England poised for victory after quick runs and key wickets with equally impressive batting and bowling performances.
Ian Bell. Bell made his 14th century for England, of which this was the third without someone else doing the same (the first two both being against Bangladesh). But for Alastair Cook’s unprecedented form, Bell would be the shining light in the impeccably oiled machine that is the England batting order. Over the last 18 months he has made a mockery of the criticisms aimed at him through much of his early Test career: the lack of mental strength, lack of runs without help, conversion rates and strike rates have all been quashed with the authority that it took him so long to possess. The stroke-play coupled with the acceleration after lunch was Bell at his very best. Helped by the impressive Eoin Morgan, it was this partnership that dictated the day’s play and put England in a winning position.
Bell’s back-to-back fours against Chanaka Welegedara taking him into the nineties were special shots of blistering confidence. However Chris Tremlett’s spell late in the evening was a masterclass of a probing length and away movement. Mahela Jayawardene in particular could find no way of effectively playing Tremlett’s threatening bounce and it was almost unfair that in the end it was the under-fire Stuart Broad who claimed Tremlett’s man. His overall figures and solitary wicket tell nothing of his total domination over the Sri Lankans.
Weather permitting, the only question appears to be whether England will need to bat again to achieve victory. The Sri Lankans, while showing a moments of grit in the evening, were whittled down and the key wicket (even in his form) of Mahela Jayawardene should be the critical moment to decide this match. Of course Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera can stick around but with Tremlett in this form, and even Broad somewhat improving, the pace and bounce (something that Sri Lanka have themselves lacked all series) will eventually make their presence felt. But will the rain stay away?