Sri Lanka v England, 3rd Test, Galle, 3rd day December 20, 2007

England's goose is cooked


Paul Collingwood: 'I can't think of many worse days, and I've personally been through plenty in my career' © Getty Images

As and when England are finally put out of their misery in this series, the world rankings will reveal that their golden era is officially over. In one fell swoop, they will have slipped from No. 2 to No. 5, the result of two indifferent years since the 2005 Ashes in which they have lost 11 out of 27 Tests and won just eight.

None of those defeats, however, will have been as spineless and pathetic as this, the twelfth, threatens to be. If a decline was inevitable after the loss of so many stalwarts of the 2005 side, a capitulation most certainly wasn't. England were utterly abject on the third day at Galle. They were an embarrassment in the field, they lacked judgement at the crease, they were brainless between the wickets and their body language screamed surrender. Mahela Jayawardene accused them of "giving up" after yesterday's apathetic efforts, but it turns out there was an even deeper level of apathy to be attained.

"We're disappointed, simple as that," said Paul Collingwood, whose determined 29 was the closest that any of England's specialist batsmen came to respectability. "It's been two-and-a-half big days in the field and Sri Lanka came out and hit us pretty hard today. They bowled well with the new ball, took early wickets and put us under pressure. But we can't make excuses,. We haven't been good enough today and so far in the Test match we haven't been on the ball."

Collingwood is too honest to offer platitudes. He started to talk of showing "guts and determination, or whatever you want to call it," but smiled wryly as he said it, and eventually gave up pretending. "If we can get a draw from here it will be miraculous," was his later assessment. "I can't think of many worse days, and I've personally been through plenty in my career."

He certainly has. Collingwood was the man stranded on the sinking ship at Adelaide last winter, the last great nadir of England's post-2005 fortunes. But even that debacle somehow feels more forgiveable than this one. Australia are, after all, cricket's natural bullies, and in Shane Warne they had an opponent who loves nothing better than to prey on the meek and vulnerable.

Sri Lanka, of course, have their own champion spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, but today his only job was to extract the limpet-like Ryan Sidebottom, whose 70-ball innings used up more deliveries than six of the top seven combined. Instead England were scythed down by the medium pace of Chaminda Vaas, who sized up exactly where not to pitch the ball during his rollicking innings of 90, and then set about getting his line and length exactly right.

Only Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen could be exonerated in the manner of their dismissals - Pietersen received a brute from Lasith Malinga that hardly bodes well for England's survival prospects. But then again, what prospects? Christmas may still be five days away, but their goose is already cooked to a cinder. "These days hit you pretty hard but it's not for the lack of pride or passion," said Collingwood. "The desire is definitely there, but it's just been a bad day."

England are, however, all too prone to days such as these. Particularly on the subcontinent, and particularly when Christmas is just around the corner. Four years ago at Colombo, England slumped to their third-heaviest defeat of all time, having clung on to consecutive draws at Galle and Kandy. And in Pakistan in December 2005 - in a series that is panning out in a remarkably similar fashion - they were walloped at Lahore having entered the Test needing a win to square the series.

The class of 2005 were, however, good enough to beat Pakistan - they blew their chances with a careless collapse in the opening match at Multan, and then folded like a bored poker player. After all, they still had their Ashes winnings to fall back on. This new-look England, regardless of their efforts at Kandy, have not been equal to any of Sri Lanka's many challenges. Their collapse in this Test was a throwback to the dark days of the 1990s, when such disasters were two-a-penny.

England were utterly abject on the third day at Galle. They were an embarrassment in the field, they lacked judgement at the crease, they were brainless between the wickets and their body language screamed surrender

Doubtless the itinerary will come in for some scrutiny - 15 days of Test cricket in 22 is a lot of hard yakka - but Collingwood disputed that the team were feeling the strain. "We felt pretty good coming into this Test match," he said. "We didn't feel we were on our last legs or anything. It is a very sapping environment to play in, with the heat and the conditions, and it can be tiring, but coming into the Test, we were pushing for a win, and we felt our momentum was good."

All of that momentum was squandered in the field, however, where England dropped as many catches as they held, including Matt Prior's reprieve of Jayawardene when he had added just five to his overnight 149. "Catching can be a confidence thing, and it can filter through the team when a couple go down," said Collingwood, but he reiterated England could have no excuses. "Sometimes you can benefit from these kind of lows, they can make you stronger and better in the future. But really I wish we hadn't had a day like this.

"It's as damaging as you want to make it," he added. "These days hurt, they really do, but we have to look at the bigger picture in the end. I still think we're moving in the right direction with the players we are bringing through." That's not, however, what the world rankings will be saying next week. England's most desperate performance of the year has confirmed what we've expected for a long time now. They've blown all their winnings of the last two years, and now it's time to start back at the beginnings.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • bruce on December 20, 2007, 23:36 GMT

    MichaelFernando: - so you want to make the game like football. Where players dive, feign injuries and cheat. Not to mention outright bully the referees, then come up with an incredibly boring draw even after extra time has been added on. Yes the game of cricket has to evolve with time. But the game is a class act - the fact that stale football news makes the headlines is due to the owners of the media, not the reporters. Make which game shorter? 20/20? Test match cricket is exactly that, and it's a wonderful game that unfolds perfectly over the 5 days. Yes I'm a purist, but it's more indicative of a quick fix society that there are calls to make it shorter, not the game itself. Ask the players which they prefer, and which is the ultimate - I can guarantee it won't be 20/20.

  • Avery on December 20, 2007, 23:15 GMT

    The only thing 'pathetic' following such a day is the pathetic response by hacks like Andrew Miller, a sorry excuse for a journalist if ever there was one.

    Bad days happen in cricket. You win some, you lose some. What a complete lack of professionalism to call stumps when the game isn't over with ridiculous statements like the "goose is already cooked"? There's two days remaining, and only a complete idiot who's never watched the game before would conclude that England couldn't save the match. Sure, it's unlikely, but the pathetic bashing-as-hobby-horse of disgraces like Miller are absurd.

    Not to mention the even stupider comments by people like Kooja; "Australians ALWAYS back up their statements" - well, their hasty prediction of 5-0 in 05 wasn't backed up, nor was Buchanan's arrogant asertion that Aus would be better playing amongth themselves in last years CommBank series.

    & anyone who pays attention to world rankings is a complete idiot. Andrew Miller qualifies. Pathetic.

  • Graeme on December 20, 2007, 22:53 GMT

    Collingwood's comments are surreal: "they bowled well with the new ball..." WHAT????? At what what point were Sri Lanka bowling with an old ball in this match? "....(they) took early wickets..." WHAT???? You mean 10 early wickets??? As always, there is of course great spirit in the change rooms and positives to be taken. Why don't the English players just start lobbying for a 4th possible outcome for a test match - "surrendered".

  • Philip on December 20, 2007, 22:31 GMT

    Will England ever learn from the opposition? Sangakkara showed how to bat in Kandy and Jayawardena did the same in Colombo. This batting performance was an embarrasment to cricket just not to English cricket. The wicket was a perfect wicket. Had something for all. No dust bowls or the Murali magic to contend with. What type of wickets do they need? England had the pace, the swing and the bit of the spin (a spinning Monty Python!!!). The Sri Lankans showed they way how to bat, how to bowl and how to field. There is a huge gap between county cricket and test cricket. The Sri Lankans play club cricket too and adjust to test cricket way much better than England.

    I wonder how much of sledging went on when the Sri Lankans were batting (Vass did make a point to Prior)? If that was so, then they sure did show some positive attitude with the ball.

    Sidebottom, was fighting a lone battle right through. His attitude needs to filter through to the rest of the team. PhilipGnana Surrey

  • asheem on December 20, 2007, 20:10 GMT

    BBC sports were holding on to the old rankings for test cricket for the 3 weeks despite the fact that Cricinfo had changed it albeit only for a couple of weeks. I am quite sure BBC were confident that the English team would manage at least a draw but alas that was not to be!This most be so frustating for the BBCsports people with England flicked to 5th.

    Now that all of Vaughan's off the pitch manipulative cricket has failed he sends poor Colly to face the media (but when its to moan about 3rd umpires etc then guess who is talking the most, and citing all the rules???)

    I wish Freddie gets well soon and takes the English team were it belongs

  • Shane on December 20, 2007, 19:47 GMT

    I feel their peformance in the field was at their extreme lows and I feel that prior took a great catch but things did even out after all let us not forget aboutvandorts and tharangas wickets were controversial.Then Sri Lanka declared for a mamoth 499-8 Sri Lanka were'nt only happy on that no!they bowled brittanly eith ball vaas bowling constient line length manged to get and it also a great piece of fielding dilshan meant that England slumped to a shocker 81 all out.England i feel were coached Sri Lankan team today be quick and agile and fielding like dilshan was with that run-out.Hold onto your catches Sri Lanka did that to not one droped and with the ball well we all now how well they 4 wickets for vaas with the consitent line and length and 2 wickets for welegedrea kept it consitent and the fiery pace of malinga got the huge wicket of pietersan and muralis guile and the fielding of the team means most likely a great victory

  • Christopher on December 20, 2007, 18:56 GMT

    Just because a one day side wins it doesn't make them a Test Team!!! I believe the whole go with youth scheme England adapted was found out big time!!! When will we stop hearring excuses from our batter's as to why they cannot perform? The blame lays soley with Moores, Graveney, and Vaughan on horrible selection for Test Cricket! Oh Lord do we need Freddie, Marcus, Strauss fit in NZ, Simon Jones who is fit and totally disregarded by Moores, Liam P fit in SA, Saj Mahmood fit and again been thrown away, and on and on back in the side. Coach Moores note to oneself, to win a Test Match let alone a series one need's experience! One needs a player able to mentally hang for 5 days even if being brutalized by say Australia and still showing heart and desire ie: Liam P and Saj! not giving up because it is too hard. Hoggies fitness was found out and everyone questioned Harmie!!! who showed the only fight and desire with the ball, so can we finally give this man his due!!!

  • Rumy on December 20, 2007, 18:52 GMT

    Well well well. Its all over for the Englishmen. Its just pathetic the way they batted in this second test. I wonder even God could help them save defeat at this stage.May be England should stop playing cricket and concentrate on Soccer and Rugby. My warm wishes to the gutty Sri Lankans.Finally they are showing that they can bowl a team out without the help of Murali !!!!!I am sure Murali wont mind being a spectatoron the field.

  • Chris on December 20, 2007, 17:51 GMT

    If as you say, test cricket will die for the lack of good players how come the Aussies can keep the pipeline full? They play all the usual commonwealth sports plus some US and their own

    We should look at the commitment made by their government in funding ALL sports in Australia which started twenty years or so ago after the country was embarrassed by a poor showing at the Olympics. Oh, that the UK would have such single mindedness to develop sport in their young and members of government with the vision to sow seeds for the future.

  • Michael on December 20, 2007, 16:54 GMT

    Best English athletes are going to Football. I see SkySports news on Fox Soccer Channel here in the US. Even on days when England cricket team has done well, the top story is stale football news, football player/coaching changes, etc. As long as cricket gets this red-headed stepchild treatment, no good players are going to come through the pipeline. Moreover, the 20/20 cricket will drive away any self-respecting bowler from cricket. The game has to evolve with the time. Make the game shorter (a football match lasts 3hrs) and make it an even contest between the bat and the ball. When the fans come back to cricket and when it is on par with football, young kids will want to be cricketers before wanting to be footballers. Traditionalists will say "don't change test cricket" but if you don't change, the game will die for the lack of good players and fans.

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