England Cricket

England vs. Sri Lanka T20: New Era, New Coach, Same Old Flaws

Michael Carberry, left, drops a catch beside his captain Eoin Morgan off the batting of Sri Lanka's Nuwan Kulasekara during the Twenty20 cricket match between England and Sri Lanka at the Oval cricket ground in London, Tuesday, May 20, 2014.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Dunham/Associated Press
Mark PattersonUK Staff WriterMay 20, 2014

England, on the scorecard alone, might look at the nine-run defeat to Sri Lanka in their T20 clash at The Oval and think that they were not far away from the world champions. 

That would be a mistake.

They were comprehensively outclassed by a team that has lost the experience and class of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene—in this format at least—since they won the trophy in Bangladesh.

Their WT20-winning coach, Paul Farbrace, was now also in the other corner, the assistant to Peter Moores as England's new era faced its first test against a full ICC member.

To cap it all, England had the benefit of home conditions.

And still, as the WASP tracker Sky Sports have implemented to their coverage hinted, they were always a distant second in the two-horse race.

Whether it was Moores or former incumbent Ashley Giles in charge scarcely seemed to matter. The same selection fallacies recurred, the same slackness remained in the field.

If you were to look at a single moment that cost England the game, you might point the finger at Michael Carberry dropping a steepling catch and allowing Thisara Perera to go on to a 20-ball 49.

But the bigger question is what was he doing there at all?

Carberry's England career looked over this winter, and his outburst against then-coach Giles in the spring suggested he himself thought his time was up. Instead, despite scoring just four in his one T20 since that tour, he has found himself called up for an international debut in the format.

It's a bizarre call—and that's before you allow yourself to think about the parallels between Carberry's eruption and the treatment Kevin Pietersen received this winter.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

If Carberry's appearance didn't add up, neither did Ian Bell's. He made his T20I debut almost eight years ago and has now amassed eight caps with no obvious evidence that he will ever flourish in the format.

Bell has all the shots, but it has never—neither at international nor domestic level, where his strike rate is 113.95 from 44 innings—translated into him being a top T20I player. 

His ponderous score of 13 batting at number three helped ensure England's chase was over before it ever really began.

England have power-hitting and explosive players, they just appear to be held back for a time when the game has already slipped out of their hands.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 20:  Ravi Bopara of England hits out during NatWest T20 International match between England and Sri Lanka at The Kia Oval on May 20, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)
Tom Shaw/Getty Images

Ravi Bopara may play an all-rounder's role, but that does not mean he should be batting at number seven. He, Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan, are all batting at least one place—possibly two—too low.

In a scheduling quirk, one that perhaps reflect that this is the first international series after the WT20, there is just a solitary T20I between the two sides before the ODIs begin. In one sense, that should bring relief for England, whose record in recent times is ugly.

But as England go into that series without Alex Hales, who top-scored on Tuesday night with a combination of patient play followed by clean and powerful hitting, there's every chance that writers during the one-day internationals will be left to again question those same gaps in selection logic.

Moores needs time to impose his vision, but he should also understand that he comes into the role, despite Giles Clarke's denials, at a low ebb.

Cricket fans have, judging by social media, rarely been more disconnected from the England team than they are at present. The players have been underperforming. Many figures behind England's most successful period have retired or disappeared from the reckoning.

There's more than enough for the team to be working on without them hamstringing themselves before the first ball is bowled. 

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