England are now 2-0 up in their test series against Sri Lanka, after another convincing performance at Durham. The test series, therefore, is theirs, with one more still to play. Although the tourists showed some resistance during their second innings, England still managed to win at a canter due to their performance over the first two days.
Many of the same questions still remain from the start of the second test. Nick Compton failed to guarantee his spot in the side, while Steven Finn still looked a little short of rhythm. Compton’s dismissal was arguably soft, although it took a spectacular catch to remove him. Whether or not he’ll be dropped if he goes cheaply next time out is unclear, but another two poor innings and some serious questions will be asked. Scott Borthwick is averaging 82 in county cricket, while James Hildreth and Sam Robson are also performing well. As for Finn, his lack of rhythm is not a big worry at all. The performances of Anderson and Broad (and Woakes at Durham) have been good enough to win games. Finn has not been bad, either. Granted, he’s not been at his best, and has been some way off the levels he reached during last year’s ashes. If he can get some more overs under his belt in the third test, however, that should stand him in good stead for the rest of the summer. His performances will improve, and he should remain in the team.
Thankfully, Alex Hales scored more runs. Yet again, he will be incredibly frustrated that he fell in the 80s, but he should be encouraged. His effort this time round was more fluent, but just as watchful as his innings at Headingly. If he continues to bat in such a way, his first test hundred shouldn’t be too far away. Moeen Ali’s performance also deserves a mention. Although Anderson picked up a deserved man of the match award, Ali smashed 155 from 207 balls and set up the rest of the game. It is often said that Ali bats too far down, but he came in at seven at Durham and delivered. I don’t think he’s consistent enough to play as a batsman alone: that much became clear in the UAE. He is, however, a very handy all rounder to have in the side, and a good enough spinner to complement England’s brilliant seam attack.
Aside from England’s win, perhaps the most significant event of the Durham test match was Alastair Cook reaching 5 in the second innings. Those 5 runs took him to 10 000 in test cricket. He became the first England batsman ever to achieve such a feat, and is still only 31. Considering how driven, fit, and level-headed England’s captain is, one would think he has another three years in him easily. His career has hardly been perfect; there were times in 2009 and 2013/14 when his place was under real pressure, both as player and captain. The most impressive thing, then, is arguably that he has successfully returned from both periods, and has amassed such an impressive stack of runs in the process. Notwithstanding those poor patches, he has also enjoyed plenty of golden patches. Sometimes for years at a time, nations all around the world have been unable to get Alastair Cook out. India’s tour of England in 2011 springs to mind, as does the 2010/11 ashes series.
He can be gritty at times, and doesn’t always look completely fluent, even when he’s 180*. What is special about England’s captain, though, is his mentality. He won’t get bored, and he rarely throws his wicket away. He’s also grown as a captain in recent times. Cook’s had his fair share of criticism (some pundits in particular do spring to mind), but he’s come through it. Once again, that is testimony to his character.
2-0 to England, 10 000 runs and counting for their captain. The hosts must be thoroughly professional at Lords, though, and aim to finish the series in style. 3-0 would represent the perfect start to the summer, and if England wish to reach number one in the test rankings, they need to be ruthless. Also, with the new format of an all-inclusive points system that encompasses test, ODI and t20 games, a 3-0 scoreline would go some way to ensuring an overall series win against Sri Lanka.