Sri Lanka are masters of the shorter forms of cricket and current Twenty20 world champions, so it was little surprise they claimed Monday’s first contest of the summer over here.
They had won eight of their previous nine games, and the team that was used to winning was the one that found a way at the Oval. Winning, as they say, is a habit, and that was evident.
It was close though, and hinged on two or three important moments, the most important being Michael Carberry dropping Thisara Perera. In international cricket you simply have to take those, and Carberry’s schoolboy error meant Sri Lanka got 20 runs too many, which proved decisive in their nine-run triumph.
Still, England were not disgraced, and can go into the one-day series – which starts today – encouraged by what was, one catch aside, a very, very good performance.
Of particular encouragement to England coach Peter Moores should be Harry Gurney and Chris Jordan, two inexperienced bowlers who can only improve and look to have what it takes certainly at one-day level too.
Look at England’s bowling figures from Monday. Everyone raves about Lasith Malinga, who made 3-28, but Gurney finished with 2-26 and also bowled two death overs.
His performance alone should give England great hope going forward, while I remain a huge fan of Jordan, even if he did get hit hard late in the match. The other big plus point for Moores was Alex Hales, who hit 66 off 41 balls as England fell short of their target, and is becoming a very consistent performer.
Pigeonholed as a T20 player, Hales has been left out of the squad for the first three one-day games, but must be pushing hard. I’m not knocking Carberry, who I like, but I’d prefer Hales to open over him today.
If he goes back to Nottinghamshire now and gets runs, you’d have to think the selectors would be crazy not to look at him for the fourth and fifth matches of the series.
My only criticism is that England should look at reshuffling their batting order if they want to leave behind their trait of not hitting enough boundaries.
Ian Bell and Joe Root may be among England’s finest, but I’m not certain they are right for No3 and No4 in a T20 line-up, where England could use someone more explosive and risk-taking.
It might just be a case of keeping Bell at No3, and moving Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Ravi Bopara up the order one place each.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer. He has also served as captain and chairman of Warwickshire.