England Fortunes on the Upsurge?
Series win in Lanka a tremendous achievement
For England to win two straight Tests in Sri Lanka is a tremendous achievement, particularly these days when almost every team seems formidable at home and away series victories are becoming rare. It is interesting to note that England pulled off the victory at Kandy, wrapping up the series with one more match to be played, on a day when Indian coach Ravi Shastri was making a statement in India’s defence saying that hardly any team these days does well abroad, so why pick on India.
A few facts will put England’s feat in proper perspective. This is England’s first away series win since defeating South Africa three years ago. It is also their first series victory in Asia since they beat India in 2012, and their first series triumph in Sri Lanka since 2001. It's never easy to beat Sri Lanka at home, even though the team is a few notches down following the retirement of several stalwarts in the last few years. Somehow at home Sri Lanka players are able to raise the level of their game to see that the team remains unbeaten.
Joe Root and his men deserve all the plaudits they are getting, and the skipper for whom this was the first away series win as captain has already spoken about wanting to get to the No 1 rank in the world at some point. The way the team is playing it could be sooner rather than later, particularly as Root has spoken of wanting to improve. At present England are ranked No 3 in Tests, a little behind India and South Africa.
Two successive wins, by 211 and 57 runs, are margins that brook no argument. But what is most striking is the manner in which England accomplished the double feat. Who has heard of an England team winning with spin as their main weapon? James Anderson with all his experience and awesome record as his country’s highest wicket taker has had little to do as England fielding three spin bowlers have emerged triumphant on pitches that suit their style.
In Galle Jack Leach, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid picked up 16 of the 19 wickets that fell to bowlers. In Kandy Leach, Moeen and Rashid took 18 of the 19 wickets that fell to bowlers. Anderson sent down just 19 overs in the match and Sam Curran four in the first innings; he didn’t bowl at all in the second. When last did England field such a potent spin attack?
Besides, England are a good all round side. They bat pretty deep and time and again the late order has played the rescue act to a decisive extent. They are also a much improved side in the field, something Root made a special mention of after the victory in the second Test. And there is always someone who is ready with a special innings, just as the one that Kedaton Jennings played in the first Test and Root himself unfolded in the second Test.
Moreover, in Leach and Ben Foakes England have discovered two really special talents. The latter got a hundred on debut in the first Test, while Leach has picked up 15 wickets in just three Tests. Indeed England have the perfect spin attack in having an off spinner, a left arm spinner and a leg spinner. And to think the team won two straight Tests without calling upon Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes or Johny Bairstow who are all members of the touring squad!
Yes, there is little doubt that England’s fortunes are on the upsurge and they have every reason to believe that they can make a clean sweep by winning the third test in Colombo that started on friday.