England were so close to victory in the first Test match of the series against Sri Lanka at Lords but in the end it just wasn't to be for Alastair Cook's side as the tourists held on for a nerve-jangling draw.
With just two balls remaining Stuart Broad thought he had Sri Lanka's number 11 Pradeep trapped lbw only for the decision to be overturned after being referred by the batsmen to the
third umpire. The replay confirmed that Pradeep had hit the ball before it cannoned into his pads. This cut short England's celebrations and then, after surviving the final ball of the match, ensured Sri Lanka were the ones leaping for joy as they finished on 201-9.
For most of the day Sri Lanka were cruising to a draw under the guidance of Kumar Sangakkara (61) but a Jimmy Anderson (4-25) burst either side of lunch, helped by Stuart Broad (3-43) and Chris Jordan (2-34), gave England hopes of a late victory. However, it was just not to be in the end.
It was undoubtedly a fantastic finish to the Test match but in hindsight England should have probably given themselves more time to bowl out their opposition rather than setting them an improbable 390 to win the Test on the final day. Sri Lanka had no incentive to play any
That said, Cook will have been wary of Sri Lanka's batsmen on what was a very decent fifth day pitch, and an earlier declaration would have been a gamble that goes against Cook's style. He ensured that his side could not lose the game, but it also hurt his side's chances of victory.
I am sure Cook will have looked at the pitch and seen that it was still very docile, offering very little to pace or spin, and he will have also had in the back of his mind the fact that Middlesex chased down over four hundred to win at Lords in their County Championship game against Yorkshire earlier in the season.
However, with all these things considered, England would still have benefited from declaring the previous evening and giving their bowlers an opportunity to bowl at the Sri Lankans for even just a handful of overs. They had nothing to lose and everything to gain from doing this, especially if they had managed to prize out a wicket or two against the inexperienced Sri Lanka openers.
England needed to start this summer with a victory to give their new look side a boost, but the opportunity slipped away. Gary Ballance batted well and thoroughly deserved his century, of that there is no doubt, but he too would probably have swapped his personal milestone for an England victory as he took time to reach three figures.
Shane Warne recently labelled Alastair Cook's captaincy boring, and I don't think an Australian captain would have been as negative, least of all their current captain Michael Clarke.
Cook should not be blamed for the outcome of the match entirely. He has a plethora of backroom staff who will have been advising him, not to mention the input of Peter Moores. As a collective they should all shoulder the blame.
Sometimes risks need to be taken in Test cricket to force a result and if Sri Lanka had less runs to chase and more time to try and get them they could have played more shots and ultimately given England more chances to take wickets.
England looked dejected at the end of the final day's play but they could, and should, have helped their cause better. Another interesting aside, which could have cost England victory, was the slow over rate from both sides during the match. There were 17 overs lost during the game due to this.
England now move on to Headingley on Friday where they must push for victory and be far more positive if they are going to win the series. Sri Lanka will head to Leeds in buoyant mood and may believe that they can carry on the momentum they have gained from this battling draw but England will need to pick themselves up and go again very quickly.
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