Plenty of ticks for England selectors
There were six changes for the Lord’s Test compared to the England side which took the field at the SCG in January. ESPNcricinfo assesses how each of them performed in the opening match of the series
A tricky start for England’s latest opener on his homeground. He edged to the keeper in the first innings, reaching for ball that travelled down the slope, and was then beaten by one holding its line in the second. Regardless of success at domestic level, the step up will bring challenges more often than not and it would be unfair to make snap judgements after two innings although to be troubled on both sides of the bat is a concern. Would be ideal, before the arrival of India, if he could settle himself with a useful score at Headingley.
His absence from the Test side only lasted one match and his double hundred has set up his summer beautifully. Continued a strong association with Lord’s where he scored 180 against Australia last year and 71 against New Zealand. The tempo of his first innings was what stood out. Often in Australia he became static, unable to rotate the strike, but back down at No. 5 he seemed far more at ease. After a year of shuffling around the order, hopefully he has now found a permanent home especially after Gary Ballance’s corresponding hundred at No.3. “It’s obviously been quite a tough winter, from a team point of view and personally as well,” Root said. “So to come back into the side and score a hundred meant a lot to me.”
Moeen certainly did not look out his depth in the Test arena. Off the mark with a whip through square leg, the only nervous moment in his first innings was an edge through a vacant third slip. The rest of his stay was studded with wristy elegance, so much so that when he edged a loose drive to slip it came as a surprise. The second innings was brief, but action-packed: off the mark first ball with a lofted straight drive then bowled through the gate by a lovely response from Rangana Herath. The bowling was what you would expect, steady but without a huge amount of threat against batsmen who can play spin in their sleep. “I think he looks like someone who has already played 20 games,” Paul Farbrace said. “I thought he looked at ease with the bat and with the ball he looks like a very quick learner. He has a great future.”
Lucky to be recalled? Maybe, but Prior took his opportunity although it was a successful return by a matter of inches when he escaped a mighty close lbw second ball. But after that, he played very much like the Prior of old, counter-attacking against a tiring attack on the first day although he will not have enjoyed being bounced out by Shaminda Eranga. With the gloves he was solid, the horrors of Perth forgotten, and generally coped well with the low bounce that made life tricky behind the stumps. “I’ve had a rough year but the three or four years before that I’d played some pretty good cricket and I know what I bring to the team,” Prior said.
There is a vibrancy and exuberance about Jordan’s cricket that is impossible not to admire. A wicket with his third ball in Test cricket would have settled any remaining nerves, but he does not appear to be the type of cricketer to be overwhelmed by an occasion. Three hard-earned scalps in the first innings were just rewards and his final spell of the match – 8-7-2-1 – was unstinting. The other side of his game was on show when he strode in with England 121 for 6 in the second innings. Ian Bell would have been proud of some of the off side drives he played during a sparky 35 which eased England’s worries. “We’ve seen quite a lot of Jords in the one-day game, he’s got a lot of skills,” Alastair Cook said. “I love his attitude, he always wants to bowl. He’s nagging me from second slip saying he needs to come on now, it’s an infectious attitude and we haven’t seen the best of him yet either.”
Match figures of 48-7-155-2 did not scream a successful return to Test cricket for Plunkett after a seven-year gap, but neither do they tell the full story of the effort he put in. It was a foreboding surface for anyone trying to extract life with short deliveries – a method of attack England were keen to take against the Sri Lankans – but Plunkett still had the strength and stamina to have the batsmen hopping at times with speeds in excess of 90mph. He may, occasionally, have forgotten the value of the pitch-up delivery and his yorker to remove Angelo Mathews in the first innings should be one to file away, but he should feel heartened heading to his new homeground for the second Test. “Liam has got one of the best engines I’ve seen, his pace pretty much stayed constant through the whole game,” Cook said.
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