Home > Features >

England vs Sri Lanka 2014: Possible strategies against English middle-order

Joe Root will be key to England's hopes © Getty Images
Joe Root will be key to England’s hopes © Getty Images

As England and Sri Lanka head into the first Test of their two-match Test series, Bharath Ramaraj takes a look as to what strategies the tourists can deploy in order to register their first-ever Test series win in England.

Gary Ballance: Ballance, the Zimbabweborn left-hander has worked his way to the top of the tree on the back of some impressive performances for Yorkshire and England Lions (he has also played Pro40 games for Derbyshire).

The stockily built left-hander gets into good positions to play strokes square of the wicket on either side. When he plays those free-flowing strokes through the off-side, one gets inkling that he may edge one to the slip cordon. But more often than not he gets away with it. It is something you get to see with batsmen belonging to his tribe. It is still an area, where a bowler can out-think him by leaving the gap at cover open and placing a gully, especially when the ball is darting around. It has to be remembered that he will bat at No 3 position and Sri Lankan seamers can tempt him by bowling full and outside off.

With Ballance, there is also a gut feeling that he can play well across the line with a few heaves against medium pacers. But he may struggle to use his wrists to dexterously keep the ball down and play the flick shot. In England, where tracks can be on the slower side, a pacer from over the wicket can take pace off the ball with a short mid-wicket in place. Ballance may just struggle to keep it down.

Mitchell Johnson also bombed him with short pitch stuff in the Sydney Test in the Ashes 2013-14. Just like former South African all-rounder, Lance Klusener, he got into a tangle and couldn’t shift his weight onto the back-foot. But at the same-time, you can excuse a debutant for losing the plot against the fiery Johnson.

Chanaka Welegedara and Shaminda Eranga can start with the new ball looking to bowl full and outside off. Angelo Mathews to try a few variations as a Plan B. Now, can Nuwan Pradeep rough him up a bit to help out Mathews? It is always about bowling well in tandem.

Joe Root: Root is a typical Northerner in terms of batsmanship. He hangs back more often than not and occasionally, even to a half-volley he looks to defend. Even in the first innings of the first Test at Trent Bridge in the Ashes 2013 when Australia’s Peter Siddle castled him,  the plan was to bowl full. Even if that means it can turn out to be a half volley, it doesn’t matter. They also left the gap at cover open for most of the time.

In that sense, Root reminds a bit of Michael Atherton though, one feels that Root has a wider range of strokes when compared to the stoic Atherton. Sri Lankan seamers generally bowl a fuller length, but they need to be disciplined, as Root is a fine player off his pads. Mathews himself, with his variations, is worth a try against Root as well.

Moeen Ali: The brother of County cricket’s journeyman Kadeer Ali (he played for Worcestershire, Leicestershire and Gloucestershire) and cousin of former England swing bowler, Kabir Ali, plays an attractive brand of cricket.

Just purely based on skill, the left-handed Moeen has to be the brightest prospect coming through the ranks. He plays with Asian wrists and those crisply essayed drives can be a purist’s delight. More importantly, he can counter Rangana Herath’s threat with his nimble footwork. He doesn’t seem to have any major flaws as such. But just like most young batsmen can play one shot too many through the off-side. It is perhaps about playing the patience game with him by bowling a foot outside off and waiting for the batsman to fall into the trap.

Matt Prior: Prior has been a fine servant of English cricket. The wicketkeeper-batsman has come to England’s rescue on many occasions. But in recent times, he has been in wretched form and during the Ashes 2013-14, Prior was even dropped from the setup.

Johnson and Siddle have tried to bomb him with chin music. Prior certainly gets rattled by it, and he usually hangs his bat outside off without any conviction to edge the ball.

In the Test played at Adelaide against Australia, with Johnson bowling at Prior, the wicketkeeper-batsman just seemed to be sensing a bouncer is around the corner. Johnson angled it across the right-hander with Prior hanging his bat outside off and edging it. It though, has to be remembered that even when he isn’t at his best, Prior can play spin well.

The problem with any unit is whether there are  bowlers to execute the plans. Sri Lanka have to make most of what they have got. Pradeep to rough up Matt Prior and then for Welegedara to use the left-armer’s angle from over the wicket can be a strategy for Lankans to work on.

(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)   

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 24, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Glenelg, Adelaide

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 24, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Colombo

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Sharjah

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Colombo

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (12:00 IST)   at Dhaka

More

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 23, 2014  at Chittagong

Bangladesh won by 68 runs

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 23, 2014  at Sydney

Australia won by 2 wickets (D/L method)

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 22, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 21, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 21, 2014  at Chittagong

Bangladesh won by 87 runs

Photos

Australia vs South Africa, 3rd ODI at Canberra

Videos

SL vs Eng: Buttler practices wicketkeeping in nets

Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014, 2nd ODI at Chittagong: Highlights

Australia vs South Africa 2014, 5th ODI at Sydney: Highlights

Quinton de Kock’s century in vain as Australia register two wicket win over South Africa

Saeed Ajmal: 99 per cent bowlers will fail 15 degree test

Tamim Iqbal, Anamul Haque register second-highest opening partnership for Bangladesh in ODIs

Australia Australia vs South Africa Australia vs South Africa 2014 Bangladesh Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014 India Pakistan South Africa South Africa tour of Australia 2014 South Africa vs Australia South Africa vs Australia 2014 Zimbabwe Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh 2014 Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh 2014

India vs Australia 2014-15: Injury concern for Steven Smith ahead of 1st Test

Indians vs Cricket Australia XI, 1st Tour Game at Adelaide: Indians 55 for 1 at stumps on Day 1

Hong Kong lose five in chase of 73 against Nepal in 4th T20I

Brad Haddin may retire after Ashes 2015

Indians vs Cricket Australia XI, 1st Tour Game at Adelaide: CA XI bundled out for 219

Cricket Australia’s marketing gimmick strips umpires of their independence

Australia’s top form in ODIs: Early warning for teams heading to ICC World Cup 2015

Myth Busting — did Sachin Tendulkar’s rate of scoring become slower in the second half of his career?

Single-wicket cricket match between John Grange and James Sadler lasts three days

Bill Ashdown and Bert Wensley beat a team of 11 all by themselves

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

681 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Virat Kohli vs Australian cricketers

5 reasons why Shah Rukh Khan has 10 million followers on Twitter!

हर्षवर्धन: समय-पूर्व होने वाले जन्मों की समस्या को रोकने के लिए अनुंसधान

India is becoming our largest overseas market, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says

Anirudh Ravichander spends time bonding with his sister in London!

Bigg Boss 8: Nigaar Khan relieved upon her eviction, says Bigg Boss 8 was a nightmare

राजस्थान: युवाओं को तम्बाकू के दुष्प्रभावों के प्रति अबगत करने की मुहिम

More broadband connections to boost GDP growth in Asia Pacific: GSMA

An emotional Roger Federer dedicates first Davis Cup title win to teammates: Watch teary-eyed Federer!

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here