1st Test

England v Sri Lanka in England, 2011

Steve James

At Cardiff, May 26-30. England won by an innings and 14 runs. Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debut: N. L. T. C. Perera.


Graeme Swann removed Farveez Maharoof for a duck in the midst of Sri Lanka's collapse, England v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Cardiff, 5th day, May 30, 2011
In the blink of an eye: Graeme Swann has Farveez Maharoof caught behind, and at 43 for six Sri Lanka are heading for disaster. © Getty Images
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For most of its duration, Cardiff's second Test match seemed destined for a soggy draw. Play began on time on the second day alone, and a day and a half had been lost in total when the heaviest rain of the game finally relented on the last afternoon. Fifty-five overs remained, but when play restarted at 3 p.m. with England - five wickets down and only 91 ahead - still batting in their first innings, it looked a perfect exercise in futility, watched by the sparsest of crowds. Two overs were used up to allow Bell, 98 overnight, to complete his 13th Test hundred, and a further two shaved off for change of innings. Anderson, meanwhile, the pick of England's bowlers earlier in the match, could not bowl because of a side strain. "It was," Strauss later admitted, "a long shot."

It certainly was, but this was a shot that did not take long. In an astonishing afternoon, England dismissed a bewildered Sri Lanka in 24 overs and four balls - by one delivery the tourists' shortest completed Test innings - to tick off their third successive innings victory and their fourth in five Tests following the triumphs in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Sri Lanka, playing their first Test outside the subcontinent in three years, simply had no answer to the naked hostility of Tremlett and the fizzing menace of Swann, who collected four wickets each before Broad bounced out the last two to emphasise their lack of appetite for the short ball. Tremlett had claimed the openers before tea, at which stage there was little inkling of the chaos to follow. But a clever switch that moved Tremlett to the Cathedral Road End after the break allowed Swann to bowl from the River Taff End - favoured by Glamorgan's own off-spinner, Robert Croft, because of the helpful breeze - and precipitated a collapse of eight for 49 in 72 balls. For sustained suspense the denouement may not have matched the first Test staged at Cardiff, the dramatic draw which kick-started the 2009 Ashes, but it was just as thrilling and no less memorable.

The late drama was some compensation for Glamorgan after what, financially, had been a painful Test. Three years earlier, before the recession kicked in, they had bid £2.5m in a blind auction for one of the three Tests against the Sri Lankans. Since the introduction of seven home Tests a summer in 2000, Lord's had always staged the first, but concerns over a clash with the final of football's Champions League between Manchester United and Barcelona, held at Wembley on the third evening of this game, persuaded the ECB to move the cricket out of London. In the event, football probably intervened anyway. Even if the weather had been clement on the final day, it was doubtful whether too many Welsh folk would have been present: some 40,000 Swansea City fans were at Wembley celebrating their team's promotion to the Premier League - it was just as well Cardiff City had lost their play-off semi-final. The staging of two European rugby finals in Cardiff a week earlier added to the sense of poor timing, and the portion of the main Grandstand that was closed throughout the Test told a story. A third-day crowd of 10,479 - in a stadium holding almost 16,000 - was as good as it got.

The 922 spectators lucky enough to witness the finale ultimately got their money's worth, but the Sri Lankans had not hinted at such ineptitude while compiling 400 in first- innings conditions less benign than many assumed. The pitch may have been slow, but there was tennis-ball bounce and some lateral movement. That 105 runs came in the arc between backward point and the wicketkeeper, mostly down to the unguarded third-man region, said much about the difficulties posed by England's bowlers. Prasanna Jayawardene made a composed century - his third in 37 Tests stretching back nearly 11 years - to silence those who suspected he was a place too high at No. 6, and there were half-centuries from the solid left-handed opener Paranavitana and, more fluently, Samaraweera.

England had little fortune in this period of the match, and the absence of Collingwood, who had retired from Tests in Sydney, was evident both in an occasionally slipshod effort in the field and when Trott, now the closest thing to a fourth seamer, conceded 29 in six overs. An increasingly exasperated Broad suffered more than most, and he had to wait until the 106th over, when the debutant Tissara Perera slapped him to mid-on, to claim his first wicket of the match and the 100th of his Test career. At 24 years 337 days, he was the second-youngest Englishman to reach the landmark, behind Ian Botham (23 years 255 days), although Botham had required only 19 Tests to Broad's 35.

Once it was England's turn to bat, however, it was more or less a re-enactment of the winter's Ashes. Although Strauss fell in the final over of the second evening, and the nightwatchman Anderson did not hang around long once the weather cleared the following day, the sight of Cook and Trott forging a stand of 251 - an all-wicket record for England against Sri Lanka - was, for home fans, reassuringly familiar. Cook hit only ten fours in six hours 37 minutes, registering his 17th Test hundred and his fifth in ten innings, while Trott, equally immovable during his 203 - his sixth Test century and England's first double against the Sri Lankans - booked in for eight hours 37 minutes. There was an utter inevitability about their accumulation, although they were aided by a Sri Lankan attack whose seamers were toothless and two main spinners no more than tidy.

Only the Pietersen subplot bucked the trend. His removal by Herath was the 19th occasion he had fallen to a left-arm spinner in 61 Test innings since his first such demise, to Daniel Vettori of New Zealand at Hamilton in March 2008. Umpire Doctrove had initially turned down Herath's appeal after Pietersen had shaped to cut a quicker arm-ball. With the naked eye it was impossible to tell whether the ball, which kept low, had hit pad or bat first; even when the review was called for, it took three minutes 21 seconds to elicit a verdict. Only a side-on camera angle settled the matter, although Pietersen's slow trek to the pavilion - and later assertion in private that a frame was missing from the crucial angle - was confirmation of the marginality of the decision as much as his latest attack of sinistrophobia.

Man of the Match: I. J. L. Trott. Attendance: 36,326.

© John Wisden & Co.