England v SL, 1st Investec Test, Lord's, 2nd day June 13, 2014

England encounter the pleasure and the pain

England's future was revealed as they took to the field against Sri Lanka and it proved as expected to be a mixed bag

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The second day at Lord's provided a picture of the future England face: the exciting parts and the potential problems.

There was a double hundred from Joe Root, England's first since the final Test of the 2011 season against India which signalled a drying up of the daddy hundreds. Then there was fun and frolics from the lower order as they batted without inhibition with England careering along at more five an over.

Then it was all eyes on the new shape of England's attack. With all due respect to James Anderson and Stuart Broad, two fine bowlers with 581 Test wickets between them, it was what followed them that provided most interest. There was a wicket in the first over of Chris Jordan's Test career and there was pace from Liam Plunkett.

With his third delivery, Jordan drew an outside edge from Dimuth Karunaratne which carried low to Matt Prior - a theme of the innings which was key to a the reprieve for Kaushal Silva. Jordan was afforded an eight-over opening spell by Alastair Cook and beat the outside edge enough, especially of Silva, to remark that a second scalp would not have flattered him. His first three overs went for 17, but the next five of the spell for just six runs.

Plunkett was a little more of a mixed bag in his first Test outing since 2007, such a gap that the nerves are unlikely to have been any less than Jordan's and may have been greater given that Jordan has recent experience of the limited-overs set-up.

His first ball was way down the leg side, but he also hit 89mph in his opening over and later touched 90. There were a couple of wides and he also ended up on his backside twice after bowling bouncers. But until a final, short spell, when he seemed bothered by a leg ailment, he was quick, and that is what Cook wants.

"Both of them were fantastic on a slow wicket," Prior said. "It was good seeing the speed guns in the high 80s and Pudsey [Plunkett] got into the 90s at one stage. It was real good pace. CJ showed really good control as well in a nice spell."

And then there was the reality. There was no Graeme Swann. There was no frontline spinner. A failure of forward planning meant they were plunged into the mire the moment that Swann announced his retirement in Melbourne. This weakness had become a reality for the first time. A warm, sunny day and a flat surface meant that the reality was pressing.

It is not that England do not have a spinner. There has, in fact, rarely been as much written and spoken about a new England spinner as there has been about Moeen Ali. Mostly that is because he has a doosra. And a little bit because he has a fantastic beard. But because of the greatness of who came before him the difference will be stark.

He was introduced to the bowling crease for the 24th over, up against Kumar Sangakkar, who knows a thing or two about playing spin. Half an hour earlier, shortly after Sangakkara had walked in, Swann had tweeted: "England should get Moeen on now to Sanga. He's vulnerable early on to off spin."

There was no dream start like Jordan but everything landed nicely for Moeen during a three-over spell from the Nursery End. There was nothing that will have the Sri Lankans overly worried about his further stints on Saturday, but Moeen can expect a decent workload to show his craft and, maybe, the doosra.

England were quickly looking for reverse swing, an art form they used frequently while Swann was in the side but as a complimentary skill to his own. Now it will be become even more important to England.

Something else that will be important - and it is not a new thing - is catching. England have become increasingly fallible in the slips and now have a new combination of Cook at first, Jordan at second (when he is not bowling) and Gary Ballance at third. One of the great advantages of a settled side is a settled slip cordon and England's state of flux has added to the catching problems.

There was a clear chance in the fourth over of the innings when Karunaratne's edge flew between Jordan and Ballance. Understandings will have to be formed, players will have to get to know each other's mannerisms. Karunaratne's life, while not overly costly in runs, meant England were denied an early dart at Sangakkara.

"We are very comfortable with our slip cordon," Prior said. "CJ is one of the best catchers I've ever seen - I'll put the mockers on him now - and he works hard. We know how important it is to take the chances and the half chances. On a wicket like this we have to be very close and sometimes the ball does flash through, but the reason we do all the hard work is so we do take that chance."

With a middle order that includes more than 22,000 Test runs between just two players, and on a surface that looks full of plenty more, England cannot afford to spurn opportunities that come along.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nicholas on June 14, 2014, 17:53 GMT

    @dunger.bob (post on June 14, 2014, 5:46 GMT): Agree re. McGrath, and I'd also add in Warne there too. What team wouldn't want guys like that...

    I don't like comparing between formats, especially hit-and-giggle T20's, but have to say I was disappointed with Johnson's lack of strike in the IPL. As I say that was T20's and for all I know every opposing team was simply ordered to play Johnson's 4 overs out and protect wickets at all costs. Tests - well there's no let off like that is there. I love great bowling, so hope to see the 2013/2014 version of Johnson persist.

    Anderson's a funny one. He was never really a key strike bowler in my opinion. He had such a shocking start to his international career it's fantastic he's gone on and achieved what he has. But do you envisage him skittling over teams regularly? He's perhaps a bit like Dizzy Gillespie and does TOO MUCH with the ball at times, so tends to be economical (and consistent of late), but not thick amongst the wickets enough.

  • Steve on June 14, 2014, 9:02 GMT

    I think the declaration was fine, as we were scoring quickly, and that allowed Root to get his 200. We would have to bat again if we declared sooner, so why not score the runs now, at such a lively rate? As to the bowling, I guess Jordan and Plunkett were told to steam in, and so inaccuracy is inevitable. More worrying is Mo only getting 3 overs. Hope he gets a good bowl today, and the doosra comes out!

  • Dummy4 on June 14, 2014, 8:22 GMT

    It was all Cock a Hoop whilst England batted. They were about to face reality when it came to bowling. What was all they hype about from Captain Cook "Pace". It hardly bothered the SL batsman. The openers are not experienced and exposed to different conditions but they managed well except a couple of times. Now England bowlers will have to just break their backs to expunge anything from this Lords flat wicket. We were at Lords the first day and it got so boring besides the killer sunshine. Good thing was there was plenty of Colour about, red, pink trousers, shorts, multi colour shirts. May be "LORDS" management are slowly bringing in changes. No atmosphere in the way of entertainment.

  • Dummy4 on June 14, 2014, 7:18 GMT

    Cook is negative, has always been negative and will continue to be negative. And there lies the problem....

  • Dru on June 14, 2014, 7:01 GMT

    A bit early to say this after 40 over in to the summer but English bowling will struggle againt quality batting unless the wicket suits them. SL is not a strong batting team in England and he English attack looked ok at best. It one thing to say the SL attack was poor which it was, but England were expected to do more with the new ball, They may still do something but first signs werent encouraging.

  • James on June 14, 2014, 6:33 GMT

    When will people learn, especially the English, that you can't 'Forward Plan'. Everyone knows that every player will retire, but just because you know whats coming doesn't mean you can do anything about it. You can forward plan all you like but you can't buy talent at the market. You either have good players or you don't.

  • Cricinfouser on June 14, 2014, 5:48 GMT

    'A failure of forward planning meant they were plunged into the mire the moment that Swann announced his retirement in Melbourne'. All players retire eventually. You can replace the average ones but Swann was hardly in that category. He was the best English spinner for a very long time and also contributed as batsman and slip fielder. Inevitably there was no ready made replacement in the English game. It has nothing to do with 'forward planning'. It's just a fact of cricketing life. Where was the 'forward planning' when Murali, Kumble and Warne retired? 'Forward planning', 'brand of cricket' - perhaps it's time for sports journalists to write about sport and ditch the meaningless business clichés.

  • rob on June 14, 2014, 5:46 GMT

    I like the point about fielding partnerships taking time to form. It's yet another very good reason to strive for continuity in selection wherever possible.

    @ R_U_4_REAL_NICK : I think you may be right about strike bowlers who pick up regular wickets being as rare as hens teeth. The last one we had down here was McGrath. He was about as reliable as they come. .. I'm looking forward to seeing if Johnson can continue his form in places like the UAE, England and Asia. If he can then just get the hell out of our way because we're rolling on through. My guess is he won't though and we'll be back to grafting away like every one else. .. Jimmy Anderson is the best fast bowler I've seen from England in 15 years or so but his powers seem to be on the wane. Do you agree with that or is it more of a temporary dip in form as far as the wickets column is concerned? Can we expect JA to take a heap of scalps sometime soon. If he does, your wish is granted.

  • Cameron on June 14, 2014, 5:32 GMT

    The ignorance of allowing Root to play on to 200 when they should have declared a lot earlier just exposes Cook and Moores as out of their depth.

  • prasad on June 14, 2014, 1:50 GMT

    With the run rate both teams score runs in this match so far, if sri lanka bat on full third day they will get close to 450-500 on saturday. The pitch will start to turn on final two days. Interesting match on prospect with Rangana herath bowling on final two days

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