England would be mighty disappointed with the fact that they couldn't finish off the Sri Lankan batting on the final day, and hence fell tantalisingly short of what would have been a memorable victory. At one point, it seemed the match was meandering towards a draw. But, England delivered a sensational last day bowling performance, and almost pulled off a miraculous triumph. Having come so close they would have been distraught. However, they must put things into perspective. Coming so close to a win out of nowhere is an achievement in itself. If there is one criticism of them that can be made, it is that they did not maintain a proper over rate.
If England look at their performance purely on the basis of quality, they can take away plenty of positives in both the batting and bowling department. One of the biggest gains for the hosts from the game was the return to form of Joe Root. The talented England youngster's form had wavered in recent games, and it was important for him to get his act right. Impressively, not only did Root come up with a significant score at Lord's, he also ensured that he made it a big one, a double hundred at the Mecca of cricket that he would remember for years to come.
A rather forgotten but highly significant contribution came from Matt Prior in the Test. This was his first game after being recalled following a horrendous Ashes series, and he ensured that he did waste the opportunity, coming up with a sublime knock to keep his place out of danger for now. It is crucial to have an in-form wicketkeeper bat, for he has so much to offer to the team. In that sense, England would be relieved with Prior's return to form.
In the second innings of the Test, it was Gary Ballance's turn to shine. The rookie batsman had shown some spark in his earlier games, but a Test hundred is a validation of his talent and application. Although England were ahead in the game, Sri Lankan bowlers were a lot more probing in the second innings, which is what makes Ballance's knock all the more special. The knock should give him the confidence and belief that he belongs at this level. He showed a lot of determination to ensure that England did not slip under pressure.
In the bowling department as well England gained a lot as the Test progressed. In fact, all three of their frontline fast bowlers made a serious impression. James Anderson was under fire following the Ashes debacle, but he came up with a resounding effort. Chris Jordan also proved that he is among the most promising new ball bowlers around. In addition, Stuart Broad came up with some magnificent spells to keep England's hopes alive till the end. In fact, he almost pulled off a miraculous win for England, but the visitors survived courtesy luck and DRS.
If anything, they have to find out a replacement for Graeme Swann soon. It won't be an easy task, but one thing is for sure -- Moeen Ali definitely isn't the answer. Also, runs from skipper Alastair Cook will help. It has been a while since he has been struggling, and the pressure is definitely building on him with each failure. Something to focus on for England as they prepare for the second Test.
--By A Cricket Analyst