London: It has taken just two matches for Alastair Cook to experience the full spectrum of emotions England one-day captains are routinely subjected to. A near-perfect performance at The Oval was followed by a shoddy one at Headingley, where Sri Lanka outgunned the home side in every department. It seems difficult to remember - especially after their World Cup showing - that England were actually making significant progress as an ODI side last year. After their Champions Trophy eureka-moment in autumn 2009, when they decided to shelve the caution that left them out of step with the modern game, they won five series in a row.
Though Cook is looking for a similar consistency, the brazen approach that underpinned England's success then won't always deliver. At The Oval, once rain reduced the game to 32-overs a side, England happily blazed away to good effect. Set 310 at Headingley they again had little choice but to attack, but the approach was much less successful as the heart of the top order - Craig Kieswetter, Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan - was dismissed looking for boundaries. Yet keeping the faith in the 'fearless cricket' that all the players promise is England's best hope of building on last year's progress.
Sri Lanka have no such worries. As a limited-overs side they are completely clear on how to approach both setting and chasing totals. They possess two of the classiest batsmen in the world in Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara as well as two fine strokemakers in Tillakaratne Dilshan and Angelo Mathews. Conditions at Headingley suited them perfectly (as those at The Oval did England) and their batsmen left England's bowlers looking toothless before their spin attack left England's batsmen looking clueless.