Exams are over, the cricket season is in full swing and the sun has (just about) threatened to make a few appearances. All of that means, of course, that I will be trying my best to update this blog a little more.
England started their summer in fantastic style last week, as they beat Sri Lanka in the first home test match of 2016. Having lost three quick wickets to Shanaka, Hales and Bairstow steadied the ship and pulled England up to a respectable 298. The rest, as they say, is history. Jimmy Anderson finally conquered his Headingly demons and claimed 10 wickets in the match, and he was ably backed up by Stuart Broad. The two produced one of the finest displays of seam bowling imaginable (not that one has to do much imagining after Australia’s 60 all out last summer). Sri Lanka mustered only 91 in their first innings and, following on, could only better that total by 28 second time round.
One of few downsides to the Headingly game, however, was Ben Stokes’ injury. He’s since had surgery on his knee and has been ruled out for the rest of Sri Lanka’s tour. Chris Woakes has been named as his replacement, and that’s hardly surprising considering his 9 wickets against Durham last week. Ben Stokes missing out does leave a small hole though, as Woakes will have to bat lower down the order, moving Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali, up the order. That said, Bairstow is easily good enough to bat at 5 or 6 for England, while many feel that Moeen could also adequately occupy the middle order.
There was some discussion over whether Jake Ball should have replaced Stokes, and I, for one, would have encouraged such a move. Ball has been in great form for Nottinghamshire, and this test match would have been a good opportunity to give him a chance. Woakes won’t add that much to the batting line-up, and England boast a very fine lower order as it is. In terms of their bowling, there doesn’t seem to be much to choose between the two. Woakes is the more experienced international player, and thus his selection is completely understandable. Against Sri Lanka, however, Ball could have been given a chance. Without wishing to disrespect the tourists, they do struggle in England.
A couple of other interesting points to consider before tomorrow revolve around England’s batting order. Their bowlers, Anderson, Broad, Finn and Woakes will be expected to perform and, while Sri Lanka might make a better fist of it this time round, should be able to deliver. Alex Hales, though, will be looking to build on his encouraging innings in Yorkshire. He fought his natural instincts and made a watchful 86, displaying both maturity and the ability to judge the ball well outside the off stump. He will have been disappointed with himself for getting out, but if he can build on his effort in Durham over the next five days that should stand him in good stead for the summer.
Another who will be keen to impress is Nick Compton. Much has been made of his mentality, with some questioning his intensity and style of play. Compton is certainly good enough technically to bat at number three for England, but he must prove that soon. He’s not the youngest at 32, and more and more people will be calling for his head should he fail again.
All in all though, England will just want to emulate their performance last week. If they can bowl as well, they should win the game, and if Bairstow continues to perform as he has been they shouldn’t find runs too hard to come by either.