England v Sri Lanka, 5th ODI, Headingley

The final one-dayer. Hurrah! Come on England, let’s at least see if they can compete this time.

Four nil, four nil, four nil, four nil

Another one-dayer, another win for Sri Lanka, another clueless performance from England. Even the return of two discards, Vikram Solanki and Kabir Ali, couldn’t delay the depressingly inevitable. What a chuffing shambles.

Sri Lanka look very, very good.

Stop being chummy, you chummers

From Lawrence Booth’s Spin column this morning:

The seeds of England’s affable uselessness (“It’s OK to be beaten by
Mahela Jayawardene and chums: they’re a good bunch of blokes”) were
sown on the last tour of Sri Lanka in 2003-04. Nasser Hussain spotted
the danger: “I had watched how matey some of our players were with
Murali, particularly Freddie Flintoff,” he wrote in his
autobiography, “and I became concerned that this was having an
adverse effect on the side.” Hussain’s decision to get nasty as
Murali walked out to bat in the second Test at Kandy came about
because “I wanted him to feel he was in a hostile environment, not a
friendly one.”

This is not to suggest that England start calling a member of the
opposition a cheat, as Hussain did. It is merely to illustrate that -
in the absence of a hard-nosed leader – England have lost their bite.
The Spin observed the off-field interaction between the English and
the Sri Lankans in this summer’s Test series very closely and it kept
reaching the same conclusion: Flintoff needs to add steel to his
repertoire, otherwise he will always hover in a lower captaincy
league than Hussain and Michael Vaughan.

Spot on. Mateyness has no place, especially when we’re losing so spectacularly. They all need a royal kick up the backside.

Vikram Solanki called up

Oh whoop-de-doo. A glitzy, effortless, boundary-laden 34 is not what England need.

Dump Duncan?

I must say, this has been brewing in the back of my mind since England lost the first one-dayer at Lord’s. But I avoided mentioning it in either of my verdicts as I felt it was not only premature, but too controversial. Enter Tim de Lisle who, handily, has done it for me, and rather more directly and eloquently too:

6. Replace the coach
Some players are just better suited to Test than one-day cricket. Some coaches are too. Duncan Fletcher was a handy one-day player himself for Zimbabwe, but his style as a coach – patient, methodical, painstaking – is better geared to Test cricket. With the help of central contracts, four-day cricket, Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan, he has changed the culture of the Test team. But he hasn’t done much for the one-day side. He should either have a rethink or step aside for someone with a real feel for the one-day game. It could be someone Fletcher would approve of, like Andy Flower, already a mentor to Chris Read and Alistair Cook. Or it could be someone Fletcher wouldn’t approve of at all, like Adam Hollioake. Desperate times, desperate measures.

Who to pick? Matthew Maynard, who some believe is the main in waiting for the top job? Tim’s right: Fletcher is too calm and methodical a coach to be sufficiently proactive (not reactive) in a one-day series. That’s the impression I get, anyway.

England v Sri Lanka, 3rd ODI, Riverside

Another bloody one-dayer. Chat away, if you can stand it.

England v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, The Oval

Another one-dayer, let’s hope England can give Sri Lanka a run for their money. Doubt anyone will even bother coming here, but if you do, chat away! I’ll be at the ground, but will post thoughts on the game on Wednesday (alt. just read Cricinfo…)

Sri Lanka building nicely

I really don’t know what else to add about England’s performance on Saturday which hasn’t already been said. Check the verdict and today’s preview for more on that.

For Sri Lanka, they are much better placed and are building very nicely towards the World Cup. They have a nucleus of settled players, a world-class spinner, and several batsmen capable of hundreds (and who are able to adapt to the game’s situation). They’ve really turned things around after being belted 6-1 by India; they’re looking good.

I’ll be at The Oval for more fun and games tomorrow. If only to make this series competitive, let’s hope England can level it – but, moreover, let’s see England do the basics right and leave the slapdash strokeplay in the locker.

England v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Lord’s

The first ODI at Lord’s between England and Sri Lanka. Ought to be a scorcher. Get a’chattin’

Tomorrow’s one-dayer

England take on Sri Lanka tomorrow in the first of five one-dayers. In doing some little research for the series preview, I worked out (bollocks I did, sorry, I’m lying – Robin did. Thanks Robin. But he knew it off the top of his head, as well I assumed he might) England have a minimum of 19 matches until the World Cup. Oh dear.

Glen Chapple (32) is injured; so is Michael Vaughan, Andrew Flintoff, Simon Jones, Ed Joyce and probably more that I’ve forgotten. So the significance of this series, and tomorrow’s match, should not be underestimated for both sides. Every one-day match henceforth is a potential “sighter” for next year’s World Cup. And for all Andrew Strauss’ remarkable confidence in the quotes that came out today, even he would admit that England are in dire one-day form.

I’m making my debut too, tomorrow; it’s my first international for Cricinfo, a little under 12 months since I joined. Couple of friends (bonjour, C&N) who I met with the other night asked “Did you ever imagine you’d be doing this?” I don’t think I ever did seriously contemplate it, although aged twelve we did a roleplay exercise during a French lesson where we had to pretend we were speaking to the TV camera as “something”. One bloke was a horseracing commentator (even at that age, his knowledge of the horses was phenomenal; he’s now either stinking rich or bankrupt, I imagine), another at Twickenham, Wembley, Wimbledon and so on. I was at Lord’s! And I distinctly remember thinking “well yeah – it’d be nice, but it’s so not possible.”

My ambitions of becoming a doctor were also dealt a blow aged 13 when I nearly blew the school up. Chemistry and Physics weren’t my strong point, although I enjoyed disecting a pig’s eye and liver in biology. Sadly that’s not a requirement, or even a benefit, to become a quack over here.

Anyway. Enough ramblings. I’ll post thoughts of Saturday’s game on Sunday, and there will be a post up tomorrow for you to leave your comments etc. Until then, then.