In many ways, whether England manage to save the 3rd Test is irrelevant. If they are able to do so, it will be in large part due to the rain that has engulfed Galle, and will not in any way disguise their patent faults. Though they fought on more-or-less equal terms with Sri Lanka for large parts of the first two Tests, ultimately no one can deny they have been out-batted, out-fielded and out-bowled by Sri Lanka (even discounting Murali). They are now ranked fifth in the world. After two series wins out of eight, England must now accept they have regressed alarmingly since their golden run on 2004/05. What can they do to improve, or is it simply a case that the best England have are not good enough?
Excuse me for harping back to my perennial cause celebre, but when Mark Ramprakash was ignored for this tour I wrote that "England are a mid-table Test side; are they really in a position when they can afford to refrain from picking their best XI in the hope of building for some mythical date in the future?" Peter Moores has shown a worrying tendency to support promising 'kids' who have not proved up to the task - Luke Wright during the World Twenty20; and Ravi Bopara here, whose much-hyped 'x-factor' constituted a penchant for being dismissed for a duck.
As Australia constantly prove, the only game you need worry about is the next one, and England's inability to score hundreds is crying out for someone possessing the depths of concentration and capacity for longevity of Ramprakash at the crease. To date, England have scored 10 fifties but no centuries in this series. Even if they go some way to rectifying that, the stat illustrates England have a lot of perfectly competent Test batsmen, but cannot make the big scores that Messrs Sangakkara and Jayawardene batted England out the series with. Curiously for a side in the midst of such a slumber, there is probably only one man - Bopara - for whom the axe is around the corner.
Ian Bell often looks in supreme form at the crease, as he did in the first Test, while failing to really capitalise. As such, he has not yet making the runs to justify batting at three. But with Kevin Pietersen being unfortunate with umpiring decision and snorters alike, and with Vaughan's innings consistently ended by impetuosity, there has been no one to grind the Sri Lankan attack into the dust. Calls for a recall for Andrew Strauss should be laughed off given his form in the past 15 months. That would leave Ramprakash, in an ideal world, to replace Bopara and move up to number three, with Pietersen four, Bell five and Collingwood at six and Owais Shah, once again, next cab-off-the-rank. Most likely, that top six would score big against a Kiwi attack top-heavy with medium-pacers. Whether they could consistently make first innings scores of 400 against the sterner Tests that await, however, would have to be doubtful - but do England have anyone else?