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When a pitch with a strong green tinge greeted them, England knew they'd been presented with everything they could have hoped for
July 6, 2011
If England could have turned up at any ground in the country, in their situation of needing a win to stay in the one-day series, they would have picked Trent Bridge. It's a venue that always encourages swing bowling and when a pitch with a strong green tinge greeted them, they knew they'd been presented with everything they could have hoped for.
Winning the toss is a lottery, but maybe the coin falling Alastair Cook's way was a favour from the 'cricketing gods' he had invoked after defeat at Lord's. However, England couldn't afford to let the opportunity slip away and proceeded to produce a performance as dynamic as the previous two have been dismal. But while the bowling was incisive, nothing was more dynamic than the way the captain himself batted to finish on 95 off 75 balls and Cook said: "I can't remember hitting the ball sweeter... when you win by 10 wickets and play like that it doesn't get much better."
England's players have not always been impressed with the one-day surfaces they get given for home matches. At Headingley James Anderson realised they shouldn't have bowled first when an early delivery gripped off the pitch, and after Lord's Stuart Broad tweeted "Off to Trent Bridge...hopefully a quicker wicket."
What they got was early movement and good carry. It's the latter which made Cook happiest and Steve Birks, the head groundsman, could well have earned a post-match drink. "We got what we asked for from the groundsman, who should take a lot of credit, it was very brave to leave that much grass on," Cook said.
However, there were soon murmurs that conditions favoured England too much. Should that matter? Of course not. It's difficult to imagine anyone in India or Sri Lanka moaning if a pitch turns too much, in South Africa if Johannesburg is a bit quick or, many years ago, if Jamaica and Barbados would whistle past the batsman's ears. Perhaps the talk starts because 'English' conditions are so unique, but that's what makes cricket in this country a compelling, if at times damp, spectacle.
Cook's red inker claims the moral high ground
As Cook showed, if the bowling was poor runs could flow freely and England won the psychological battle as much as what happened in the middle. "I thought that pitch was as flat as I'd played on," Cook said. "It came on very nicely. It was just those first few overs it did a little. It was just the carry, that's what we want, we are very good in those conditions. The Sri Lankans might have looked at it and thought it did a lot more than it actually did."
Dilshan was philosophical about the conditions his team were handed as this series continued to show clearly where the strengths of the two teams lie. "They are very experienced in these conditions but when they come to the subcontinent they struggle in flat conditions," he said. "We have bowled really well in the last two games on flat wickets. They are used to these conditions and they adjusted better in the two matches they won. We can't use excuses for losing matches."
In many ways having favourable conditions can be a burden as the pressure goes onto the bowlers to make the most of them, especially when the captain has put the opposition into bat. In Anderson, though, they have one of the best in the world at exploiting such advantages and by taking three wickets in his first five overs he knocked the stuffing out of Sri Lanka. Such is the expectation of Anderson when the ball hoops that three scalps felt like the minimum but, despite a middle-order rally led by Kumar Sangakkara, he wasn't needed to complete his 10 overs.
"The way we bowled up front put us on the front foot," Cook said. "That catch Bressy took [to remove Angelo Mathews] changed the game when they were getting a partnership going and Jade [Dernbach] in the Powerplay, an area we haven't done well, I thought did very well."
England are level in the series and that will make for a compelling contest at Old Trafford. Yet, while the short-term goal of keeping the contest alive has been a resounding success, it's impossible to say it was an afternoon and evening that taught us anything new about this England one-day side in the field.
However, for a developing team it's vital that they can at least win matches - and series - in home conditions which in turn builds confidence for tougher challenges, of which many will follow this winter in India and the Middle East. It would be a significant feather in Cook's cap to take the series, while maintaining his Test-match form, and both captains will open their curtains on Saturday with keen interest.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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