the ball up and getting nibbles outside off stump. England bowled short. Well two of England’s bowlers bowled short. Anderson and Broad. Now that was either the plan from the coaching staff and captain, in which case clueless, or it was done by Anderson and Broad against instruction, in which case Cook can be seen as toothless.
What was clueless by Cook was the introduction of Plunkett in the Sri Lanka second innings. With five wickets on the board from the first innings and a shortish time to bowl before lunch everybody could see it was an excellent opportunity to give either the new ball or a little used one to England’s most dangerous bowler. Give him a few overs at full pelt, then rest him up at lunch and he can go back at it.
But no, Cook went with his usual captaincy by numbers. Anderson and Broad are his opening bowlers so they open the bowling. Over after over of rubbish got the Sri Lankans cruising. It wasn’t until 30 to 40 minutes after lunch that Plunkett was finally thrown the ball.
Throughout the rest of the innings England’s top two bowlers bowled rubbish as Sri Lanka amassed the lead that would win them the game. What did Cook do, tell them pitch it up or spread the field and indulge both them and the Sri Lankan captain, Angelo Mathews.
Anderson honestly shouldn’t be picked at Headingley, he has an awful record there. The Burnley Bumpkin is too thick to figure it out himself, so questions of the coaching staff and captain have to be asked. No doubt he’ll be back for Trent Bridge and conditions will be all in his favour and wickets will fall, this will soon be forgotten as the claims of greatness are bandied about.
His fend off from what would have been the second last delivery, if he hand’t got out, was also quite pathetic. Wasting Ali’s excellent rearguard action in getting his first test century. But it showed how the Sri Lankan bowlers adapted to the pitch and did just bowl “their” length but the pitches.
Cook also didn’t use Ali’s bowling as he should. It would make a world of difference if Cook was making runs but he isn’t and he doesn’t look like he will. His opening partner went away after a poor Lord’s test and worked on his problems and promptly scored his first ton. Cook is no Brearley, he is not a captain you can carry. His only hope is a return to form, his only saviour at the moment is the lack of alternatives.
Along with all that the reviews England went for and turned down were ridiculous. Wasting a number of blatantly not out deliveries and refusing to go for ones where batsmen would have been out after nicking the ball to Prior.
But then you’d have to rely on the umpires, two of which were inept. The television umpire seemingly unaware of the front foot no-ball law, which saw Prior incorrectly dismissed, while Bowden acted the goat and got his face on telly because everyone wants to see him.
This was a game England should have cruised to victory in, in the end they shouldn’t have lost, but they just can’t help themselves these days.