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Thursday, 5 June 2014

Sri Lanka may regret poking these dozy lions

This sudden outrage about Sachithra Senanayake has got me deeply confused. Not only has it been established that it was within the laws but he is not even the first 'culprit' - there are numerous precedents throughout the history of the game and many recent ones. (Incidentally it is perhaps not a coincidence that many of the recent incidents involve the same sort of bowler, perhaps something to do with that exaggerated pause at the moment of delivery?) Why this sudden backlash? In essence, as has been repeated ad nauseum the argument comes down to whether it is in the spirit of the game. Here there is little agreement. One argument is that it is an innovation and brings an extra dimension to the game. Cricket is famous for its innovators even  if those brave souls were not always appreciated in their own lifetimes. At the same time, having watched a myriad of replays from the stump cam to blimp in "super slow-mo" and in "real time" it really doesn't look good. It doesn't feel as if it should be allowed. And that is perhaps as good or at least as clear a definition of "the spirit of cricket" as any.  No doubt we can expect a response from the ICC in six to nine months. Anyway that is enough about bowling actions for the time being.

A word on the Mankadding incident. Jos Buttler is an exceptionally talented prat. Just as Ian Bell was a wonderfully gifted chump three years ago at Trent Bridge when he made a dash for an early tea. Ethically grey areas or not, both deserved to be given out if only for doziness. Any comments relating to young, impressionable minds should be directed chiefly at aspiring batsmen.

The answer to why of the two only Buttler's innings was terminated may simply lie in their differing opponents. Whilst Indians may be "soft" in such matters, at least according to Virender Sehwag, as Vic Marks has  noted you could never say that about Sri Lanka. Not now, not ever.

Whether Sri Lanka were more irked by the umpire's report on Senanayake's action or by Buttler's brutal assault at Lord's is hard to gauge but their response has added further spice to the upcoming Test series. Just as in Australia, Alistair Cook has attempted to plant the Cross of St. George firmly in the moral high ground. It seems no more justified here than it was then. Nevertheless provocative gestures have been known to backfire on touring teams in the past and whilst it is unlikely that either side will find themselves "grovelling" come the end June, Sri Lanka may yet come to rue poking these dozy lions.

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Whilst Sri Lanka have a choice amongst three specialist spinners to leave out for next week's match, England seem set to ignore Monty Panesar their sole credible candidate. Instead they seem intent on choosing a spinning all-rounder, or rather a batsmen who tweaks. It would be yet another triumph for hope over experience. If Panesar can't tie up an end as Graeme Swann once did, what makes anyone think Moen Ali or Samit Patel will be able to, especially against a batting line up stronger than Australia's. Presuming on the fitness of Ben Stokes, England will play four seamers rather than the three of the Swann era, surely Joe Root can fill in if needed?

All this is not to say that Moen Ali is not a candidate for the number six position purely on batting merit. But here Matt Prior is key. If Prior plays a slight risk can be taken with a new cap at six, if he doesn't it leaves a long tail albeit one more than capable of wagging. That tail would have been shortened considerably had the option of Josh Buttler not been ruled out. I was surprised by Cook's startlingly frank assessment that he is not yet ready as either at batsman or keeper. It seems overly simplistic. His keeping needs work but so did Prior's when he started and so did (does!) Bairstow's when he took over Down Under. As a short term replacement whilst Prior regains fitness it is worth the gamble. As for Buttler's batting well he may not be ready for a place in the top six but a combination of himself at Ben Stokes at 7 and 8 would be formidable. England, it seems, have other ideas.

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