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All hope is not lost for Sri Lanka

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James_Anderson_England_cricket_JimmyHeadingley was an absolutely humbling for the visitors. It wasn’t unexpected or shocking. A one-way train was very much on the cards and that is exactly how it panned out.

The Lankan pacemen did okay under overcast skies before being subjected to a fine Jonny Bairstow counterattack. Could/Should they have wrapped up England in the vicinity of 200? They probably could have and certainly should have.

The clouds overhead plus the help on the surface called for a relentless exploitation of the 2-3 metre length. The visiting quicks, instead, pursued a run-saving back-of-a-good length.

Shanaka’s heroics did eventually find England reeling at 83-5, but it took 32 overs to reach that point. Better lengths with the new ball could have cornered the hosts.

While sticking to a good length is indeed ‘good’ even in England, it doesn't make the batsmen play enough and thus, doesn’t bring the slips into play. Waste of an expensive Duke ball, no?

A significant number of English batters tend to hang back. This naturally calls for a go-for-broke full length.

What Mathews can take heart from, though, is the fact that his quicks weren't wayward, for a start. There weren't too many hit-me balls bowled.

And this discipline is why there is hope of a Sri Lankan comeback in the remaining games. Their lines were impeccable in game 1; it is the lengths that needed correction - watching how Shanaka went about his business will help their cause.

 

Inexperienced units take time before they achieve results away from home. When you have only one strong suit, you would want it to be your bowling. At least you give yourself a chance to win games.

Sri Lanka are still low on the experience front, more so in the batting department. Their bowling does have something about it, and can go on to win games on spicy strips.

A young team with batting as its only strength, on the other hand, will end up drawing more games (overseas), than winning. India in Australia (2014-15) was a classic case.

Nearly all of Sri Lanka’s top 6 practise a classical technique. You can’t really find fault with their head positions. It is their feet, or the lack of feet, that did them throughout the first Test.

When you end up being on the wrong side of a venom-spitting Jimmy Anderson and a consistent Stuart Broad, that is what is most likely to happen.

They didn’t get out playing shots. Instead, they religiously kept putting their bats out to away-swinging deliveries. Mathews acknowledged the same, post-match.

They were a tad unlucky in the sense that they kept nicking everything. There was very little of play and miss. Troubles compound when opposition bowlers stick to that one uneasy length.

The story of Virat Kohli’s English run in 2014 was pretty similar - he hardly played and missed Anderson either. He came, he nicked, he departed.

Meanwhile, Cook and co. will look to close the series in the second Test, and a green seamer at Chester-le-Street shouldn’t surprise. If the thought of survival is on top of Sri Lanka’s bats, they might as well pack their stuff and head home.

Busy-play is key. Kusal Mendis did well when he looked to score in the second innings. Counterpunching is Sri Lanka’s best shot at survival and they need to look no further than their skipper, Angelo Mathews, to learn how to counterpunch.

Headingley is to England what Brisbane is to Australia. The visitors were rather soft in what was a serious examination of character. 3-0 for England is an easy prediction, but one would want to see a tougher side of the Sri Lankans as the series progresses.

 

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