England’s Ashes winners cash in against modest Sri Lankan attack
Close: First Test, day three, Cardiff
Match score: England 287-2 (Cook 129*, Trott 125*) trail Sri Lanka 400 (Paranavitana 66, Dilshan 50, P Jayawardene 112) by 113 runs Full scorecard
Session score: England 139-0 England win
There was plenty of fancy dress but not much fancy cricket in Cardiff as Sri Lanka woke up to the harsh reality of the post-Murali era.
Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott gorged themselves on a moderate bowling attack with an unbroken third-wicket stand of 240, their third century stand in four innings. But such was the lack of urgency and the ease with which they were allowed to score, it was not a day that especially raised the spirits or the temperature.
Cook and Trott cannot be blamed. They were simply doing their jobs, excellently. Facing a 400 deficit, England’s first priority was to chase it down. With Kevin Pietersen next in, there may be some more incendiary for Sunday’s crowd to enjoy.
Even for the most partisan England supporter this has not been a great advert for Test cricket: a half-empty ground, a pitch without pace and wet weather.
Not that Cook or Trott will care. This was real fill-your-boots territory. No wonder Andrew Strauss looked so annoyed on the second evening when he got out to the only straight ball that Suranga Lakmal bowled to him.
When Cook swept the off-spin of Tillakaratne Dilshan for four to move to 97, it was his first boundary in the 95 minutes since tea. Of the 397 balls he and Trott had faced, they had been beaten only nine times.
Neither the conditions nor the intensity bore any relation to last winter’s Ashes but in terms of these two batsmen’s appetite for run-scoring we were in familiar territory.
It was Cook’s 17th Test hundred and his fourth in six Tests. Only one batsman in history has scored more Test runs at a higher average than Jonathan Trott (66.34). He was an Australian. Retired in 1948.
Sadly, a positive result from this game seems a forlorn hope and it is not in England’s nature to force the issue if there was any possibility that a gamble might backfire.
Shot of the day: Any of Trott’s gentle cover drives would suffice but a rare Cook off-drive just after reaching his hundred.
Ball of the day: Non-ball of the day – when Dilshan started to run up to bowl without the ball. It was that kind of day.
Stat of the day: Cook and Trott have put on 1,161 runs together in 16 Test partnerships.
Overheard: Mike Atherton to Nasser Hussain: “The great man has arrived”, as Richie Benaud entered the press box for his regular Saturday gig as a columnist for the News of the World. It was Benaud’s first day’s Test cricket in England since last August at Lord’s, the day that his paper broke the Pakistan spot-fixing story. Benaud left the box just after Cook reached his hundred, England’s total at the time 222-2.
Commentary of the day (1): Jonathan Agnew on TMS: “Trott has kissed everything apart from Alastair Cook.”
Commentary of the day (2): Geoff Boycott on TMS to Agnew: ”You could get a few runs against this attack and I’ve seen you bat.”
Quote of the day: “We think about the game in a similar way.” Trott on batting with Cook.
CMJ’s verdict: Winter service resumed. The stakes might be perceived to be lower than during the Ashes and for that reason alone their concentration and determination not to give it away were admirable.
John Stern is a former editor of The Cricketer
Follow him on Twitter @Cricketer_John