Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sanath Jayasuriya's creaking spin destroys Stuart Broad's England


Here was a reassuring reminder for cricket purists: at the highest level, no matter how short the format, class will usually out. This was certainly the case in a disappointingly one-sided Twenty20 international, which ended with Stuart Broad's England being roundly defeated by Sri Lanka, who barely had to break sweat or, in Sanath Jayasuriya's case, into a trot. England lost by nine wickets with 16 balls to spare. It was a horror show.
The match was decided during an ugly period of play between the 12th over of the first innings and its conclusion, during which England contrived 41 runs for the loss of seven wickets. Thus they ended up with a paltry total of 136. Charlotte Edwards' women's side wereable to defend that target earlier in the day against Australia, Broad's had no chance once Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara set to work.
England, with Broad in charge for the first time, faltered at the start as Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter, hopefully reunited, both holed out tamely. However, Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan, England's class acts, soon restored the situation. Together they added 83 in fewer than nine overs with few alarms and five sixes. A proper, competitive total was on the horizon, whereupon the old boys of the Sri Lankan side intervened.
First Lasith Malinga induced Morgan to be caught on the leg-side boundary.Then England were undone by someone who first played international cricket in 1989 against Allan Border and Dean Jones. Jayasuriya will be 42 this week and is supposed to be here only for a grand farewell. Yet his creaking left-arm spinners inevitably accounted for Pietersen, who tried to cut a skidding, straight delivery and was bowled. The MP would also dispatch Ravi Bopara during a miserly three-over spell.
Until then Pietersen had batted fluently and England had advanced steadily. Now they looked a bit of a shambles and in need of a bit more class. It was a surprise that Ian Bell, in such sparkling and impish form, had been omitted from the side. Once again the established pecking order – Bell has rarely been included in recent Twenty20 teams – took precedence over the concrete evidence of the last few weeks.
Samit Patel endured something of a nightmare, except that he had probably wrestled in his sleep with every other calamity bar the one that overtook him. Still, to get off the mark, he punched the ball square of the wicket and wandered a few feet out of his crease. Jayawardene flung the ball back and hit the stumps and the laggardly Patel, turning slowly, had not quite regained his ground. Moving slower still he trudged back to the dug-out with his ignominious duck.
The tail were equally tame. No one could fathom Malinga to such an extent that in the last over of the innings England were reduced to scrambling three byes from three separate balls as flailing batsmen failed to make contact.
The blame for England's predicament – about 30 runs short of par – could hardly be laid at the captain's feet. But neither Broad nor anyone else could threaten Sri Lanka as they set about knocking off the runs. Once again those with a touch of class prevailed. Jayasuriya could not quite defy the years with the bat in his hand. Soon he drove to mid-off to allow Jade Dernbach his first international wicket. But by then Jayawardene was already in full flow.
Chris Woakes, trying to be too elaborate, was taken for 17 runs in his second over. Occasionally Jayawardene backed away to give himself room to hit on the off side. Most of the time graceful orthodoxy was all that was required. Dernbach's wide range of slower balls did not disturb him greatly; these types of delivery are only effective when a batsman is under pressure to score quickly. The Sri Lankans never were.
At the other end loitered Sangakkara nonchalantly dashing the ball through mid-wicket against Graeme Swann. It looked as if he was enjoying being back in the ranks.
Loyally the fans stayed on to admire Jayawardene flicking more boundaries off Woakes, but, by then, any tension or any uncertainty about the outcome had long since disappeared.
As for the debut captain: well, it was a doddle – for Thilina Kandamby of Sri Lanka. He hardly had to put his pads on or his thinking cap.
For Broad it was all a dire disappointment. He now discovered the agony of the post-match interview. We were informed that "we didn't execute our plans; we didn't hit enough boundaries and that Jayawardene and Sangakkara played fantastically well".
All Broad can hope for is that his batsmen do not leave him in the lurch again when his second game in charge comes around on 31 August. It is a long time for him to wait to exorcise a nasty experience, albeit against the likes of Virender Sehwag and Mahendra Dhoni.


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