With England taking an unassailable 2-0 lead ahead of the final test in Colombo later this week, in addition to the earlier 3-1 ODI series victory, we give our verdict on England’s performances to date ahead of the tour of West Indies in 2019.
World Cup preparations: A-
For all of their test match tribulations in recent years, England have established themselves as the dominant force in ODI cricket and a 3-1 series win marked England’s 9th consecutive series win (excluding the one match defeat to Scotland). In that period they have overcome a number of World Cup opposition in Australia, India, South Africa, West Indies and Sri Lanka and have demonstrated their ability to win in all conditions. This period of dominance has been marked by a period of consistent team selection and clear tactics, and England rightly look like favourites ahead of a home World Cup in 2019. However, the 219 run defeat in the 5th and final ODI was the blot on the copybook and will be a warning to Bayliss’ side ahead of the tournament – England need not look further than the 2017 Champions Trophy semi final defeat to Pakistan as to how a lapse in their usual high standards can see them come undone in the high stakes games.
Test match progress: B+
England have secured their first away series win since the successful 2015/16 tour of South Africa, and while Sri Lanka may be past their prior best and amid their own restructuring efforts, to win in the sub continent is not to be sniffed at. Not many could have predicted England securing back to back series wins after the disastrous down under Ashes campaign, and in both this series and the defeat of India in the summer, England have secured victory by managing to win the key moments of the match while the outcome remained in the balance, a key attribute that should surely propel this developing side to many more victories in the future. The blocker to achieving full marks? Despite their incredible lower order depth, England’s top order remains susceptible to collapse far too often. If England can build top order resilience they can surely look ahead to future tours with confidence.
He’s been in the job for less than a year, but this tour is vindication of the great work head selector Ed Smith is doing since joining the England set up. The summer selection of white ball specialist Jos Buttler for the England test side was the first evidence of a major shake up, but it was not long before Buttler secured the vice captaincy and his influence on the side can be seen in the manner in which his team mates have risen to the challenge of Sri Lanka‘ spin friendly wickets with a series of sweeps and scoops. Elsewhere, England have found a match winning spinner in Adil Rashid, who recently had turned his back on all forms of red ball cricket and a strike bowler of the highest effectiveness in Sam Curran, while Jack Leach, Ben Foakes and Rory Burns have all furthered their causes in this series at the beginning of their test careers. With such an impact from England’s new breed, one can only wonder how this team would have fared in last winter’s down under Ashes drubbing compared to the likes of Mark Stoneman, Dawid Malan and Mason Crane.
The above selections from Smith have greatly furthered his captain’s cause, but the England test side is now beginning to take shape in Joe Root’s mould and he is delivering the youthful, positive brand of captaincy critics craved following Alastair Cook’s resignation and he can look forward to 2019’s series with confidence. As for the ODI side? While his batting consistency has faltered somewhat in recent years, Eoin Morgan is the glue that holds his wonderful side together and will surely go down as one of England’s greatest white ball leaders.