England head into the second test with Sri Lanka not only buoyed by the thumping they gave the tourists on Monday, but also safe in the knowledge that they have made the home of cricket something of a fortress over the past few years. Four teams have tried but the rest of the world is still waiting for its first draw, never mind win, since the Two Andy’s ™ took charge.
This is in stark contrast to the dark days of the 90’s when England managed just three victories at Lords throughout the entire decade. Both of this summer’s tourists, India and Sri Lanka, wilted in the face of the English juggernaut (in ’90 and ’91 respectively), while the West Indies were the only other side to taste defeat when they got in the way of Dominic Cork on test debut.
Since the turn of the millennium, however, England have got their act together. Only two sides have managed to win there during that time; Australia (thrice, but one of those was against Pakistan last year) and South Africa. All very impressive, but it’s worth pointing out that this period includes a ridiculous run of 6 draws between 2006 & 2008, four of which included first innings scores of well over 500 followed by another big total, the lowest of those being South Africa’s 393/3d three years ago. Tomorrow’s opponents also had a role in that record during their last tour – a 199 over second innings rearguard to deny England, having lasted just 55 first time around.
Thankfully the pitch is no longer imitating the great West Indian pitches of the 2009 tour, and has begun to produce results once again. Indeed, a result seems almost certain, given the frailties exposed in Sri Lanka’s batting a few days ago and the heatwave coming in to show Cardiff how it’s done.
Perhaps the most important statistic has nothing to do with any of that, though. In all four tests England have won at Lords under Flower they have batted first. On each occasion a big score has set up a crushing victory, the closest result being a 115 run win over Australia.
Dilshan’s decision to bowl first looks even stranger when viewed in that light. The demons of last week still lurk in Sri Lankan minds.