Dilshan tosses advantage to England
Posted in England v Sri Lanka 2011
What prompted Tillakaratne Dilshan to put England into bat yesterday morning?
Was it an even, if thin, covering of grass on the Lord’s pitch? Or was it fear of an immediate repeat of Sri Lanka’s capitulation on the final day at Cardiff? Perhaps a combination of the two?
If it was the former, was bright sunshine and a blistering – by English standards – forecast for the first two days a consideration?
Having seen a relatively untroubled England batting order amass 496 for five declared in the first npower Test, surely this was a massive gamble – particularly one match down with two to play?
Dilshan’s punt looked like paying off when England were reduced to 22 for three in the first hour yesterday.
Chamara Welegedara and Suranga Lakma’s controlled line and length trapped Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott in front and, when Lakmal offered Kevin Pietersen a little width, Pietersen edged to gully.
However, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell used their experience to ride out the storm and later cashed in on near-perfect batting conditions to share England’s highest fourth-wicket partnership against Sri Lanka, worth 108.
Even when Bell went for 52, Cook continued his relentless pursuit of runs only to fall four short of a third Test hundred in as many innings.
Indeed, it was after Cook’s departure that England accelerated through century alliances, first from Eoin Morgan and Matt Prior and then Prior and Stuart Broad.
Those stands were fundamental in 177 runs coming from 36 post-tea overs yesterday and 144 in 24.5 today.
When England were finally dismissed for 486 – a far cry from 22 for three – Prior had made 126, Morgan 79 and Broad 54.
If it is easy to be wise after the event, it is worth noting many in the Lord’s media centre were surprised by Dilshan’s decision to insert England.
The Sri Lanka captain would have done well to note the lessons learned by Pakistan here last year.
They also put England in with initial success, reducing them to 102 for seven. However, Trott and Broad’s emphatic 332-run response demonstrated the reliability of the pitch.
Perhaps the fairest conclusion is that Lord’s is a good place to lose the toss?
What should not be overlooked is England’s resilience in the face of difficult batting scenarios. It is just one feature of a team that will rise to second in the Test rankings with a whitewash in this series.
That would leave India’s rubber here later this summer, starting at Lord’s, a top-two affair.
Which begs the question: what will Mahendra Singh Dhoni do if he wins the toss here?