The Sri Lankan Lion Roars

Sri Lanka has secured a well-deserved, last gasp victory in the second and deciding Test at Headingley and in doing so, has demonstrated that one lion is better than three.  It may have only been a series of the minimum two Tests but both were extraordinary in their own ways and incredibly, in both Tests, with two balls remaining in the match, the bowling team needed a single wicket for victory.  And how differently those respective deliveries (and matches) ended!

Surely Cook’s goose is cooked.  It seems that every cricket journalist, especially the English, have Cook’s head on the chopping block.  You would think that Cook has used his last life but how different things could have been.

We will recall that in the 1st Test, England had an lbw appeal upheld on the penultimate ball of the match.  It looked like England (and Cook) has secured a much needed victory.  It seemed that Broad had pulled it out of the fire and taken two wickets in the final over.  But the appeal was overturned by a referral and Sri Lanka salvaged a draw, still 188 runs behind England.

In the second Test, there were more heroics from Broad as he claimed a hat trick in Sri Lanka’s first innings which saw Sri Lanka dismissed relatively cheaply.  England passed Sri Lanka’s total with just two wickets down and looked in a position of strength.  And although they eventually lead by 108 on the first innings, it was mostly downhill from there.  Then Sri Lanka piled on an unthinkable 457 on the back of a magnificent 160 from their skipper, Angelo Mathews.

But the match had a final twist.  After having removed the first five wickets in very quick time out on the fourth evening (Cook must have been wondering why he did not declare on the fourth afternoon of the 1st Test), Sri Lanka struggled to take the remaining five wickets on the final day.  However, having managed to make the initial breakthrough, Sri Lanka chipped away and England found themselves nine wickets down, still with 20 overs play remaining (and over an hour’s play).  Enter James Anderson for one last passage of drama.  James Anderson faced almost half of those final 20 overs: 55 balls to be precise.  On the last of those balls, he was dismissed for one of the best ducks in Test history.  It is third on the list of most balls faced for a duck.

I’m not accusing Anderson of being a chicken but if the ball is going nowhere near the stumps, there is no excuse for getting out.  The ball was missing the stumps by a mile so all he had to do was make sure he got his bat and hands out of the way.  When Australia was nine wickets down against the Windies in 1961, Slasher Mackay faced the last over from Wes Hall.  And what did Slasher do with the final, hostile delivery?  He let it hit him in the chest.  I’m just saying.

Glancing down the scorecards, England seemed to have so much to smile about.  A double from Joe Root.  Maiden Test centuries for Ballance and Robson. A hat trick for Broad and Plunkett taking a five-for.  And last but not least, a monumental final day century from Moeen Ali.  Ali batted an entire day under extreme pressure and yet, England have nothing to show for it.  Cook had scores of 17, 27, 17 and 16 and criticism of his captaincy aside, his batting form (consistent as it is) probably means that the writing is on the wall.  I guess we will see the return of KP in the near future.

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