England vs Sri Lanka: An Australian kind of victory

At the start of the fifth day England were not supposed to win their Test against Sri Lanka, the rain was falling, the leader of their bowling attack was injured and frankly time was running out. Yet the fact they did it, maintaining their winning momentum from the Ashes, and took all ten Sri Lankan wickets in 24.4 overs was a remarkable achievement and one which kicked a key summer for this team into gear.

For whatever the criticisms of the Sri Lankan batting, which was always likely to struggle if Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene failed to fire, plenty of credit is due to England. Their bowlers followed up on the fine work of their batting line-up (three centurions-one with a daddy hundred, another with a grand-daddy) and exerted the kind of pressure which Sri Lanka’s bowlers failed to build up.

The steepling bounce and consistent length of Chris Tremlett was complimented by some wonderfully skillful spin bowling from Graeme Swann and a more consistent showing from Stuart Broad who was far more consistent with line and length second time round. There was no way out for the Sri Lankan batsmen, choked by the relentless pressure of England’s bowlers and the scoreboard and match situation. They had no hope of victory, and England exerting pressure, took the draw out of the equation.

It was a victory which had shades of the kind of disintegration which Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting practised at their height of dominance. Time after time, Australia’s stellar batting line-up would rack up substantial scores and then with the seam of Glenn McGrath, the pace of Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee and then the spin of Shane Warne. Ponting once remarked ahead of an Ashes tour: “Mental disintegration? That’s what it’s all about, really, trying to keep England under pressure from ball one of the series until the series ends. That’s what our whole cricket theme, if you like, is based on.”

For Andrew Strauss and the veterans of England’s 2006/2007 Ashes tour this will have brought back shades of their own collapse in Adelaide when Warne got into their minds and turned a seemingly inevitable situation around. Just as England then seemed destined for defeat once the collapse began, so Sri Lanka seemed destined for defeat here-the hunted had become the hunter.

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The IPL Auction: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

For the purists the IPL is the work of cricket’s version is an evil, a Twenty20 cashcow corrupting the purer form of the game. Yet look beyond the hyperbole (which the IPL does very well) and there is something about it, a strange alluring attraction of seeing the world’s best players congregated together.

Nothing is more attractive than seeing the world’s best players being valued and sold off to the highest bidder at will. It is a means of quantifying value and skill-something normally measured purely by runs and wickets.

Meanwhile it also throws up the intriguing prospect of spicy encounters ensuing, Shane Warne and Paul Collingwood or Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds will certainly enjoy sharing dressing rooms.

So here’s a look at the IPL auction and those who could prove value for money, those that probably won’t and those who probably never would have in the first place.

The Hits

Shakib Ul-Hasan ($425,000: Kolkata Knight Riders)

The world’s best all-rounder according to ICC and a steal at that price. Capable spinner, capable batsmen and a proven international who has been pivotal in Bangladesh’s recent resurgence. This could be the tournament which catapults him onto the world stage.

Davy Jacobs ($190,000: Mumbai Indians)

Proven T20 performer with the Warriors and an explosive opening batsman who showed his capability in last year’s Champions League. With other big hitters fetching top dollar, the South African could prove to be a steal at that price.

Aaron Finch ($300,000: Delhi Daredevils)

About to make his Australia T20 debut and you can be sure that his value will skyrocket if he performs well. Delhi will be delighted to have snapped him up before he can showcase his talents.

Eoin Morgan ($350,000: Kolkata Knight Riders)

Before Morgan came along England were mere Twenty20 contenders but now they are world champions thanks in no small part to the wristy Irish genius. Hits the ball in unusual areas-a nightmare for opposing captains-and a brilliant finisher in all forms of the game who any team would want coming in at two or three wickets down.

JP Duminy ($300,000: Deccan Chargers)

A surprise, mainly that he went for such a low price. After fetching $950,000 previously it’s a surprise to see his value drop so far. Sure his recent international form has been disappointing but he’s a class act capable of exploding with the bat in long or short form and a superb fielder to boot.

The Misses

Johan Botha ($950,000: Rajasthan Royals)

So much for a consistent if unspectacular off-spinner. A solid performer, capable of hitting lower order runs and fielding well to boot but it’ll be intriguing to see whether he can live up to the price tag.

Adam Gilchrist ($900,000: Kings XI Punjab)

The guy’s a bona fide legend and a one-time explosive batsmen. Sad thing is that those times were probably four or five years ago. Averaged only 30 in the English T20 season for Middlesex so why, bar experience and leadership qualities and his name, he is worth so much is head scratchingly mystifying.

Robin Uthappa ($2.1 million: Pune Warriors)

On his day he’s a match-winner, but for that price you could pick up a Dwayne Bravo, Graeme Smith, Ishant Sharma and Michael Hussey. Has much to prove and obviously has the talent to perform but does he have the consistency to justify that price tag?

Subramaniam Badrinath ($850,000: Chennai Super Kings)

A run-scorer for sure, and a good one at that. But he has precious little in the way of Twenty20 pedigree and lacks the explosive ability of say Kieron Pollard or AB De Villiers who fetched a similar price.

Ravindra Jadeja ($950,000: Kochi)

The very definition of a bits and pieces player, a decent batsmen and a decent spinner but he scarcely does both facets to be a match-winner which at that price he’d need to be. With Jayawardene and Muralitheran purchased at higher prices by the Kochi franchise it seems they have bought him to support both, but have they paid too much for a utility man?

The Ugly

Brian Lara (Unsold)

Quite what a 41 year old who has been retired from the international game for 4 years and who recently flopped on his comeback in Zimbabwe was expecting is up for debate. His continued presence in the contest was a surprise, and perhaps now it’s time the legend started looking at that great cricketing gig in the sky.

Graeme Swann (Unsold)

Pure English politik. Indian teams were worried about his involvement, though that didn’t stop the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad getting snapped up. Rumours of a lack of a doosra or mystery seem slightly mystifying given that he has risen to the pinnacle of the game using his own method of spin bowling magic.

Tamim Iqbal (Unsold)

The next Sehwag according to some. His absence is a loss for the tournament, as he’ll probably go on and become a star over the next 12 months and have people begging for him to come back next year.

Jesse Ryder (Unsold)

An explosive batsmen, capable bowler and by all accounts readily available for service. His inability to find suitors is frankly bizarre, especially given that he has recently excelled on the sub-continent with New Zealand.

James Anderson (Unsold)

The second best fast bowler in the world behind Dale Steyn who cost $1.2 million, and a recent Ashes winner and match winner to boot. Another capable performer who is a real victim of English politik. While he lacks the versatility with the ball in the shorter form as his team-mate Broad, as he’s recently shown he’s in the prime of his life and would have been a real asset to any team.