Sri Lanka arrive at flat SSC with roles reversed

Sri Lanka like to begin Test series in Galle because they feel they can win there. In the past they have arrived at the SSC on a 1-0 cushion, and been happy to see a flat deck on which they can suck the life out of the series, and demoralise the opposition attack.

In the past few years, however, there has been a shift. Sri Lanka no longer have a bowler who dominates visiting batsmen from the first day of a series until its final session. In the post-Muttiah Muralitharan era, Sri Lanka have taken four 1-0 leads in Galle, and blown that lead three times, losing matches in Colombo. The P Sara Oval has been their least favoured venue, but as Sri Lanka arrive in the big city needing to win to level the series, Angelo Mathews knows the SSC could become a site of disappointment against South Africa as well. Read more

SL seek turnaround on sleepy SSC pitch

Match facts
July 24-28, 2014
Start time 1000 local (0430 GMT)

Big Picture

Things that have been more lively than the SSC Test pitches in recent years: the planet Mars, the SLPL’s twitter account and the third floor of London’s Langham Hotel in the dead of night.

The last three Tests there have been draws. But with Sri Lanka requiring a win there to level the series, perhaps the groundstaff have produced a surface more akin to what first-class teams regularly encounter at SSC. There can be a little help for the seamers early on at the venue, but Sri Lanka will hope for plenty of turn as well, which occasionally does occur.

Whatever the surface is like, Sri Lanka know South Africa have already brought them down to earth, after their excellent five months between January and July. The hosts comfortably lost an ODI series they were expected to win. Then when they went to Galle, looking for victory, they came back with a big defeat. That loss has placed a microscope firmly on Sri Lanka’s misfiring middle order, which will see at least one change on Thursday. Read more

England’s Horrific Winless Streak in Tests

England’s 95-run defeat by India in the second Test at Lord’s on Monday made it 10 successive Test matches without a win for the team — their worst winless streak in the format for 21 years.

Since beating Australia at Chester-le-Street in Durham to go 3-0 up in last year’s Ashes in England, Alastair Cook’s men have failed to record a solitary win, achieving three draws and suffering seven defeats — all by large margins.

England’s winless run in Tests (result, opponent, venue, date):

Drawn v Australia, The Oval Aug 2013

Lost 381 runs v Australia, Brisbane Nov 2013

Lost 218 runs v Australia, Adelaide Dec 2013 Read more

New, Gritty India Lord Over Lord’s

India’s victory over England at Lord’s, the Mecca of cricket, is truly a game-changer.

All Test victories in England have been remarkable. But this victory is with a difference. In the 1971 series, when India defeated England, in England, for the first time, under the captaincy of Ajit Wadekar, it was the spin of B S Chandrashekhar, his haul of six wickets that got us the famous victory.

Spin was like Indian Black Magic. Something the English, at times, made fun of like the Great Indian Rope Trick. Spinners, like B S Chandrashekhar, Erapalli Prasanna, Bishen Singh Bedi, and S Venkatraghavan, had the ability to entangle batsmen in a web of spin, and force them to make mistakes. (Alastair Cook Critics’ Favourite Punching Bag)
Read more

India vs England: Farokh Engineer Criticizes Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Wicket-Keeping

Former Indian wicketkeeping great Farokh Engineer has questioned skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s ploy to stand back against spinner Ravindra Jadeja during the second Test at Lord’s. (Also read: Dhoni street-smart, Cook unimaginative: Steve Waugh)

India won by 95 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the five-Test series against England. (Highlights)

“Standing back to Ravindra Jadeja didn’t make sense at all,” said Engineer. (Also read: Ishant Sharma’s Career-Best 7/74 Wrecks England)

“I just couldn’t fathom why he was doing so. There were times when the other fielder behind the wickets, Virat Kohli, was standing next to Dhoni and it looked like there were two wicket-keepers in there. I have never seen anything like this in international cricket. It was baffling and mind boggling. He is a far better wicketkeeper than he showed at Lord’s.” Read more

Jos Buttler replaces wicketkeeper Matt Prior for third Test

Jos Buttler has replaced wicketkeeper Matt Prior in the England squad for the third Test against India.

Prior, 32, stood down from England duty in the aftermath of the second Test defeat at Lord’s because of injury.

Buttler, 23, will make his Test debut having played 33 one-day matches and 36 Twenty20 games for his country. Read more

Jonathan Trott: Warwickshire batsman hits century at Sussex

Jonathan Trott took a major step forward in his recovery from a stress-related illness by completing a County Championship century for Warwickshire.

He reached three figures from 224 balls with a boundary off Sussex paceman Chris Jordan, the 14th of his innings, on the third morning at Horsham

But Trott was then caught behind for 106 from the last ball before lunch.

The 33-year-old had to return from England’s tour to Australia last winter because of the illness. Read more

Surrey v Kent: Darren Stevens seals victory for visitors

Surrey suffered a setback in their challenge for promotion as Kent beat them by 89 runs at Guildford.

All-rounder Darren Stevens took 5-68 as the home side were bowled out for 213, having been set a target of 303 to win.

Sam Billings made a vital unbeaten 57 earlier in the day as Kent were all out for 292, with Stuart Meaker claiming 7-90 for match figures of 11-196.

But Surrey failed to capitalise on paceman Meaker’s efforts, despite 68 off 64 balls by Tillakaratne Dilshan.

The seven bonus points earned by Surrey at Woodbridge Road were enough to lift them into second place, but only two points clear of Hampshire. Read more

Afghanistan keep series alive with team performance

Afghanistan kept the four-match series alive with a win in the tightly-contested third ODI in Bulawayo. None of their bowlers took more than two wickets and only one of their batsmen got to a fifty – Javed Ahmadi with 56 – but they still overpowered Zimbabwe by two wickets, in a chase of 262, with two balls to spare. That brought the series scoreline to 2-1, in favour of the hosts, with one to play.

Zimbabwe were inserted and were provided a solid platform by Hamilton Masakadza – who top scored with 84 – and captain Brendan Taylor, who added 109 at five an over after Sikandar Raza was out cheaply. Sean Williams, batting at No. 4, also contributed to the cause with a brisk 49, but a flurry of wickets in the final six meant they finished with a slightly under-par 261 for 8. Medium pacer Aftab Alam was the pick of the bowlers for Afghanistan, picking up two wickets in a tidy spell. Read more

Why Dhoni stood back to Jadeja’s spin

In the 21st over of England’s second innings at Lord’s, MS Dhoni did something many commentators – former cricketers all – claimed they had never seen before. Two balls into Ravindra Jadeja’s seventh over, Dhoni got rid of his helmet and stood further behind the stumps than usual. He kept doing so whenever Jadeja bowled to left-hand batsmen. For right-hand batsmen, he would return to the normal position of standing up to the stumps.

As the unusual scene of Dhoni standing close for the medium-pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar and back for the spinner Jadeja played out, the experts began to guess what exactly he was trying to do. Read more