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Posted on | May 27, 2011 | 1 Comment
England cricket supporters are looking for a top-class performance from the Test team against Sri Lanka in Cardiff this week.
We want to see a fresh and rejuvenated XI full of bounce and energy playing and winning well to repair their own self-belief and individual confidence, which in turn will help get the public behind them again.
Winning the Ashes was everything. It was absolutely great. Our confidence was sky high at the end of the Sydney Test. We feared nobody and we were aiming to be the No1 in Test cricket. But then we played seven one-dayers and two Twenty20 internationals in Australia and it derailed us. The World Cup was a train smash.
We played poorly. Sometimes we were awful and then occasionally surprised everyone by playing well. But by the time we lost to Sri Lanka in the quarter-final we were a shadow of the team who had won the Ashes and the public felt a bit let down.
We just did not do ourselves justice and quite a lot of the belief gained during the Ashes dissipated. I realise that during the World Cup we had injuries to Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and Ajmal Shahzad. England also had Mike Yardy needing to go home while James Anderson looked short of energy and was unrecognisable as the top bowler he had been in the Ashes.
The rest of the team were mentally knackered because they had been on the road, living in hotels, travelling and playing for more than six months.
All of them have had a good five or six weeks’ rest so there are no excuses now. Playing in home conditions, we will have the Duke ball, which has a prouder seam than the Kookaburra and usually swings and seams a bit more. Sri Lanka have lost two major bowlers in Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga so we should beat them, not easily, but comfortably.
Sri Lanka are not the force they were without those match-winning bowlers. There is nothing to fear in their attack, but they have plenty of good batsmen with Kumar Sangakkara one of the top three in the world.
England are a settled team with only one major change in Eoin Morgan for Paul Collingwood. It is a big opportunity for Morgan. Unofficially he will be guaranteed all three Tests against Sri Lanka to prove himself. He has been the batsman-in-waiting and scored a big hundred for England Lions against Sri Lanka so he is in good form.
We have seen his flair and exciting shot-playing ability in one-day cricket but in a limited-overs game there is always an excuse for getting out because you have to score quickly and take chances against defensive field settings. But Test matches demand a different type of batting. Risk taking is fraught with danger. You need a tight defence as well as the ability to play shots.
Concentration and patience and the ability to play long innings are vital. Courage and skill against short, fast-pitched bowling are necessary. And at the back of your mind, you know there can be no excuses for getting out, so the mental pressure becomes huge.
Since the advent of one-day cricket, there are many good cricketers who have failed to make the step up to the five-day game. For me Morgan has to tighten up around off stump because he looks vulnerable. In one-day cricket he opens the face of the bat and runs the ball to third man in the air or on the floor and that is a good shot.
Playing and missing is no big deal in one-dayers when you are scoring against the clock, but in Test matches there are slips to catch you out. Bowlers bowl more often in the corridor of uncertainty around off stump, so your judgment of what to play and what to leave has to be much better. From what I have seen of Morgan he has a bit of work to do to score runs against top-class opposition, but the chance is there for him to take.
He has spent the best part of six weeks playing in the Indian Premier League and one-day cricket is not the best preparation for a Test. Fortunately for him that 193 against Sri Lanka in Derby will stand him in good stead because it was a long innings and gave him much-needed time at the crease.
Morgan reminds me a great deal of Neil Fairbrother. He also had lovely hands and could manoeuvre the ball. Fairbrother was an exceptional one-day player but he never stepped up in Test matches.
If Morgan does not take his chance against Sri Lanka there is plenty of competition. Ravi Bopara is looking to grab the spot and sooner rather than later they are going to have to pick James Hildreth from Somerset.
That is good. Competition for places is what English cricket needs. Nobody should feel they have a divine right to play. The more people queuing up for places the more it puts those in the team on their mettle.
It’s the same for the bowlers. Beside the ones in this squad there is Shahzad in the wings and Graham Onions making his comeback. He is a good bowler in English conditions, as he showed against the Aussies in 2009. The seam bowlers and the batsmen cannot afford to be complacent against Sri Lanka. For individuals there is a lot at stake.
Article reproduced with kind permission from the Daily Telegraph