Ashes within reach as England lose their mojo


by Brendan McArdle

The first two days’ play of the Test match in Galle between Sri Lanka and England have proven two things :  England are a hopelessly incompetent team in the sub continent, and their hold on the title of no.1 Test team is very tenuous.

     Never mind the fact that England have bounced back to have the hosts in trouble in their second innings. Unless something dramatic happens to the mindset of their batsmen, they have no chance of chasing down anything like a remotely challenging target in conditions which have been shown to be beyond them so often in the past.

     England have lost their mojo, and it was obvious from the first three hours’ cricket on day one in Galle. They have gone back to their bad old habits of softness, where near enough is good enough when things get tough in the field. Yes Mahele Jayawardene played brilliantly, and it was hot, but for SL to have made anything above 230 given the start they had was a terrible indictment on England’s commitment both in the field and with the ball. Catches were dropped, run outs were missed, and there was a general flatness about their attack.

     Anderson and Broad are down in pace, and, despite the fact that they have both been brilliant in recent years   –  as big a reason as any for England’s lofty standing  –  they lack tricks in these types of unforgiving conditions. Ryan Harris faced similar challenges when Australia toured Sri Lanka last year, but rose above them and set up a series victory. And the English duo are a class above him.

    Graeme Swann is struggling despite his second innings wickets. His aura has been broken by batsmen worldwide who are now treating him like all right arm off spinners used to be treated  –  at least those without a kink in their elbow or wrist. When the game was on in the first innings Jayawardene played him with a toothpick.

    As shown recently against Pakistan, England’s batting is technically and mentally inept in these circumstances. Theories abound in the England dressingroom at times like this, but all we see are frozen rabbits under pressure. Saeed Ajmal proved himself to be the world’s best spinner with his mesmerising of the English, and now Rangana Herath is set to cash in on the mental scarring that resulted.

   The likes of Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen are at delicate stages of their careers. Continued failure for the rest of this series will put untold pressure on their positions in the team, while Jonathan Trott is learning that his narrow mindset and approach needs to be expanded upon with a more team-oriented focus.

   What does it all mean? Depending on where they play, any one of South Africa, England, Australia or Sri Lanka can be rightfully regarded as the world’s best Test-playing nation. India don’t deserve to be considered, New Zealand always puts up a fight and the West Indies will be a challenge for Australia provided they stay focused.

   But the real upshot for Australia is that we are well and truly in the mix. Those beloved Ashes are certainly within reach. In eighteen months time the disorganisation and embarrassment of the last two campaigns against our greatest rival might be a distant memory.


  1. Brendan,
    You got it right when you said that Swann has lost “his aura”.
    I reckon he may have also lost his aura with the selectors, as
    witnessed by the recent inclusion of M Panesar into Pommy
    squads. It was not all that long ago that Monty was on the
    But with G Swann now appearing more “vincible”, the selectors
    look to be hedging their bets.

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