Ian Botham praises Sri Lanka and questions England's bowling tactics
Last Updated: 14/06/13 10:53am
Sri Lanka's batting was incredible, while England got it wrong with the ball, Ian Botham told Sky Sports after a lively Champions Trophy encounter at The Oval.
The hopes of Alastair Cook's team staying in the competition rest on Sunday's clash with New Zealand after seeing a respectable score of 293 blown away by the blade of Kumar Sangakkara and Nuwan Kulasekara.
England looked in control with fifties from Cook, Jonathan Trott and Joe Root ending with Ravi Bopara's fireworks (33 not out from 13 balls including 28 from the last over), but the day belonged to Sangakkara, unbeaten on 134, and Kulasekara (30-ball half-century) who steered Sri Lanka over the line with 17 balls to spare.
"It was an exceptional game and an exceptional batting performance by Sri Lanka, but you can still look at things if you're in the England camp," Botham said.
"England need to ask two questions. Their opening partnership took a long time so could that be accelerated? Secondly, why was the bowling too short? England got sprayed both sides - cuts and pulls - and they won't be happy with that.
"Their bowling coach David Saker will be scratching his head wondering what happened. I and everyone else think the bowlers are the strength of this side. This was a rare time when they let the side down with the exception of Jimmy Anderson who gives you everything."
Nick Knight felt winning the toss and calling up Kulasekara were key decisions for Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews and he also had a theory on the mis-firing England bowlers.
"Bringing in Kulasekara took the pressure off Sangakkara just at the right time," Knight told Sky Sports. "He was struggling a bit and blowing but he settled and could then just knock the ones and twos. It was an outstanding performance.
"You look at England and you ask 'was there anything more they could have done?' I'm not sure. England couldn't reverse the ball, particularly Tim Bresnan at the end, and Sri Lanka took the game from us.
"It was a good pitch but not a belter. We expected England's bowlers to do better. They bowled shorter and I think it's a default setting if they can't reverse the ball. They try to knock the batsmen out and that's why we saw a lack of control from them with the ball.
"Sangakkara was in complete control and he had a lot of help - it was England's worse nightmare. You look at Sri Lanka's top three and they all had such an impact."
Kulasekara and Sangakkara shared an unbroken fourth-wicket partnership of 110 to batter the England bowlers and Knight and Botham agreed that sometimes Cook could be more adventurous, which he will need to do if the Kiwis are to be beaten at the weekend and ensure the hosts remain in the competition.
Knight said: "At times England sit back a bit and wait for something to happen. It was a fascinating game of cricket though and I don't think you can be too harsh on England."
Botham added: "If they keep on scoring and playing as well as they are then England should be OK but I just wonder if at times they could accelerate a bit more.
"When they're batting, could they put the opposition under a bit more pressure? Do they need someone in close as a catcher or at slip sometimes? That can be a run saver and a wicket taker, particularly when players are going and they are throwing their arms at the bat.
"I'm not talking anything major but at the end of the day you just have to say well played Sri Lanka."