Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test, Galle, 3rd day

Swann admits to England frustration

How much fight a lower order shows can often be a window to the team spirit of a side, and Sri Lanka's lower order have battled in both innings

Andrew McGlashan in Galle

March 28, 2012

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Prasanna Jayawardene pulls on his way to a half century , Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test, Galle, 3rd day, March 28, 2012
Prasanna Jayawardene batted with the tail to extend Sri Lanka's lead © AFP
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Many things can lead to frustration in the sort of heat that Galle has produced during this Test match. High on that list is taking wickets with no-balls and not being able to remove lower-order batsmen as a result. For the second time in the game, England exerted unexpected energy trying to wrap up Sri Lanka's innings.

Both times a Jayawardene has been in the way. In the first innings it was an epic performance from Mahela and second time around a gusty innings from Prasanna, a nuggety cricketer who has blunted England in the past. He scored a hundred at Cardiff last year and a match-saving 120 against Pakistan in the UAE before succumbing to a hernia which has kept him out of action until now. Dinesh Chandimal has stood in impressively but Prasanna is a valuable player for Sri Lanka and to slot straight back in with 61 showed his fighting qualities.

However, neither Mahela or Prasanna could have achieved the runs they scored without lower-order support. England would not have envisaged too many problems getting past Chanaka Welegedera or Suranga Lakmal. They have Test batting averages of nine and seven respectively, but between them in the second innings they soaked up 82 in partnerships of 40 and 47. That followed a first-innings effort of 54 when Welegedera accompanied Mahela. It could well prove the difference.

How much fight a lower order shows can often be a window to the team spirit of a side. When two players resist so solidly it suggests that everyone is in it together. "England were frustrated and we hung in there," Prasanna said. "Suranga and Chanaka batted very well, they knew what they had to do to help me."

England tried various tactics to break through, including a barrage of bouncers, but the pitch was slow enough to give batsmen, even tailenders, enough time to sway out of the line. It was one of those short balls that Prasanna top-edged back to Stuart Broad only for the delivery to be a clear no-ball when the umpire Rod Tucker asked for it to be checked on TV. The fact it cost England another 47 runs to close out the innings swayed the odds further in Sri Lanka's favour.

Graeme Swann was one of many Englishmen players getting redder in the face by the moment - but in his case not just because of the sun. When Prasanna lofted to deep midwicket, Samit Patel could not quite stay inside the boundary rope while taking the catch and it cost six. There was not much more Patel could have done, but England were desperate to get off the field.

"Sure there've been moments of frustration," Swann said. "As Englishmen we get very hot and bothered. That next 40 minutes hurt a little bit. You're looking at a chase of 285-290 and we're going to win this, to 330 where it's maybe tipped back to a 50-50 game. Those 40-odd runs were very hot and bothering for all the fielders. As you saw we were at each other's necks by the end."

"We aren't used to the heat and humidity and even though we've been here for three weeks, when things go against you like that it it's human nature. Fortunately we have a few very calm heads out there, Strauss being one of them. At the drinks break he just told us it had gone and we had to work our socks off to get the last wicket and make sure we stopped dwelling on the fact that things could have ended earlier. He did a superb job like that."

Swann's 6 for 82 in the first innings represented his second-best Test figures for England, a relief perhaps during a winter when he has often been outshone by other spin bowlers. He suggested that he had not been overly concerned. "It's probably the best I have bowled for a while for England," he said. "My personal view is that expectations of me have risen because of my performances so I am quite happy not to listen to people when they say I'm not bowling very well."

Although Andrew Strauss was just about able to keep control in the field, he won't be able to do anything to change the course of the match. With the outstanding exception of Mahela Jayawardene, this has not been a good Test for top-order batsmen (although Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen might yet change that) and Strauss's ugly mow to midwicket was up there with the worst shots of the match.

It is getting to the stage where his lack of runs - or, more accurately, his failure to convert starts - cannot be ignored. In the first innings he fell sweeping a full delivery against Rangana Herath and in the second innings he again fell trying to dominate him. In itself, the mindset to play positively should not be criticised, but trying to fetch a left-arm spinner out of the footmarks on a wearing third-day pitch can be. Strauss's scoring areas appear to have become so pared down - to the cut and the work through midwicket against the spinner - that he is looking for a release somewhere.

As you would expect, though, the team has nothing but praise for their captain. "I'm sure he's frustrated because he's a world-class opening batsman," Swann said. "He'll pride himself on his performances and want to score big runs. The way he got out today was showing very positive intent."

However, unless England can pull off a record-breaking chase, Strauss' frustration can only deepen.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by HTD-dinu on (March 30, 2012, 1:27 GMT)

Hy cmn young guys r out there , this just the Maiy's First test been apointed after captain .. Look what he did in the ODI's . CB series we challenge the best in the business , we are getting back to the winning grow .

its Test now Mahela cant turn things around in just one night , Be patient Sl fans , he want disapoint you all :)

Posted by JG2704 on (March 29, 2012, 23:35 GMT)

@ shovwar No hint of anti Eng bias there at all. I'm quite happy to stand up and say that Eng's bowling attack is as good as SA's. But for our awful batting we could have won 3 of the 4 matches we lost in UAE and SL. You say about SA winning in OZ but you conveniently forget about Eng winning in Oz , more recently and by a greater margin. Re" It does not matter who got hammered for sixes and could not close the game when at the end of the day you win" so being unable to defend 300+ at home vs Aus counts towards this? Also SA are not ahead and if Eng square the series with SL the 2 teams will be level. FYI from the last 6 series between SA and Eng there were 2 wins each , 2 draws and 8 tests each so despite what you say the teams are evenly matched. SA are better in UAE/SC - I'll admit but we are more dominant at home.

Posted by JG2704 on (March 29, 2012, 23:33 GMT)

@ Navdeep14 on (March 29 2012, 18:10 PM GMT) The thing is it doesn't matter how well a team does in other formats as results in one format doesn't have any implication on what happens in another , otherwise we can say that we're on top of our UAE/SL tour having won 6 matches (4 ODIs and 2 T20s) to 5 (4 tests and 1 T20). SA won the test series (the ODIs only matter to the ODI rankings) 1-0. I'm pretty sure we (Eng) would at least equal that scoreline , even if we went over there with the batting in the state it's in.

Posted by Navdeep14 on (March 29, 2012, 18:10 GMT)

@ JG2704 : You are not getting my point , NZ and Weat Indies are not pushover in their home grounds,people apart from SA and Australia no other team has clean sweep west Indies and NZ on regular basis in away tours , they may loose the series but they will fight you till end , and this is the reason I think SA has produce good results , clean sweeping NZ in odis and winning test series

Posted by Hush78 on (March 29, 2012, 14:35 GMT)

@ shovwar : I am Sri lankan and I don't completely agree with you on the best bowling line up question.I believe England ,south Africa and Pakistan has the best bowling attacks in the world today.out of 3 sides south Africa is the team who seem to not have a world class spinner like Pakistan and England.though south African pace attack seem to be the best in world as an all round attack they will not be the leading team for sure.also australian bowling team also seem to be slowly building to be an interesting unit I would still rate them below the 3 teams above.well for Sri lankan bowling unit : they really need to find some great player as we can win test matches only in Sri Lanka (that also with a great effort) with current bowling unit.hope nuwan Pradeep can be that guy for Sri Lanka in futur.

Posted by Hush78 on (March 29, 2012, 14:35 GMT)

@ shovwar : I am Sri lankan and I don't completely agree with you on the best bowling line up question.I believe England ,south Africa and Pakistan has the best bowling attacks in the world today.out of 3 sides south Africa is the team who seem to not have a world class spinner like Pakistan and England.though south African pace attack seem to be the best in world as an all round attack they will not be the leading team for sure.also australian bowling team also seem to be slowly building to be an interesting unit I would still rate them below the 3 teams above.well for Sri lankan bowling unit : they really need to find some great player as we can win test matches only in Sri Lanka (that also with a great effort) with current bowling unit.hope nuwan Pradeep can be that guy for Sri Lanka in futur.

Posted by shovwar on (March 29, 2012, 12:57 GMT)

@trickstar and other Eng fans.....I know its hard for you guys to admit that SA have a better attack. An attack that cannot prevent four losses in a row does not have an excuse...Please dont even compare your attack with Saffers. If you ask a neutral fan they would say SA. Even most of the cricket pundits rate SA attack close to the legendary WI attack...Which i feel a lil exaggerating but it needs something to be compared with the Ol Windies. It does not matter who got hammered for sixes and could not close the game when at the end of the day you win. England wins all mostly in their backyard. While SA? They won in AUS, they drew 1-1 twice in Spin track in India, They drew in UAE (not green top) while Pakistan mopped the floor with England, they drew with Aus and Eng (Eng got lucky) at home, they beat SL and NZ in home n away games. Eng may have drawn in SA but could not beat SA but SA beat Eng 2-1 the last time in England. SA played less tests than England yet they are still ahead.

Posted by JG2704 on (March 29, 2012, 12:05 GMT)

@Greatest_Game ICC could introduce a system where they have batting/ bowling pts - like they do in the English county game.That could help those teams who believe they are hard done by but then again Eng can also cite instances where rain hindered them - SL at home last year.But SA can only blamethemselves for losing 2nd test/ drawing the series vs Aus and likewise Aus can't blame anyone but themselves for dropping the series at home vs NZ just the same as us for the UAE tests and now this one.Truth is Eng are the best of the 3 at home but the worst of the 3 in SC. Aus on their day can beat anyone but which is the real Oz - the one who gets bowled out for less than 50 or the one who chases 300+ - both in the same SA series.SA are a really tough side but they(for whatever reason) either draw or don't win as convincingly as they should too many series.Eng now need to win the 2nd test to draw the series.If (big IF)that happens SA and Eng would be level pts.Not sure if that means = no 1?

Posted by TheIndiaRockers on (March 29, 2012, 11:59 GMT)

@RandyOZ -- We should not under estimate any team . Who knows may WI win against AUS even in test Lol . Indian whitewashed aus in india both odi & test, same response india got in aus . Stop ridiculous comparison just enjoy the cricket.Last but not least 90's & 2000's Aus team is a great team(steve,mark,gilli, mcgrath,warne,bevan & many more)i have never seen such a dominent force .But now the senario is diffrent friend.

Posted by JG2704 on (March 29, 2012, 11:44 GMT)

@Navdeep14- The last Eng NZ tour was some time ago and I didn't realise ODI's (from yesteryear I might add) were anything to do with the test ranking - otherwise we'd be bigging up the OD series ww over the Asia Cup champs Pakistan. Also , maybe look at where Eng were ranked 3 or 4 years ago (nowhere near the top)when they played NZ. Vs SL on home surfaces (both within the last year) SA won 2-1 and Eng 1-0 which would have been more but for weather - just like SA's over NZ but people conveniently overlook that when they're on the anti Eng bandwagon. As I have put before , the only team SA have bettered Eng against is Pak in UAE. SA drew at home vs Aus 4 months ago and 10 months previous Eng beat the same Aus side 3-1 in their back yard. If SA overtake us - and it looks likely - I won't begrudge them but please compare TEST records from last few years before trying to make out Eng are totally undeserving of their ranking. Fact is even over 5 series no other side has been great either

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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