England in Sri Lanka - Test Series Review

England win on points

While bemoaning the futility of a 2-Test series yet again, if there is virtue in separating drawing teams in a Test series (and there may well be in these T20 times), England would go ahead of Sri Lanka in this series (by a good 11%, according to Impact Index).

As England retained their no. 1 Test ranking, they also displayed champion-like qualities like coming back from behind with great conviction and keeping the foot ruthlessly on the throat, after getting into that situation.

Here is an overview of the series through the Impact Index lens.

Observations:

The most significant thing to remember while looking at the IMPACT lists is that England came back from being 0-1 behind – which made their high-performing players eligible for series-defining points. It is for that reason that the two highest impact players of the series were from England.

Graeme Swann got 16 wickets at an average of 22 while Rangana Herath got 19 wickets at 18 apiece in the series. And yet, Swann was the higher impact player because of what he did in the second Test – his 10 for 181 turned the series on its head – as England came back from behind to draw level. Swann built the most pressure with the ball in the series, inevitably closely followed by Herath, but it was again his impact in the second Test that gives him higher billing in this context, however hard it may be to subvert conventional figures in this way.

Ditto, when it comes to Kevin Pietersen. He failed in the first Test but was devastating in the decisive second Test, as he played a key role in turning the match firmly England’s way. England’s batting in the first innings of the second Test started brilliantly, as the top three got fifties. Pietersen came out to bat at 213 for 2 (after Sri Lanka had made 275) and an easy domination may have beckoned. Equally, a collapse on these kinds of Sri Lankan pitches is never ruled out. Pietersen’s dominance of the bowlers was against the grain (of the match, not his own reputation) – he got his 151 runs at a strike rate of 91, when the match average strike rate was less than half that – it made him the only batsman in the entire series to register Strike Rate IMPACT (of 0.55, which is considerable in Test cricket) – and played a big part in pretty much ending Sri Lanka’s challenge in the match, as much for the lead of 185 as for the sheer demoralising effect of his battering of the bowlers.

It seems very unfair perhaps that Pietersen eventually had a higher impact than Mahela Jayawardene – perhaps even absurd on a conventional scale. Jayawardene (in a true purple patch for a while now) scored 354 at an average of 89 in the series and was his team’s highest scorer in 3 out of his 4 innings (and got an IMPACT of 5 in both matches). He absorbed, by far, the most pressure in the series (1.41) and was easily the backbone of the Sri Lankan batting. Pietersen, on the other hand, failed in 2 of his 4 innings, did not absorb pressure even once in the series, and scored 128 runs less than Jayawardene in the series (at an average of 75). There is no doubt that Jayawardene was the best batsman of the series but Pietersen eventually ended up having more impact, simply because of the circumstances of his big performance (this is not such a common occurrence actually in the Impact Index universe). That the series ended 1-1 after Sri Lanka comprehensively squandered their series lead does explain a part of this story.

James Anderson was England’s highest impact pace bowler (9 wickets at 22); in fact he was the only pace bowler to have an impact in the series.

Interestingly, Thilan Samaraweera (who scored 157 runs at an average of 37) had a higher Batting IMPACT in the series than Jonathan Trott (who scored 193 runs at an average of 48) – he absorbed much more pressure and his runs were “tougher” runs (although Trott’s fourth innings effort of 112 in the first Test came close to being a very high impact innings).

Not a single player had an all-round impact in the series (crossing an IMPACT of 1 in two functions), which is not so common.

Sri Lanka’s highest impact Test batsman in its history continued his miserable form – Sangakkara languished at the bottom of the IMPACT charts – not something he has experienced much in his distinguished career – a big reason for Sri Lanka’s below-par batting, despite Jayawardene’s heroics.

The highest impact batting performance in the series came from Kevin Pietersen in the second Test (151 and 42 not out; Batting IMPACT 7.42 in a match context, 9.92 in a series context). The next two highest impact batting performances in the series came from Jayawardene.

The highest impact bowling performance in the series came from Graeme Swann in the second Test (4-75 and 6-106; Bowling IMPACT 6.46 in a match context, 8.96 in a series context). Herath produced the highest bowling performance for Sri Lanka.

England’s Team IMPACT in the series was 2.21 to Sri Lanka’s 1.99. A third Test would have been a tantalising one.

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