Kandy look­ing sweet for pace bowlers

A move to higher alti­tude will re­fresh An­der­son, Cur­ran and Stokes, writes Scyld Berry in Galle

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Cricket -

Af­ter Eng­land’s crick­eters stood tall in Galle, Kandy could be dandy. Not since the early years of Sri Lankan Test cricket have Eng­land as­serted such su­pe­ri­or­ity. It would be their first se­ries vic­tory here since 2001 if they win the sec­ond Test, which starts on Wed­nes­day.

It is a long trek from Galle on the south-west tip of Sri Lanka to Kandy in the cen­tral high­lands – Eng­land de­cided to do it in two stages, by driv­ing to Colombo one day then up to Kandy the next – but for the tourists it will be worth their while. Noth­ing what­so­ever at the Galle sta­dium en­cour­aged Eng­land’s pace bowlers – they took only three wick­ets be­tween them – but the Pallekele ground on the out­skirts of Kandy is bound to of­fer more to James An­der­son, Sam Cur­ran and Ben Stokes.

Alti­tude for a start. Kandy nes­tles in the hills at 1,500 feet. Not so high as the finest tea plan­ta­tions nearby, such as Nuwara Eliya at nearly 6,000 feet, but the re­duc­tion in tem­per­a­ture will be al­most as re­fresh­ing as a cup of Cey­lon tea, which was brought from As­sam af­ter the cof­fee plan­ta­tions were wiped out by a fun­gus in the 19th cen­tury.

Lo­cal knowl­edge also an­tic­i­pates dew of a morn­ing as fur­ther en­cour­age­ment for Eng­land’s pace bowlers. Only six Tests have been staged at the Pallekele sta­dium, erected to re­place the As­giriya ground, which be­longed to a school, and only one Test at this mon­soon time of year, the first in 2010.

So there is no de­fin­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence to go by – but every prospect Eng­land will out-strip Sri Lanka in pace as well as every other depart­ment now Ran­gana Herath has re­tired.

Stu­art Broad could re­turn to the side if there is a lot of rain around, in place of Adil Rashid, who lapsed too of­ten in length when Eng­land were bowl­ing out Sri Lanka on the fourth day, or Jack Leach. But if mois­ture in some form – whether rain or dew – is not go­ing to af­fect the Pallekele pitch, there will be no need to change the balance of Eng­land’s at­tack.

Be­sides, the re­freshed Eng­land side who won for the first time in Galle, by 211 runs, looked lively and full of po­ten­tial in the field. Only An­der­son re­mained of the three vet­er­ans who played Eng­land’s last Test at the Oval – Alastair Cook hav­ing re­tired, Broad omit­ted – and what­ever the ben­e­fits brought by an old guard, they are not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed keen­ness in the field.

Ben Foakes, in re­plac­ing Jonny Bairstow, added to this live­li­ness. If he was not nec­es­sar­ily more ef­fec­tive be­hind the stumps – Bairstow dropped a catch to his left in the Oval Test against In­dia but over the past two years his misses have been min­i­mal – Foakes’s flu­ency of move­ment and smooth­ness of glove­work have added to the chore­o­graphic ef­fect of Root’s team, which can­not fail to im­press op­po­nents as well as their 5,000 or so trav­el­ling sup­port­ers. If Bairstow re­turns to the side for the sec­ond Test, it can only be as the No3 bats­man.

Over­all, there­fore, Root’s Eng­land have taken a sud­den but dis­tinct step for­ward in their evo­lu­tion. A year ago in Aus­tralia, Root was one of the youngest play­ers: even rook­ies such as Mark Stone­man and Dawid Malan were older than the cap­tain, in ad­di­tion to all the es­tab­lished play­ers. Now Root is one of the old­est, and he looks un­mis­tak­ably the cap­tain now – the eye is not drawn to see how the old guard are re­act­ing to his de­ci­sions – as he is fash­ion­ing a team in his own im­age.

Their op­po­nents have it all to do. Marco Polo ob­served that no is­land of com­pa­ra­ble size is “bet­ter cir­cum­stanced” than Sri Lanka, but the Vene­tian trav­eller would have reser­va­tions about the cur­rent state of their cricket.

Their board has of­ten over­seen a litany of du­bi­ous de­ci­sions, un­paid ho­tel bills, un­paid play­ers and po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence; the dif­fer­ence now is that there are no great crick­eters to rise above the sys­tem.

Sri Lanka’s stan­dard in the field was of­ten ap­palling, whether it was the lack of ath­leti­cism of some play­ers, or the ques­tion­able cap­taincy which let Eng­land es­cape from 103 for five, or the ill-dis­ci­pline which led to Sri Lanka wast­ing their two un­suc­cess­ful re­views in the first 10 overs.

Their fine 21-year-old fast bowler, Lahiru Ku­mara, was sent home for mis­be­haviour on the eve of the match. When Di­nesh Chandi­mal hob­bled off and Su­ranga Lak­mal took over – and pace bowlers in Sri Lanka have more press­ing mat­ters than cap­taincy to at­tend to – there was no vis­i­ble diminu­tion in the team’s in­ten­sity, be­cause there was so lit­tle to di­min­ish.

Great crick­eters raise the stan­dards of their side, whether they are cap­tain or not. Af­ter Ma­hela Jayawar­dene had led Sri Lanka, and was stand­ing at slip, a new­comer at short fine leg who con­ceded an easy sin­gle was given a with­er­ing stare. He mis­fielded again

– and was dropped for the next game.

Mut­tiah Mu­ralitha­ran, whose 800 Test wick­ets are beyond the range even of An­der­son, on 565, and Sanath Jaya­suriya, though now charged by the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil’s An­ti­Cor­rup­tion Unit, were suc­ceeded as great crick­eters by Jayawar­dene and Ku­mar San­gakkara. Now their cup­board is bare of any, and Eng­land have only to help them­selves to what re­mains.

Great crick­eters raise stan­dards of their side whether they are cap­tain or not

Happy re­turn: Eng­land won the fourth ODI at Kandy (above) and head there for the sec­ond Test, when con­di­tions will suit Ben Stokes (right) bet­ter than Galle

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.