All the fans at Sophia Gardens who were not scared off by the wet weather had eventually – by day five – been frightened away by the dour and determined batting of Jonathan Trott, which left England without a hope of victory in the first Test against Sri Lanka.
The 30-year-old’s excruciating approach brought him a second Test double-ton, but also left the remaining followers of the match dozing off on the fourth afternoon, when instead of pressing ahead to give England an outside chance of victory he was scratching out just 78 runs from 59 overs. The match was set for a frustrating draw and even Geoffrey Boycott was left lamenting the pace, or lack thereof, in Trott’s game.
Just 26-overs later and Trott’s gallant knock was being applauded, with the England number three taking the Man of the Match award after a stunning innings and 14-run win.
What a turn-around.
In stark contrast, arguably the most elegant number three in Test cricket, Kumar Sangakkara, had a rather different experience. The former captain was unable to stop the rot when his side needed him most in their second-innings implosion as he edged Graeme Swann to slip to be out for a disappointing 14.
Trott and Sangakkara could not be more different. Apart from the obvious of being left and right-handed, Trott – whose Test strike rate is 48 – is a dogged grafter, a coal-miner, while Sangakkara – with a Test strike rate of 55 – is a suave, clean-hitting and naturally gifted strokemaker.
However, while even English spectators might pay more to watch the Sri Lankan at the crease, he’ll have to take a leaf out of his opposite number’s book if he is to turn his own and Sri Lanka’s fortunes around in the second Test at Lord’s.
For all his batting accomplishments in a Test career spanning more than 10 years, Sangakkara is yet to post a ton in English conditions in 14 innings, and averages a humble 27 across those seven Tests. Despite 24 Test centuries and an average of 56, that lack of success on British soil is one glaring shortcoming on the 33-year-old’s otherwise polished record.
The reason is largely because of Sri Lanka’s tendency to play all of their cricket on the sub-continent. Their last tour away from the dry, more familiar tracks was way back in 2008. In that respect their 82-run collapse on Monday was not that surprising in a high-pressure situation against a vicious home attack.
One thing which both Trott and Sangakkara do have in common is a high level of maturity and a sharp intelligence. The Sri Lankan will know that he needs to adapt to be more effective in the remaining two five-dayers of the three-match series. What better example, then, than the simple approach of Trott. If Sangakkara is to leave English shores without regret on his third and last tour to Britain, then he could do a lot worse than becoming a little more, shall we say, ugly. Cricket365