England v Sri Lanka, 5th ODI, Headingley July 1, 2006

What was going off out there?



Just when they thought it couldn't get worse ... Sanath Jayasuriya humiliated England © Getty Images

On a day overshadowed by the death of Fred Trueman the events on the field would have left him chuntering one of his most famous lines: "I just don't know what's going off out there." The final match of this series was always set to be overshadowed, but it was meant to be by events in Germany. Sadly, the news around lunchtime that one of England's greatest fast bowlers had passed away cast a solemn mood over the day and the current crop of pacemen did nothing to lift the spirits.

After England's fourth defeat on the bounce at Old Trafford, Andrew Strauss said: "Things can only better." Sorry Andrew, bad news, no they can't. The humiliation piled on the bowlers at Headingley was on a different level to anything else in the series considering they had 321 runs to defend. How many more do they need?

The chaotic nature of England's one-day planning (if it can even be described as that) was again on full view for everyone to witness. Well, everyone who'd bothered to stay in the ground after the first innings. Sri Lanka's bombastic chase was played out in front of barely half a crowd; the rest huddling around any available TV screen to watch the action from the continent.

For all the excuses about injuries and new players, the bottom line is England have no idea what they are doing in this form of cricket - particularly in the bowling, and even the batting only works when Marcus Trescothick or Kevin Pietersen fire. Today, Strauss tried something different - he can't really be blamed for that - but when that different option is opening the bowling with Kabir Ali and Tim Bresnan it shows how dire the situation has become.

Kabir must be cursing Glen Chapple, because without his stomach injury he wouldn't have been part of the squad. He'd looked pretty down after his final two overs at Old Trafford cost 35 - here he just looked embarrassed. One over contained the following punishment: 4,4,4, 6nb, nb, 1, dot, 4 - ouch.

However, no one was spared as Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga rampaged through the record books in scintillating style. Steve Harmison consigned Derek Pringle's record for the worst England analysis to the rubbish bin, conceding 97 off 10 to overtake Pringle's 83 off 10, against West Indies, in 1987. He'd come close last year against Australia and when the winning run was scored he didn't even wait for his team-mates before fleeing for the dressing room.

The Twenty20 season is in full swing around the county circuit at the moment with fours and sixes flying left, right and centre. Jayasuriya and Tharanga brought that mindset into the 50-over format with devastating results - if they had batted first at the same rate the one-day records set in Johannesburg would surely have been smashed. The hitting of Jayasuriya was even more spectacular than the boundary-fest that launched him onto the world stage at the 1996 World Cup and sent a generation of bowlers into therapy. The men in white coats were waiting for this England attack as they left the field.

The numbers from the opening stand are mind blowing. The partnership itself is a world record opening stand, they brought up the 100 in eight overs, and after 10 overs were 94 ahead of England at the same stage. It reached the stage where it was just a question of where the next boundary would go. Jayasuriya produced a series of audacious pulls and flicks, while Tharanga rode on the confidence surge that has grown beneath him throughout this tour. The 1996 World Cup was the story of Jayasuriya and Romash Kaluwitharana - the 2006 vintage is starting to look even more destructive.

By the 20th over thoughts were already turning to the highest wicketless chases. Ultimately neither opener could carry the innings through, leaving one England fan to hopefully cry: "Come on England, you've got them on the rack." But by now even more had an eye on the football and the sending off of Mr Rooney. There should have been a few red cards handed out to the England attack this series. What Fiery Fred would have made of it all is anyone's guess.

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo