England still have room for improvement, insists Paul Farbrace

PAUL FARBRACE insists that England must improve if they want to become the best team in the world.

James Anderson (third right hidden) celebrates after bowling Sri Lanka's Nuwan Pradeep to win the first Test for England and to record his second five-wicket haul of the match at Headingley. Picture: Nigel French/PAinformation.
James Anderson (third right hidden) celebrates after bowling Sri Lanka's Nuwan Pradeep to win the first Test for England and to record his second five-wicket haul of the match at Headingley. Picture: Nigel French/PAinformation.

The assistant coach was pleased with England’s performance as they thrashed Sri Lanka by an innings and 88 runs at Headingley, but he is now challenging England to get even better as they attempt to reclaim top spot in the world rankings.

“We should be really pleased with the way we played (at Headingley),” said Farbrace, the ex-Yorkshire second XI coach.

“If we’re serious about being the No 1 side in the world, there were times when we could perhaps have been a bit more clinical. Losing wickets in a couple of clumps, that wasn’t ideal. We dropped two catches. It does happen. It’s part of the game. But they’re the things we’ve got to get rid of.

England assistant coach Paul Farbrace

“Ideally, you’re always searching for the perfect game. We still think we’ve got areas we can get better at. We showed a lot of quality over the three days, but you always want to keep improving and keep getting better.”

England are fourth in the International Cricket Council Test rankings, with Australia top and Sri Lanka seventh.

The Sri Lankans are in transition following the retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, with captain Angelo Mathews describing their defeat at Headingley as “humiliating” and saying that “everything went wrong for us apart from winning the toss”.

But Farbrace believes the tourists will improve, with the second of three Tests starting on Friday at Chester-le-Street, where Ben Stokes is a fitness doubt at his home ground as England await the result of a scan yesterday on the left knee he injured while bowling at Leeds.

England assistant coach Paul Farbrace

“I do honestly think the Sri Lankans will get better as this tour goes on,” said Farbrace, who has previously served as head coach and also assistant coach of Sri Lanka.

“I think Thirimanne, Mathews and Chandimal are three excellent players and I expect them to get runs in this series; I think Thirimanne is their best player by a mile.

“I think their bowling attack is excellent, and had they taken a couple of chances against (Alex) Hales and (Jonny) Bairstow, it might have been a different game (at Leeds). I wouldn’t write Sri Lanka off and say they’re not very good just because they haven’t got Mahela and Sanga, that they’re a poor side. They’re not a poor side, and I expect them to get better.

“They’ve got one of the best coaches in world cricket, and he will be pushing them to improve. Even though they got bowled out for two low scores, there were glimpses of quality from some of their players.”

The hosts’ heroes were Bairstow and James Anderson, with the Yorkshireman scoring 140 and taking nine catches while his England team-mate returning match figures of 10-45.

Farbrace reserved special praise for Bairstow, whom England captain Alastair Cook said was “playing on a different wicket to the other 21 guys” at Headingley.

“Jonny is like most cricketers -–they thrive on the confidence of the way they’re playing,” said Farbrace.

“You can see how much he’s loving it. He’s loving the big occasion.

“He talked about how he wanted to score a hundred at Headingley in a Test match, and almost within his first few runs you thought, ‘Crikey, he is going to get a hundred. It’s just going to happen.’”

Farbrace revealed that he texted Yorkshire first team coach Jason Gillespie during the recent Championship match against Surrey, when Bairstow and Joe Root were compiling a Yorkshire record fourth-wicket stand of 372.

“I texted Dizzy (Gillespie),” said Farbrace. “I was following the scores (at Headingley). All of a sudden, Jonny had 70 or 80 and I texted Dizzy and said, ‘Is he batting on a different pitch to Rooty?’ and he texted back and said, ‘It looks like he is at the moment.

“This game (the Test match), let’s be honest, Bluey (Bairstow) played fantastically well.

“You could argue he should be in all forms of our side at the moment, the way he’s been playing.

“If he keeps playing like that, he gives himself a great chance.”

Farbrace said consideration had been given to batting Bairstow higher than at No 7 and said he was “a long way from losing the (wicketkeeping) gloves” after his excellent performance at Leeds.

He added that Hales’s 86 at Headingley was “a very important innings, as much for him as it was for the team”, and backed Nick Compton to succeed at No.3.

Farbrace dismissed suggestions that Compton is too intense to prosper at international level and insisted that he is “someone who is passionate to score runs for England.”