Bell and Morgan allow early declaration
Tea: third Test, day four, Rose Bowl
Match score: Sri Lanka 14-0 (Paranavitana 9*, Thirimanne 3*) and 184 all out (P Jayawardene 43; Tremlett 6-48) trail England 377-8 dec (Bell 119, Morgan 71, Pietersen 85, Cook 55) by 179 runs Full Scorecard
Session score: England 86-3; Sri Lanka 14-0 England win
Watching Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan bat together for England over the next few years is going to be fun. After lunch these two treated the Sunday crowd to a combination of shrewd placement, timing and grace. And their acceleration – helped by a new ball and a crushed Sri Lankan side now being dragged along the ground like Achilles’ chariots once did with Hector’s dead body – has allowed Andrew Strauss to declare as boldly as he will.
The success of England’s top order has, to an extent, hidden Bell from view – even when he has made a hundred it has followed even bigger scores by those before him. What we have missed. Cuts, of both a late and orthodox kind are his speciality, but he is happy playing any number of strokes. Timing is always the most striking characteristic. His was a hundred that scorecards do not do justice to.
And when you are bowling to Morgan, runs come in every direction. It has been his making as a one-day player, but it seems to work in Tests too. The measure of his form and confidence came in the drives he played from outside the off stump – an area where he has sometimes been exposed in his short Test career. Only when England had a declaration in mind, and the slog was on, did he play a reckless shot – making room for himself, Morgan was forced to play away from his body and got a thin edge.
The Bell-Morgan partnership (137 runs off 199 balls) induced the crowd into a constant purr, in contrast to the Pietersen spectacle yesterday which produced much more of a roar.
We need not make much of the Sri Lankan bowling. Already short on pace and swing, their line and length steadily grew worse, almost as if they longed for the declaration to come sooner rather than later.
The order to slog cost Matt Prior and Stuart Broad a chip off their Test averages, but pleased all of us – and the Sri Lankan bowlers – by hastening the declaration.
England had six overs at the Sri Lankan openers before tea and, predictably, it looked a different game. Tremlett, in particular, was an uncomfortable proposition. The bad news for Sri Lanka: 45 overs to go after tea.
Benj Moorehead is staff writer for The Cricketer