England v Sri Lanka, 4th ODI, Trent Bridge July 6, 2011

A green and pleasant land suits England fine

When a pitch with a strong green tinge greeted them, England knew they'd been presented with everything they could have hoped for

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.

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 ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mradul on July 8, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    @Marcio: I am a bit confused. The only Top teams that SL defeated in the WC2011 were England and NZ, they played Pak and Ind and lost to both. India defeated Aus, Pak, SL, WI and Tied Eng all are among the Top teams. How was Sri-Lanka better?

  • Manesh on July 8, 2011, 10:42 GMT

    real flat track bullies!................

  • M on July 8, 2011, 2:28 GMT

    The comments made by some SL fans in this thread are very entertaining and exciting than the 4th ODI thrashing. Lame excuses like rain, overcast cloudy conditions, green top, give us sun, flat batting pitches etc.I don't know why these excuses are not made - don't give us day night matches/don't give us moon etc. As a neutral observer one could easily see the facts .i.e. INABILITY TO FACE TOP CLASS SWING BOWLING AND INCOMPETENT MILITARY MEDIUM PACE BOWLERS. If you can't handle or remedy the situation as an international test/ODI team, solution is simple -go and play in your own back yard with school kids. I think England to win the final ODI, irrespective of the type of wicket two teams are gonna get, they only have to do one thing - whisper in SL players ears "it's going to be a swinging wicket", that will put the SL players in to false sense of insecurity and lose their wickets.

  • Marcio on July 8, 2011, 1:51 GMT

    I think some of you SL fans are overrating your team. I do agree that SL were the most consistent team in the world cup, and probably should have won. And the batting line up is v. strong. But the bowling? Take out Malinga, and the rest look about as threatening as Daffy Duck. In fact, one or two of them look a bit like Daffy, the way they waddle up to the wicket and roll their arm over at the last minute.

  • Mradul on July 8, 2011, 1:34 GMT

    @Valavan: Ha ha, your sense of humour is good. Firstly Malinga doesn't play in tests (You main weapon prefers IPL over his country, what a shame :-). Secondly Kula, Wele are nowhere compared to Ishant Sharma. Munaf isn't even our 3rd choice bowler, he might not even play in the tests. We have far better bowlers than SL and we have proven it several times, do u remember the 3rd tests when India last toured SL? Malinga played in that match still you lost on your own home ground. Check what Ishant did to Ausies and what Sree did to SA and then comment on Indian bowlers.

  • Hanah on July 7, 2011, 22:08 GMT

    @ rana2000: SL would never have batted second. Dilshan said he would have batted first if he had won the toss remember? Hahahahaaa

    You guys lost because you played badly. It wasn't because of the pitch. The reason why it seemed another track when England were batting was because of the fact that England bowlers are better.

    The difference you have noticed was not a different pitch but the difference between England and SL bowlers

  • Mike on July 7, 2011, 22:04 GMT

    Some of the SL fans on this site sure are sore losers haha. Guys get over it, I won't have any complaints if England goes to SL and you have spinning pitches. If it's a typical old trafford wicket in the final odi, prepare to get thrashed again by England.

  • Martin on July 7, 2011, 21:13 GMT

    @rana2000; what on earth are you talking about?! Sri Lanka had the best of the conditions!!! The SL openers walked out to bat in BRIGHT SUNSHINE. SL were 20/4 in BRIGHT SUNSHINE. Later, on the same pitch England scored 171 at 7 an over without losing a wicket, under lights, in claggy damp bowler freindly conditions. Decent bowlers would have rolled England over in such conditions. But Sri Lanka don't have decent bowlers and this time England thumped them. Don't kid yourself that "the pitch changed", that's rubbish. Excuses like that ain't cricket I'm afraid.

  • Bob on July 7, 2011, 20:36 GMT

    I now know why India and Sri Lanka don't produce wine... The grapes are too sour from that part of the world..

  • Valavan on July 7, 2011, 20:23 GMT

    @Raju Rajput, We are waiting for india vs England, first of all England can play seam better than spin, except ZAK, others arent equivalent to malinga or kulasekara or Welegedara, Munaf, Sreesanth will be toyed by Strauss and Co, we respect Zak, rest all are toddlers compared to SL pacemen.

  • No featured comments at the moment.