How Eng­land can fi­nally win in Sri Lanka

No more ex­cuses. This is a golden op­por­tu­nity for the tourists to end their dis­mal over­seas Test run

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - MICHAEL VAUGHAN

We are used to Eng­land mak­ing par scores of 350 to win Test matches at home but they have strug­gled over­seas in re­cent years be­cause they have been un­able to bat for long pe­ri­ods.

They have not been able to make the first in­nings last for 130 overs, or work out meth­ods for tak­ing wick­ets on pitches dif­fer­ent to those in Eng­land and with­out the Dukes ball in hand. This three-match se­ries against Sri Lanka is a good op­por­tu­nity to show they have learnt. Sri Lanka are a good side. Noth­ing more.

This is a sim­i­lar Eng­land team to the one that went to In­dia two years ago and Aus­tralia last win­ter. There are one or two fresh faces but the ma­jor­ity of the side have played over­seas be­fore and can­not use the ex­cuse of in­ex­pe­ri­ence. Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Jos But­tler are all ma­ture crick­eters now. They have to show us they have im­proved and can win on the road. Eng­land have not won a Test over­seas since beat­ing Bangladesh in Chit­tagong two years ago. They have been ham­mered in In­dia, Aus­tralia and were beaten by New Zealand. Time to change.

Yes, Alas­tair Cook has re­tired but for the past cou­ple of win­ters he did not pro­duce con­sis­tent scores over­seas, so Eng­land can­not use the ex­cuse of los­ing him.

The top or­der was not fir­ing even with him in it. This sum­mer it was dif­fi­cult against the newer ball but in Sri Lanka the best time to bat will be at the top of the or­der.

Se­lec­tion will be in­ter­est­ing and I have a feel­ing Eng­land will go with Joe Denly at three. I hope they are do­ing that be­cause they think he is a bet­ter op­tion with the bat than Ol­lie Pope, not just be­cause they think Denly will of­fer a few overs of leg-spin. They have to pick the bats­men they feel will score the most runs, not of­fer a few overs of leg-spin, espe­cially when you have a front-line leg-spin­ner in the team in Adil Rashid. If it goes down to Denly’s leg-spin then Rashid has had a stinker.

It does sur­prise me that Denly has moved ahead of Pope but that is the se­lec­tors’ de­ci­sion to make. They will stand or fall on those calls. Ed Smith has done well so far and pick­ing Denly will high­light his mav­er­ick ap­proach.

But Pope is the fu­ture, the one young bats­man in the squad with huge tal­ent and po­ten­tial. I think this se­ries is the right time for him to bat at three.

Where it is dif­fi­cult in Sri Lanka is bat­ting from four to eight, be­cause by then spin will be in the game, and the odd bit of re­verse swing. It is very hard to start against a spin­ning ball or when it is rev­ers­ing. It is much eas­ier when it is fresh and hard. In the top three there is a great op­por­tu­nity to reach 20 be­fore break­ing sweat so this is an op­por­tu­nity to throw in a young kid.

Joe has never cap­tained in the sub­con­ti­nent. He has to draw on his own ex­pe­ri­ence from play­ing in In­dia and Bangladesh two win­ters ago un­der Cook and take that for­ward. He knows spin will play a big part but the skill lev­els of his seam­ers will be very dan­ger­ous as well.

The ba­sics are go­ing to be re­quired as cap­tain. You have to be un­ortho­dox and adapt­able too. If con­di­tions are flat and re­quire the long haul then you have to knuckle down, some­thing Eng­land have strug­gled to do in the past. They have been un­able to change their game to suit sit­u­a­tions.

Catch­ing will be cru­cial, espe­cially around the bat and be­hind the stumps. Your con­cen­tra­tion gets tested in hot con­di­tions. They will have to take those chances.

These are all ba­sics, but things Eng­land have not man­aged over­seas be­cause they are used to win­ning at home, which re­quires them to be switched on for much shorter pe­ri­ods. In Eng­land, Test matches move quickly and that suits their ag­gres­sive style.

If Eng­land lose in Galle some ob­servers will blame the prepa­ra­tion, the fact they only played two two-day games and it rained. But if you look at the past two win­ters, Eng­land’s best per­for­mances were in the first Test of the se­ries in Ra­jkot and Bris­bane. They faded as the tours went on. Even when they were bowled out for 58 in New Zealand they had been play­ing Test cricket in that part of the world for months. So there is some­thing more to it than prepa­ra­tion. It is men­tal­ity and a lack of con­cen­tra­tion.

If Eng­land can get some­thing out of Galle then they have a great chance. Ran­gana Herath re­tires af­ter the first Test so Sri Lanka will lose a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence and guile.

It makes the first Test so im­por­tant. Only once in 13 Tests over­seas have Eng­land taken 20 wick­ets. They need to go with their best two front-line seam­ers be­cause the bat­ting is so packed. They will want to play Sam Cur­ran be­cause he can make runs, more than Stu­art Broad or James An­der­son. There is an ar­gu­ment Cur­ran will cre­ate rough out­side off stump for Moeen, but he will also be do­ing that for Ak­ila Danan­jaya, Sri Lanka’s off-spin­ner, who is good in his own con­di­tions.

Af­ter the way Broad and An­der­son bowled in the sum­mer I would go with the two big guns in the first Test. They have the ex­pe­ri­ence and know-how. An­der­son, Broad and Stokes. That is Eng­land’s best seam at­tack.

Catch­ing will be cru­cial around the bat. They have to take chances

Se­lec­tion is­sue: Joe Denly’s leg-spin could prove use­ful for Eng­land but, if cho­sen, it is runs they will re­ally be look­ing for from the Kent player, while (above left) the tourists cel­e­brate af­ter seal­ing their se­ries vic­tory over Sri Lanka in 2001

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