What the pundits say: The draw at Lord's

Blog Opinion

The first Test between Sri Lanka and England at Lord's ended in a thrilling draw on Monday, going down to the final over and DRS saving the visitors from defeat. There were many plot lines to discuss after the game.

The first Test between Sri Lanka and England at Lord's ended in a thrilling draw on Monday, going down to the final over and DRS saving the visitors from defeat. There were many plot lines to discuss after the game, from Cook's captaincy to Sangakkara's batting to slow over rates.

Here are a few views from around the interwebs:

The <i>BBC</i>'s <b>Jonathan Agnew</b> was full of praise for skipper Alastair Cook, who allowed his senior colleagues to help him set Funky Fields: "One of the most encouraging aspects of England's play was the innovative fields set by captain Alastair Cook on the final day. Cook was heavily criticised in Australia for being too reactive and lacking imagination, but here he was deploying all manner of weird and wonderful strategies.

"Cook later revealed that the extraordinary field was Jimmy Anderson's idea, but the whole episode reflects a sea change in England's mentality and approach. It shows that the dressing room are now open to ideas, that the team can be flexible and that the captain has the confidence to take a risk in the quest for a breakthrough. I can never imagine Cook being reckless, but he showed he can think outside the box and do something a bit unusual. That can only bode well for the future."

While his captaincy improved, Cook's form with the bat continued to be a worry, as <b>Geoff Boycott</b> stated in <i>The Telegraph</i>: "The biggest problem of all is the captain. It is Alastair Cook's nature to be a cautious leader. You cannot change people's character, but if you are a batsman-captain then you need to score runs. Making runs will give him the confidence he needs to be a bit more positive and proactive in his captaincy.

"My own view is that he needs time in the middle in international cricket. Making hundreds for Essex in the second division of the County Championship does not count for a lot. He is looking for easy-run balls off his legs and square off the back foot. I would like to see him playing in the V between mid-off and mid-on. If he fails twice at Headingley then there will be a big question mark because we will have two struggling openers. This is our biggest problem."

<b>Vic Marks</b> in <i>The Guardian</i> felt the pitch helped Sri Lanka, but was impressed with Kumar Sangakkara's 147 and 61, writing: "There has always been the perception that Sangakkara will bow out alongside Jayawardene. Yet, if form is the barometer, this is not so likely. Sangakkara, a year younger at 36, looked far more comfortable than his constant colleague. Jayawardene was much more hesitant against England's pacemen.

"Indeed Sangakkara has seldom batted better than this and there seems no reason why he should not keep going for a good while yet. In his last five Test innings he has scored 707 runs. Only Don Bradman (three times), Wally Hammond (twice), Zaheer Abbas, Garry Sobers, Everton Weekes and Graham Gooch have been more prolific in that number of innings. Sangakkara belongs in that company."

<b>Andrew Fernando</b>, <i>Cricinfo</i>'s Sri Lanka correspondent, was impressed with Angelo Mathews' role in the game: "Mathews had an outstanding Test as a batsman, hitting an almost surreptitious century in the first innings, after the crowd had used up all their fanfare on Sangakkara the previous day.

"Mathews traded in that pizzazz for passivity in the second dig, taking cover in his trench for 89 nerveless balls, before Anderson got the better of him as well. It was the kind of innings that should not hurt personal statistics, but it did. He now only averages 76 each time he comes to the crease as captain. He has undoubtedly grown as a leader, and he has become skilled at deflecting praise and indulging in less-than-enlightening captain-speak as well."

Former England skipper <b>Nasser Hossain</b> was impressed with the rookie players, but disappointed with a draw, writing in the <i>Daily Mail</i>: "Moeen Ali batted well in the first innings and kept things tight with his off-breaks. Gary Ballance was superb in the second. Chris Jordan is the kind of cricketer who makes things happen, and Liam Plunkett – in his first Test for seven years – put in some hostile spells.

"But they've also learned (or, at least, they've been reminded) that life is going to be hard without a front-line spinner. To me, Moeen looks like a handy second spinner – but no more than that. The seamers were superb, but they could have done with Sri Lanka's Rangana Herath on the last day."

He added: "If they were going to bat on until the close on Sunday evening, then they had to put all their fielders in attacking positions on Monday morning. Cook didn't quite do that. They just needed to push a bit harder at times. This is Sri Lanka at home – not Australia away. England should keep backing their young cricketers. But next time they need to make sure Sri Lanka don't wriggle off the hook."

Commentator <b>Mark Nicholas</b> wrote on <i>Cricinfo</i> about the slow over rates, and what it meant for the match: "The players need a rocket for the over rates. The average for the first three innings of this match was below 13 over an hour and that is with numerous allowances. The required rate is 15, thus each day's play not only went the maximum half an hour beyond the scheduled close but finished with supposedly mandatory overs not bowled at all.

"This cheats the public and allows a struggling bowling side unfair respite. The time has come to add runs to the financial penalties that the well paid modern player could not care less about. A cost of ten per over would sharpen them up, alongside an increase in fines that must surely apply to every player. Notably, England bowled at almost two overs per hour faster on the final day when the smell of victory was in the air."