England outplayed by Sri Lanka
Saved predominately by the weather, England managed to hobble home with just one Test defeat against Sri Lanka but, as anyone who saw the series would verify, that was not a fair reflection of the balance between the two teams.
Sri Lanka is not an easy place to tour. Hot and humid, the only real preparation for playing cricket here is by playing cricket here.
It seems no matter how much time you spend running and pumping iron in the air conditioned gym, nothing comes remotely close to matching the exertion of bowling or batting for long periods.
In these conditions, it was madness to agree to a schedule of three Tests in little over three weeks – but there the excuses must end.
I am not interested in debating umpiring decisions – they even out over time and until there is something better out there - which there isn’t at the moment - fallible humans passing judgment on equally fallible humans is the best we have got. Generally, the players accept and prefer that too.
England were outplayed and outmanoeuvred in every aspect of the game.
Mahela Jayawardene’s charming smile hides a cunning, shrewd mind and an insatiable desire to bat all day.
Even after watching his opposite number bat for the best part of 21 hours, Michael Vaughan still chased a wide ball in England’s second innings and got himself out when occupation of the crease was all that mattered.
Jayawardene, who took the catch, would not have played it. Of course cricketers make mistakes – it would be a boring game if they didn’t – but it would have been a good way for the tour to have ended with all the batsmen having shown that they had learned something from this experience.
Kevin Pietersen’s dismissal on the final day also smacked of irresponsibility.
The wicket-keeping debate will continue. I feel sorry for Matt Prior because he works hard and has shown a lot of talent with the bat. I am a supporter of his because I accept the need for England’s keeper to contribute in that department.
Generally, Prior’s wicket-keeping was tidy on the tour, but in two vitally important games (the other being at the Oval last summer) he has dropped crucial catches, and it would be a brave selector who retains him.
This is because Prior’s confidence has clearly suffered and, also, so has that of the bowlers’ in him.
The selectors will discuss the batting issue again and they might feel that Prior is the best about, in which case they will pick him again, but I am not sure that Ryan Sidebottom will thank them for it as he seems to have been on the end of some of his spilled catches.
Finally, Monty Panesar. It is not easy to come here as the only spinner because you are sure to be outgunned by Muralitharan.
To be fair, I don’t think the media drew any direct comparisons, but we did all expect more than eight wickets at 51 runs apiece.
I would like the ECB to invest some money on Panesar’s future by enabling him to spend some time with the great Indian spinner, Bishen Bedi.
True, Bishen has some crazy ideas at times, but he was the master of variety and positive thought who surely would be able to play some part in developing Panesar into a world-class spinner.