England learn with the bat rather than the ball at Headingley
England’s first-Test win over Sri Lanka at Headingley was the 13th-fastest match, in terms of balls bowled, in the game’s history.
During such a whirlwind of domination it is easy to suggest, like the BBC’s Jonathan Agnew did, that nothing of real value was learnt.
To a certain extent, the Test Match Special host has a point.
With the ball swinging violently there was no surprise to see James Anderson doing the bulk of the damage. Like Oreos and milk, overcast conditions and England’s leading wicket taker are a perfect match.
The Lancastrian collected match figures of 10-45 as the visitors collapsed to 91 and 119 and lost by an innings and 88 runs. For the umpteenth time, Anderson showed there are few better bowlers in the world when conditions suit.
Stuart Broad, with 4-21 in the first innings, and Steven Finn’s 3-26 in the second provided the support Anderson needed to get the job done inside three days.
But despite the quick finish, a couple of vital performances with the bat would have pleased Alastair Cook.
Alex Hales showed he can tough it out at the top of the order. He faced 206 balls for his first-innings 86 and helped his side through a tough time on the first day when wickets were collapsing around him.
His strike rate of 41.74 at Headingley was some way short of his first-class career mark of 58.79. That shows he has the capacity to knuckle down for a traditionalist’s innings when required.
Although he wasn’t able to get the monkey of his first Test century off his back, that milestone won’t be far away and will unleash him as a red-ball player when it arrives.
The Nottinghamshire opener need only look at Jonny Bairstow for evidence of the freedom a Test triple brings. The wicketkeeper registered his maiden five-day ton on the winter tour of South Africa and has been in an extended patch of purple ever since.
On his home ground the Yorkshireman played a match-winning hand, scoring 140 in 183 balls at number seven. Naturally, comparisons to Australia’s great momentum-changer, Adam Gilchrist, followed. The truth is they aren’t too far off the mark.
With Bairstow operating at peak confidence, he really can play a pivotal role in England’s batting order, especially with the top of the card far from stable.
After taking nine catches behind the stumps too, Jos Buttler may have to settle in for a long stint as a one-day specialist.
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