Swing, seam and no place to go – the joys of touring England as a modern overseas batsman

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Touring England’s never been easy. The conditions, for most overseas batsmen, are as weird and difficult as one of those early-Nineties computer games made by one slightly unhinged bloke in his bedroom. Nothing works how they expect it to and they search for a solution with no real certainty that such a thing even exists. The challenge is even greater nowadays when few players benefit from long stints in county cricket.

When Kumar Sangakkara first toured in 2002, he played three Tests, didn’t pass 40 and averaged 21. On his second tour, in 2006, he averaged 38.50 with a top score of 66. On his third tour, in 2011, he finally made a hundred, but pretty much no other runs and averaged 30.66. It wasn’t until 2014 that he finally cracked it, making a hundred and three fifties and averaging 85.50.

It takes a while.

Sangakkara was a half-decent batsman and he had it relatively easy as well. He didn’t have to face this current England attack. Snooty comments about the quality of this Sri Lanka team – and there have been many – show a real lack of comprehension of just what the tourists are up against.

Bowling well in England requires two main qualities. You need to find some movement – either swing, seam or both – and you need to bowl with enough control to exploit that. At this point in their careers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad do both of those things just about as well as anyone ever has.

There may have been better England bowlers, but in Tests taking place in England there have rarely been more consistent performers.

Touring England’s never been easy. In 2016, with these two at their peak, it’s rarely ever been much harder.


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  1. 36.4, 35.3, 43.3, 128.2. The number of overs SL have lasted in the last two tests. I am not sure if the last one is an anomaly or a genuine sign of improvement, but I did watch them bat and Mathews and Chandimal applied themselves really quite well (and yes, there were a few lucky escapes as well….)

    Wholeheartedly agree * with the piece – playing in these conditions requires practice that the Asian players don’t have. People are going to go on and on about SL’s technical weakness against swing etc., but when all is said and done, it just comes down to more playing time. When that’s guaranteed, results will improve.

    *More like ninetypercentheartedly, actually. I always am disappointed when people talk about “Broad and Anderson”, implying that prick is somehow Jimmy’s equal.

    1. Didn’t mean to imply they were equals. It’s more Jimmy, then Broad, then the rest.

    2. I have a weird feeling that Anderson’s better in England and Broad’s better out, but that’s not true is it? Possibly Broad is better in fast bouncy climes like Oz (and to an extent SA), but he’s a bit rubbish in Asia.

      So don’t worry, DC, he’ll get his this winter. As will many of the England team probably.

  2. Best Cricinfo headline today: “Mitchell Marsh thrilled at injury-free season”.

    It’s not all the wickets he’s pleased with. Nor all the runs. In fact I don’t remember there being huge amounts of either. No, just the lack of injuries.


    1. I gotta say, I don’t find it that strange, especially if he was talking about escaping injury himself. Hadn’t he missed time the last couple years with various injuries? I’d imagine that would be very frustrating, being kept away from your job. So good for him if he’s had better luck this year.

    2. Cricinfo comment from that same article, by ALEXK400:

      “Marsh is sheep. sheeps are prone to injury. Ashish nehra is an example. You will never find one batsman born in 1943,1955 1967,1979,1991 these years injury free. Infact they have some occasional freak highs and then mediocrity. Mainly due to body imbalance and mind imbalance. They excel as better as announcer or actors or businessman. So investing on stokes , marsh is kinda throwing water in ocean. No returns. I know bunching up based on pseudo astrology is nonsense. But stats speaks for itself. There is no where to hide. Someone prove me wrong. :)”

  3. The ICC Rankings have confirmed what we already knew: that he’s the best bowler in the world, never mind anybody else, and that you should shove it up your arse.

  4. Anderson top of the test bowling rankings. Broad third. (Ashwin inbetween).
    Best two pace bowlers in the world.

    As for KC talking lots of sense in this piece…

    …shove it. Can’t spake. None of us can.

  5. Depending on where you read there’s a lot of snooty talking down about Sri Lanka’s batsmen and also a lot of apologetic talk of inexperience. The implication seems to be that this side has a bunch of youngsters that will do better next time.

    But Mathews and Chandimal are on their third tour and showed they’re by a distance the best in this side only when conditions were in their favour. Mathews’ 2014 might be one of the best tours ever by a Sri Lankan, but he did nothing for any of the three innings where it counted in this series.

    When the collapses were occurring the player who actually showed the most ability to counter was Kusal Mendis, who had four tests and no tons to his name when it was decided he’d be at #3 for this series. Among the rest, Karunaratne and Thirimanne have been terrible and have both toured England twice before.

    Experience plays a hand, but the gap between Sangakkara and Thirimanne has a lot more to it than that. The latter ultimately isn’t the former, and that’s why this side looks weak.

    1. There’s been quite a lot of talking up Thirimanne’s resilience so far this tour. If that’s one of the positives you’re trying to take…

    2. Greats of the Sanga/Jayawardena variety come round rarely, let alone in pairs.

      Similarly greats of the Jimmy/Broad variety. We should enjoy their greatness while we can.

      I think that’s KC’s main point.

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