England v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Rose Bowl, 4th day June 19, 2011

Jimmy cameos, Mahela fails

Plays of the Day from the fourth day of the third Test between England and Sri Lanka at the Rose Bowl

Cameo of the day
When James Anderson appeared as a nightwatchman in Cardiff, his talents were gently derided by his team-mate Stuart Broad. "He's more of a nudge-off-the-hip kind of guy," said Broad when asked if there was any prospect of Jimmy getting a move on in the morning. Today at the Rose Bowl, however, Anderson shredded such dour credentials. In the space of 30 deliveries he clattered 27 runs, 20 of which came courtesy of five agenda-forcing boundaries. One was moderately streaky - a thick edge through third man - but the rest were emphatically not. Four sumptuously punched cover-drives, two off the back foot and two off the front, as his partner Ian Bell was left temporarily in the shade.

Decision of the day
Ever since Andrew Strauss's first series as England's full-time captain, against West Indies in 2009, the timing of his declarations has been something of a bone of contention. In Antigua and Trinidad, England meandered fatally in matches they had to win and ended up letting their opponents bat out for two draws; and then last week at Lord's, he chose to kill the contest stone-dead on the final day by setting Sri Lanka an impossible 344 in 58 overs. Today, however, he got it more or less spot on. Breezy accumulation from Anderson, Bell and Eoin Morgan had given way to a slew of slogged wickets, so he called off the run-hunt with an imposing lead of 193.

Window of the day
Sadly for Matt Prior, Strauss's declaration didn't come soon enough to save his free-falling series average. After a century in the first innings at Lord's he's now followed up with scores of 4 and 0, and as soon as he snicked off to Thisara Perera this afternoon, the reaction around the ground was a unanimous cry of "Mind the windows!" But this time, instead of placing his bat on the window ledge and letting it bounce unfortunately onto an innocent pane of glass, Prior feigned the reaction that everyone assumed he had had last time around. He picked up his bat and, with a wide grin on his face, threatened to create some extra ventilation for his team-mates.

Reaction of the day
During one of his afternoon commentary stints, Michael Holding recalled how, at the WACA in 1984, he responded to the ignominy of losing his new-ball status by routing Australia with one of the fastest spells of his career. As it happens, Holding's recollection had been clouded a touch by time (he lost the new ball in India and never won it back) but the point he was making was still relevant to Stuart Broad. For the first time since the tour of Bangladesh last year, Broad was bumped down to the role of first change, but the mild dose of humiliation had a chastising effect on his game. He went wicketless in his first eight-over spell, but found a fuller and more dangerous length in that time, and when he returned late in the day he snaffled the massive wicket of Mahela Jayawardene. He might not get the new ball back in a hurry, but if he bowls as if he wants it, England will be well served by his demotion.

Delay of the day
After the lunacy of the third afternoon, when the decision to take tea in bright sunshine meant that no cricket was possible for more than two hours, the fourth day was a much more satisfactory affair. Play started on time, with all its intervals in the right place, and there was even a burst of common-sense when the umpires pressed on through a rare shower in the correct assumption it would pass before the covers had reached the middle. There was, however, one moment of doubt, at 4.25pm, when another dark cloud rolled across the ground. For a moment it seemed the players would come off for bad light, but instead they loitered in the middle while Rod Bransgrove fired up his floodlights. And whatever gripes there may have been about Saturday's events, three hours in less than 20-20 vision wouldn't have happened in Dickie Bird's day.

Fail of the day
Mahela Jayawardene arrived in England with hopes of emulating his successes in 2002 and 2006, when he racked up centuries in consecutive Lord's Tests, and skippered the side to a memorable victory at Trent Bridge. Alas, this time around he barely scraped past three figures in six attempts, as a rarely exposed vulnerability outside off stump proved his undoing time and time again. By the time Broad nailed him for 6, he had mustered 103 runs at 17.16, which is less than half of the tally of his wicketkeeper namesake Prasanna. What is more, his series strike rate of 38.14 is the lowest of his career. Without his weight of runs in the middle order, Sri Lanka's six-batsman strategy never stood a chance. Realistically, only Kumar Sangakkara, with one last chance to make a hundred in England, stands in the way of a 2-0 defeat.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Elliott on June 20, 2011, 10:59 GMT

    I think stationmaster touched on the real missing Play of the Day - a great big thank you to Nigel Gray and the rest of the Rosebowl groundstaff for producing a good Test wicket. Decent pace and bounce, with some sensible lateral seam movement and taking a bit of turn as well. Marvellous stuff.

  • Jackie on June 20, 2011, 9:53 GMT

    5wombats - the article wasn't written when I made my comment. But it is a fine article by Miller. I still think that Bell's strokeplay, particularly the late cut against seamers, deserved a Play para. It was picked up by all the admiring media as it is a classical stroke that has gone out of fashion. I was trying to make a point about perception of pace. Bell was solidly building his innings but he was able to change pace at different times - his second 50 was quicker than his first and he was on the charge at the end. He was purring along but his SR was 70 overall, KP seemed to be really playing attacking cricket - and he was - but his SR was 73 overall. There was even one commentator who said Morgan was scoring faster than Bell - but he wasn't. Morgan's SR was 64 because he had to leave so many balls in the off-side corridor. All three players contributed to the necessary run rate of 4 an over. This is Test cricket. They all stayed in long enough to get England to a decent score.

  • Martin on June 20, 2011, 5:41 GMT

    Just a few days ago @rana2000 was telling us, inspite of all the facts, that "Sri Lanka are clearly the better cricketing side...... Cardiff really was an anomaly and the real result between these two sides in test cricket should be a drawn series...." Well, either he no longer thinks this, or his excuses have become more sophisticated. Decide for yourself. @jackiethepen - your comments are so reliably negative - I would have thought that you of all people would have agreed with me. PS I too thought Bells innings was excellent. Perhaps this is why he has an article of his own.

  • mathew on June 20, 2011, 4:01 GMT

    @stationmaster,compared to england batsmen,srilanka and india play spin better ..everyone knows this fact.i guess england also did poor in ashes adelaide oval due to pace and bounce.Every team struggle under wet seam and swing condition.

  • J Ranjith on June 20, 2011, 2:51 GMT

    rana2000, we can do the statistical analysis in statsguru ourselves but the answer would make you sad.

  • Peter on June 20, 2011, 2:35 GMT

    5wombats - I think rana2000 was indicating that the English batsmen's averages are under indicating their skill level because they play in difficult conditions more of the time, whilst batsmen that play on flat pitches more of the time have inflated averages.

    I suppose you could argue that the opposite applies to bowlers, where those playing mainly in helpful conditions may have better looking strike rates than those of similar talent who labour on flat wickets.

  • Peter on June 20, 2011, 2:29 GMT

    mak102480 - India are the top ranked team, and they deserver that ranking- they earned it through being consistent over time. However, that is not necessarily the same as being currently the best team (though they may be that). We are not playing in 1999-2010. The series about to be played between England and India will be a good indication as to which team is better (though you have to take home advantage into account). A team is only as good as its current performance. For example, if Bangladesh suddenly became the best test side, it would take them probably 2 years to reach Number 1 ranking. It does not work like a one-off knock out event like the world cup.

  • Aussie on June 20, 2011, 2:10 GMT

    Every batsman in the world struggles against aggressive swing bowling. SLs and Indians are more exposed because they don't have quality quicks to do the same to other teams. Pak batsmen struggle more but they always have 1 or 2 quicks in the team to do the same to the other teams. AU and SA are also the same, poor batting but great fast bowling to make up for it. Recently AU has lost its great fast bowlers and their batsment are unable to save tests.

  • Amar on June 20, 2011, 1:08 GMT

    How can England be the best test team in the world when they haven't beaten India in a Test series since 1996? Yes, Eng haven't beaten India in a series in 15 years. The last 5 series b/w India and Englad: India (in India), Drawn (in England), Drawn (in India), India (in England), and India (in India). So, it's not just a case of India winning at home either: the last two series in Eng was drawn and won by India.

  • Giles on June 19, 2011, 21:48 GMT

    Funny how SL and Indian batsmen struggle so much against the swinging ball or pitches that offer some decent bounce, no wonder the groundsmen always make such terrible feather bed pitches on the continent, because neither of those sides have batsmen that can play spin, but also play swing and bounce, Tendulkar may be the one exception, but most of them struggle. This test match has offered somethgin for bowler and batsmen - and that's how EVERY pitch should be, as opposed to the boring batting marathons that re the Indian and SL pitches. Congrats to the ground staff for a great pitch that made batsmen and bowlers alike, think they had a sporting chance.

  • No featured comments at the moment.