by Dave Knape 1 June 2011
Cardiff is vastly becoming the cricket ground that produces cliff hangers and unpredictable events. It was not that long ago that we saw Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar bat more than 10 overs to save England the embarrassment of a defeat to Australia. The idea to move the 1st Test away from Lords was controversial. It went against the natural order of all things cricket in England, but, the move to Wales has certainly brought the excitement and drama that Lords has brought in the past.
Unfortunately the weather was not on form throughout the 1st Test. Frustratingly; players were on and off with regularity and the game frequently saw delayed starts due to rain. It had a draw written all over it from day one. When the game did start Broad, Tremlett and Anderson bowled with some nice pace and at times lovely shape when the ball swung. However, Sri Lanka's opening pair of Paranavitana and their skipper Dilshan appeared resolute and determined to defy critics of Sri Lanka's poor showing outside of the sub continent with the bat. Sri Lanka got to 93 before Swann came on and bowled Dilshan beautifully after he had passed 50 with the bat which triggered a bit of a mini collapse. Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene didn't hang around too long as they were removed by the plucky Jimmy Anderson for 11 and 4. Paranavitana then followed Jayawardene after a very patient 66 due to some fine bowling by Chris Tremlett who had been looking dangerous every time he bowled throughout the test. At 159-4 you would have thought that England would have wrapped the innings up quickly with Samaraweera under pressure to score runs and wicketkeeper batsman Jayawardene not considered particularly dangerous.
Unfortunately for England, Sri Lanka's batsmen rallied and Samaraweera hitting a fine 58 and Jayawardene batting beautifully to reach 112 and help Sri Lanka to a reasonable total. Perera and Herath both chipped in with 25 runs apiece as Sri Lanka were all out for 400. Swann took 3-78 and Anderson 3-66 as they were the pick of the English bowlers. Particularly good for Swann because there was next to no turn for the spinners on what was essentially looking a pretty flat track.
England stuttered at the beginning losing Strauss for just 20 runs and then night-watchman Jimmy Anderson for 1. Anderson had suffered a side strain whilst bowling during the Sri Lankan innings and it was no surprise that he wasn't up for any batting. Trott and Cook then proceeded to exert pressure on the Sri Lankan attack. Cricket fans would remember their massive partnership during the Ashes series down under and they were in for another treat. Cook and Trott did what Cook and Trott do. Their innings remained patient and well paced throughout as Cook went on to 133 before playing it behind to Jayawardene off the bowling of Maharoof. Pietersen came and left as quickly as he has been doing lately. He scored just 3 runs to let the elegant Bell come to the crease. Now, people often talk about Eoin Morgan and his inventive stroke making ability but Ian Bell took that to another level. While Trott plodded along to 203, Ian Bell reverse swept Mendis and switch hit Dilshan several times. He played the switch hit with such elegance and grace that any neutral watching cricket for the first time would have thought Bell was a left handed batsman. It was fantastic to watch and Bell is a player that has just gone from strength to strength for England. Eventually Trott was bowled by Dilshan for 203 with Bell finishing on 103 not out as England declared early on the 5th day for 496-5 and a lead of 96 runs. Surely the game would grind to a halt and the day will end early as both captains agreed that the draw was the most likely outcome.
What happened next was something short of mesmerizing. England do what England do best and that is be professional and continue to do their jobs at 100%, regardless of the match situation. Tremlett and Broad bowled wonderfully and Swann completed their attack. An attack, that despite the absence of Anderson appeared to be no weaker. Broad took 2-21, Tremlett took 4-40 and Swann chipped in with 4-16 as England bowled Sri Lanka all out for just 82 runs as they won by an innings and 14 runs. Sri Lanka did not seem to have any idea how to bat the day out and wilted under the pressure from the English attack. Some may argue that Sri Lanka do not do well in English conditions anyway but they batted well in their first innings and just appeared to implode to a very potent and professional England lineup.