Moores holds hands up
Coach Peter Moores insists it was England’s failure to deliver rather than tactical mistakes which left them thankful to rain for damage limitation in Sri Lanka.
Alastair Cook’s seventh Test hundred and two heavy downpours on Friday, the second of which terminated the Test with more than two hours to play, helped England save the final match of the series.
A 1-0 defeat, however, resulted in Michael Vaughan’s team plummeting from second to fifth in the official Test rankings and drew criticism from home captain Mahela Jayawardene over a “negative” approach.
Cook hit 118 to become only the fourth man in Test history to register seven or more centuries before the age of 23 and guide the tourists, following on 418 runs in arrears, to 251 for six.
“We’ve got to hold our hands up because, on the first two days of this Test match, I don’t think the lads got it right,” said Moores.
“Every Test up to now we’ve worked very hard but when we started this Test match we were off the pace.
“A bit of rain and some very fine batting from Alastair Cook, helped by others, has meant we have come away with a draw.
“It’s very tough to win Tests here because the wickets are attritional but the way to do it is for your batsmen to go out and get big scores and we’ve seen that in each game: Kumar Sangakkara, then Jayawardene in Colombo and then here.
“They have cemented their push for victory each time; we got our first hundred in the last innings here; that to me shows we need to play better and we need to score bigger hundreds.
“And we have to find a way of bowling sides out in those conditions.
“Part of that is the bowlers’ skill and part of that is putting the batsmen under pressure too and it helps if you’ve got the runs on the board.
“People talk about scoreboard pressure but it is something that gives the bowlers help because it can lead to mistakes which help you to push on and try to win the game.”
More than 100 overs were lost to the wet weather over the final two days of the series, undoubtedly denying the Sri Lankans a 2-0 victory margin which would have moved them up to second behind Australia.
England were given a 60-minute reprieve midway through the afternoon session when the first rain blew in but were soon under pressure again upon the resumption.
Sri Lanka believed they had broken the sixth-wicket alliance between Cook and Matt Prior when the latter edged Muttiah Muralitharan low to Jayawardene at first slip.
However, umpire Asad Rauf, unlike his colleagues in the previous Test in Colombo, opted to make the decision on the field and judged the ball had not carried. Television replays proved inconclusive.
It barely mattered as the elements had their decisive say shortly after Cook, dropped earlier in the over in the slips, nicked a fine delivery which jagged back from debutant Chanaka Welegedara.
England, who resumed on 102 for one, cruised to 200 for the additional loss of Ian Bell, bowled by a full flatter Murali delivery which grubbed into off-stump.
But three wickets in four balls in one Murali over, which began 20 minutes before lunch, changed the complexion of the contest.
Operating from around the wicket, Murali had Kevin Pietersen caught in a pre-planned, leg-side trap and Paul Collingwood stumped after being foxed by the doosra before Ravi Bopara made it three ducks in a row, when he was victim to a brilliant piece of fielding from the alert Jayawardene at slip.
Andrew Strauss is hopeful of missing only half the winter’s Test commitments but it would be harsh to drop either Bopara or fellow batsman Owais Shah, who was unused in this series.
“It doesn’t make him a bad player,” Moores said, of Bopara’s form.
“He’s a talented player, he’s very exciting and he showed in the first Test he can handle playing at this level.
“He’s had a tough couple of Test matches, that goes with the territory of international sport.
“What we take from the trip is not just what happens here but how they respond to that. Does it make them better players?
“Ricky Ponting, the first time in the subcontinent, averaged very very low, went away, did the work and then nailed it.”
Few changes are anticipated despite Vaughan presiding over three series defeats in his last four and England winning just one of their past 15 Tests abroad.
“I don’t think Michael Vaughan is under pressure as a captain,” Moores added. “He’s the same as everyone in that we’re building a new team and it’s an emerging team.
“Moulding that team to be at the right commitment level is one of the jobs I have as coach along with the captain.”