The first part of England’s summer is complete, a 1-0 series victory over Sri Lanka. In many ways, it is a rather odd series to analyse, partially because all three tests were so badly affected by the weather, but also because while England were dominate for much of the time, it took an extraordinary performance on the last day at Cardiff for them to win the series at all.
Sri Lanka for their part, were tricky opponents but lacking in quality to seriously challenge England. There were some impressive batting performances from Tharanga Paranavitania, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Prasanna Jayawardene, while Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera provided stubborn resistance to save the final test. However, without retired pair Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralithuran, the Sri Lankan bowlers lacked the quality to threaten the England batting lineup.
There were plenty of positives for England to take out of the series. Just as in Australia, the English batting was formidable. Both Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott continued their fine form, Kevin Pietersen showed in his final innings a hint of a return to form, while Eoin Morgan ably filled Paul Collingwood's place with a couple of brisk 50s.
The revelation though was Ian Bell. Often cast aside due to his suspect temperament, Bell has proved the doubters wrong playing a number of classy innings under pressure. He finished the series with an average of 331 and two fine centuries.
Of the bowlers, the undoubted star was Chris Tremlett whose aggressive bouncing pace bowling gave the Sri Lankan batsmen all kinds of trouble. Like Bell, Tremlett has promised a lot and is finally starting to deliver on the biggest stage. Tremlett was backed up by the ever-dependable Graeme Swann and James Anderson who bowled well despite his series being disrupted by injury.
England do have some problem areas though. Andrew Strauss averaged just 6.75 and his weakness against left-arm seamers will be exploited by India and Zaheer Khan if this problem is not sorted. Of the bowlers, Stuart Broad struggled mightily taking just eight wickets in three matches. The Nottinghamshire paceman looked short of form and match practice and will need to improve drastically against a far-superior batting unit.
England’s main concern will be the balance of the side. Operating with four bowlers left captain Strauss with fewer options, and England struggled to bowl Sri Lanka out on a couple of occasions—most notably on the last day of the final test. When you consider India are all around a much stronger side than Sri Lanka, there is a case to be made for bringing in the extra bowler. This would probably mean that Eoin Morgan may be the unlucky man missing out to Ravi Bopara who can operate as a fourth seamer.
England can move onto India knowing that they have taken one step toward their goal of being the No. 1 test team in the world. The four-test series promises to be a close battle between two very talented sides.
It should be a fantastic series.