England were disciplined, relentless, showed no mercy and dismantled their opposition.
Then the blokes came on.
The England women played before the men as a first course to the main attraction, but in terms of performance and results their billing could just as well have been reversed.
Granted, this was not quite the same team that lifted the trophy at the ICC World Twenty20 final in Barbados last year, with four of the 2010 team being, at the time of writing, absent from the game through injury, retirement, omission in the case of the then-captain Collingwood and, sadly, depression in the case of Michael Yardy.
But given both of England’s openers (including 2010 Man of the Match Craig Kieswetter) were out by the end of the third over and with only 12 runs on the board, and the only standout period being the 83-run partnership between Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan, you could be fooled into thinking 2010 was all some kind of bizarre error.
England deserve all the plaudits showered upon them as a Test side (the listlessness of the Tests just gone aside) but in the shorter forms of the game they still veer between the just-about-competent and the diabolically useless, with little in between.
You knew this match had the potential to go very wrong indeed from the moment it was divulged at the toss that Ian Bell would not be playing. When asked to explain this decision, England’s new T20 captain Stuart Broad made some sounds that may have resembled words, but they were so devoid of anything beyond evasive flannel I can’t remember a single damn thing he said.
I do remember what Broad said at the end of the match, when he was interviewed as the losing captain, but I’ll get to that in a bit, when you too, dear reader, can join me in frothing at the mouth in disbelief at the utter non-logic of it all.
We’re not in Barbados any more, Toto.
Anyway, Kieswetter and Lumb slogged their way ignominiously out of the reckoning as far as any meaningful contribution to this match was concerned, and after Kevin Pietersen departed, having finally laid our minds at rest that his horror trot could be over – let’s not mention the fact that Sanath Jayasuriya, who took his wicket, bowls left-arm spin – only one boundary was scored in the last 9 overs.
Samit Patel may have lost (some) weight but it’s not made him any quicker, as he was involved in an embarrassing run-out. Perhaps he’d have been less tardy making it back to his crease if there had been a pie placed on it.
Ravi Bopara dawdled nervously, Luke Wright’s continued inclusion continues to strike me as nothing other than Wrong, and that was all she wrote as England could manage only 136-9.
As only one world-class partnership came to the party for England, so it took the world-class Sri Lankan duo of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara to take their side to victory with 97 runs between them. Theirs was a partnership of unruffled, assured excellence. They are two of the world’s best Test batsmen, and they played as such, showing that particular ability common to all true greats to pace their innings according to the demands of the format – a skill that seems beyond many of their England counterparts.
If Morgan and Pietersen were the thoroughbreds to the glue-factory rejects that comprised the rest of England’s batting, the bowling proved to be similarly in need of direction, with Jade Dernbach the only man to take a wicket (Jayasuriya, whose politically engineered inclusion in this team is a kick in the teeth for everything that cricket, and indeed democracy, stands for).
Dernbach – 6 feet 2, hair gel, body art – is highly regarded by England bowling coach David Saker. A seamer whose slower ball is the most effective weapon in his armoury, he alone gave the Sri Lankan batsmen pause on their otherwise inexorable march to victory.
It is hard, and perhaps slightly unfair, to judge Stuart Broad on his first outing as captain. But considering Eoin Morgan seemed to be doing much of the field-placing during the latter overs of the game as Broad fielded on the boundary, it may turn out to be a short-lived appointment.
Of course, you could also say Broad really didn’t have a heck of a lot to work with. Considering neither Patel or Bopara made any convincing argument to justify their recall to England colours, are we to assume that T20 is nothing but a training ground in which to blood new or inexperienced players and that the result of the match is worth gambling on for that reason? How much do England really care about T20 anyway? A mostly domestic phenomenon, there are precious few T20 internationals before the next World Cup in September 2012, and they looked a pale shadow of the unit that won in 2010.
You could also say: play your best team. Jayawardene and Sangakkara are prime examples of Test virtuosos who can adapt their games. Ian Bell is in superb form at the moment. He is averaging 331 in Tests this summer.
When asked again, pointedly, after the match was over why Bell had not played, Broad mentioned Bopara as giving them another bowling option (which makes Luke Wright’s selection even more baffling). “But I’m sure he [Bell] will be training hard and fighting to get into the team.”
Because, apparently, scoring a veritable shit-ton of runs just doesn’t seem to be enough.
The madness begins afresh tomorrow, when Alastair Cook will take the reins in an effort not to repeat the 5-0 hammering England sustained the last time these two sides met in an ODI series in England.
With any luck, this time the team selection might make slightly more sense.