0Pitch Perfect England Need a Sterner Test

So the first test of the sum­mer is at an end. Well done Eng­land for a vic­tory for what was really a match of men against boys.

Sri Lanka are, to use that oft touted sound-bite, a team in “trans­ition” and boy did it show. It must be remembered, how­ever, that they kept a strong Eng­land bat­ting line up to a tad under the 300 mark – and half of those runs came from the excel­lent Jonny Bair­stow. Alex Hales did well too with a decent knock and must be kick­ing him­self he didn’t con­vert it into a ton. Had it not been for those two it might have been a closer run thing. We will nev­er know.

For as soon as Ander­son and Broad got the red leath­er bul­let in their hands the writ­ing was on the webpage. Sri Lanka didn’t stand a chance. And who’d have guessed that the two quicks swap­ping ends could bring about such instant res­ults! (Note sar­casm – surely they must have thought about try­ing such ‘black magic’ pre­vi­ously!!)

But there’s a wider point here – a world XI would have struggled on that pitch, in those con­di­tions, against those two bowl­ers. There’s a strong argu­ment that says there’s nev­er been a bet­ter pair­ing than Broad and Ander­son when things are in there favour. The game was nev­er going to last more than three days – and that’s what annoys me as a fan of crick­et. I’ve missed out on two days of the best sport in the world. My TV record­ing box which is set to record the high­lights on series link has instead been infes­ted with day-time TV rub­bish.

If I’m a little peeved then what about the bean coun­ters at Headingley? Two days where, instead of thou­sands of pints of Black Sheep bit­ter being con­sumed by rauc­ous fans hid­ing a beer snake from the ever strug­gling stew­ards, the seats are empty. (Did any­one see the first snake of the sum­mer by the way? It was an abso­lute beauty). No pas­ties or over-priced bur­gers are get­ting eaten either. And Boy­cott Bingo is but a dis­tant memory. It costs a lot to get a ground to test-match stand­ard and to keep it there – money that needs to be recouped. Three days isn’t going to help the bank bal­ance much!

And it’s not just the money-men and women who are left a few quid out of pock­et. The fans suf­fer too. Ok those who had tick­ets for day four and five do get a refund but most people will have taken the day off work, some will have booked hotels or made oth­er fin­an­cial com­mit­ments. All well and good if you got a day’s crick­et to watch – but no one wants to stay in Leeds unless they have good reas­on to.

Might it not be a bet­ter idea to pre­pare a pitch that offers a bit for every­one? A decent bat­ting track where if you put your head down and show a good tech­nique you will score runs but some­thing to interest the bowl­er too? What are the head­lines from this match? Broad and Ander­son can bowl bloody well – no sh*t Sher­lock. No one wants Eng­land to become like India of old – bril­liant home, shock­ing away – but if the boys con­tin­ue to have a sur­face like Headingley then that’s the risk we run.

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I was gut­ted to hear about the passing of the great TMS com­ment­at­or, Win­ston Anthony Lloyd “Tony” Cozi­er. His Bar­ba­di­an lilt kept me enter­tained many a time and he will be sorely missed – a true gent on and off the pitch. Cheerio Tony, thanks for the ride.

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Well done Chris Woakes on tak­ing a 9-fer to mark get­ting called up to the Eng­land side. I’m still to be con­vinced that he can quite hack it at the highest level and as sug­ges­ted above even a bag full of scalps against Sri Lanka will sway me very little. It also high­lights a weak­ness in the bal­ance of the Eng­land side if Ben Stokes is unavail­able. But best of Brit­ish to Mr Woakes – a good per­form­ance can only strengthen his case.

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