All the mistakes are mine, the opinions are mine and are not associated with any organisation I am currently involved with!
All the mistakes are mine, the opinions are mine and are not associated with any organisation I am currently involved with!
Firstly the good news is that there was no rain overnight so the bucket in my room was empty; whether the roof repair will be completed today remains to be seen but I suspect not. Let’s hope there’s no rain between now and Monday when the next stage of the odyssey continues on the tourist trail before the sights, smells and sounds of Colombo next week in readiness for the last test.
Talking of cricket…Play starts 15 mins early today to make up some of the time lost yesterday. Whilst the forecast has been for rain to save SL, the day dawns bright with a small breeze and less rain today. Tomorrow could be different but the match should be over by then.
England add useful runs to extend the lead to over 300 before SL take the new ball, mid-over, and strike with the first ball. Foakes makes 65…he is really maturing into a class batsman and currently best keeper in world cricket.
SL need a mammoth score and have two days to get there or alternatively bat until the rains come. There’s only one winner from here it seems.
And losing three wickets quickly to be 26/3 looks like the wheels are falling off already and one wonders how much play there will be after lunch but the clouds are gathering in a non-threatening way at present as Dimuth and Mathews start a rebuilding exercise. Leach opens the bowling with Jimmy and one wonders when the last time was that England opening bowlers first names started with J or the same initial…some one somewhere will probably know.
The crowd is similar in number to yesterday but with a larger and more vociferous local level of support which all adds colour to the day.
At lunch SL reach 93/3 with Dimuth on 54no. Another 208 needed to win or seven wickets to take. Odds still favour England but who knows? Rashid was brought on just before the break and thought he had a last minute success which was turned down on review. Nothing special with that but rushing towards the umpire whilst giving voice to a second act to his appeal was not appropriate. I expect to hear of some kind of censure- after all Root has been penalised for petulance but to me this was worse.
Have taken advantage of the compensation package of free lunches and drinks everyday, my decision to tarry over the trifle meant that I missed the first wicket after the break when Dimuth was brilliantly caught (reaction catch) by Stokes leaving SL at 103/4 and looking at staring at defeat. That was despite cutting short a lady from Lancashire retelling her adventure on a local safari between tests and rats devouring all the toilet paper; swapping stories of our travels with others is one of the joys of this tour – and probably others as well – but she was in such paroxysms of laughter at my bucket adventure I thought she was in urgent need of it!
At this point, the tour manager for the group I’m in leans over to tell me to write how wonderful he’s been (so far)…but those stories are for another day and another blog. Mathews and Roshen strive to steady the ship as drinks approach and the feeling of rain in the air intensifies which could mean we’re back tomorrow but…?
Drinks mid afternoon and 151/4 Mathews 55no. England need a plan other than spin at both ends and wait. Another 50 or so from this pair…Mathews and Roshen and things get interesting. Wind has picked up to cool the air but perhaps speed up any rain? The atmosphere from the locals is enhanced by the SL cheerleaders who out-Barmy the Barmy by taking one of their tunes and lyrics and become the Barmy Lankans – much more tuneful and rhythmic than the English version who have yet to acknowledge let alone respond! The Lankans are making the most noise of any group so far this series!
Just before tea when things looked well set, Roshen goes for 37 and a partnership of 73 with Mathews and brings England back into the game at 176/5. Both batsmen playing spin without the need for any sweeping just wrist, hands and timing. The damage here being done by Ali who so far today has had little to do.
Tea is taken – each session being 2h15 to make up for lost time – at 219/5. Another 82 needed or five wickets and 21 overs to go (if overs counted is an issue today) makes things interesting. Local knowledge is that there’s another hour of play before the rains come or light goes pre-thunder. But who knows? Forecast for tomorrow is for considerable rain but again, then too was today. With possibly 135 minutes to go today, a result is possible- either way.
Overall England aren’t making as much progress as perhaps the planners would have liked. The opening positions are still not completely resolved, the number three position as vague as ever, the added dilemma of Foakes or Bairstow, which is the number one spinner, when can we blood new players to give a better picture regarding the Ashes and beyond…and so forth. All will be revealed – or not – at some point.
An ominous sight at tea is the gathering of the ground staff…they must know something?
Shortly afterwards Mathews goes for 88, a fine knock in the circumstances but the umpires soon stop the game as lightning and rain are looming. SL are 226/7 – need 75 more with poor weather forecast for after lunch! Many tourists are not planning to come along and witness the finale but I shall.
One interesting point is that yesterday it was too dangerous for players to be outside in the lightning but ok for the 100 or so ground staff to be risked as they were soaking wet, walking on wet covers with lightning about!
I wonder by the time I get back to my hotel, will the clouds and rain have gathered there and will the need for my bucket follow?
I awake to find that I’ve been bitten even with mosquito spray and I want to give it a good scratch. There’s time this morning for a quick recce of the hotel in daylight and the views are stunning.
At the ground, I met Percy the professional cheerleader for Sri Lankan cricket- he’s paid by the cricket authorities to wave the flag for Sri Lanka at home and abroad and has been doing so for years…he’s quite a character. What hasn’t been going for years is England’s latest opening pair of Burns and Leach. As expected Leach leaves early as does Jennings and Stokes (after Burns make 59) but by lunch England have reached 131/4 off 30 overs a lead 86 at lunch. All reviews by both sides were used in one session. When did that last Happen?
Overall the morning session is a bit scratchy but some determination shown. Root taking root; overall playing the sweep – orthodox or reverse – to 40% plus deliveries is not always the best way to play spin. Only one Sri Lankan batsman did that yesterday. Everyone else used their wrists and hands. So it’s no surprise that all reviews used. Poor shot selection by England batsmen here but they have been let off by some sloppy SL outcricket. No one in real control! Buttler seems to be playing it straighter than most so the afternoon looks promising.
The lunch entertainment is provided by a magnificent local dance troupe who certainly knew how to entertain and keep going especially in this heat! Classes in this traditional form are a compulsory part of the curriculum at school.
The England team offered a Q&A session for those displaced tourists (the photo of whom has been entitled the ‘Barmy Army’ in some media…which we are NOT!). It was postponed as too many wickets had fallen, and the team need to revisit the game plan. It’s nice to know they had one! Other than just sweeping!
Local forecast for rain has now changed, England may need something else to save them!
There are fewer people in the ground as the heat and tourism take its toll so an afternoon session stroll finds me with the most vociferous Sri Lankan fans who are clearly not happy. The New England game plan seems to work whilst Sri Lanka hit the buffers. Tea is taken at 259/6.
Shortly after tea Root leaves for a fine 124 – good effort, will help his confidence in leading the side but with too much sweeping for my liking. Curran departs first ball and England are 301/8 leading by 255.
Hour and a bit after tea…bad light and England reach 324/9 and a lead of 278 – 15 overs still to go. Some delaying tactics by Sri Lankan were not liked but with lightning nearby play was called off for bad light. The rains duly arrived with the thunder and I have reached the 8th day of planned cricket and first rain with less than 45 mins play due. Foakes 51no…another fine knock, no fuss no fancy stuff, good old fashioned batting.
England should have enough to win tomorrow or Sunday weather permitting. The drive back to the hotel was interesting as road sense has its own meaning here and as I write this, it’s monsoon time at the hotel as water starts trickling through the ceiling! The reception staff sent two maintenance men to look at the leak and hurriedly left. So I had to trounce to reception to get a bucket to catch the water and the room was serviced. What happens when it rains again…possibly during the night remains to be seen.
But the whole experience- except the excessive sweeping – is the most tremendous fun!
The additional aspect of the compensation package for the hotel affected tourists was a group photo with the England team at the end of lunch – the morning session being Sri Lanka’s until the last 20 mins or so. My personal letter from Joe Root apologising for taking my room has yet to arrive (the ECB at work with the paying spectator in the forefront of their mind for once!) but we shall see.
The team were rolled out, had the picture taken and walked away without a word to any of the spectators- a ‘thank you’ or ‘hello’ cost nothing but nowadays people and organisations seem to think that manners don’t matter! They cost nothing and are repaid many times over in hard cash as customers feel valued and wanted. Oh well…perhaps I’m too much of an old f**t.
So, a copy of the group photo will wing its way to me sometime but in the meantime I though I’d take the opportunity for a personal pic of my own as they prepare for the afternoon session with only Ben F really preparing!
Tea arrives – decided a perambulation as much security will allow around the ground – – sees Sri Lanka 7 down for 244 off 78 overs and 66 overs so far…see it can be done!
A rare event occurs with the granting of five penalty runs to England as the Sri Lankan batsman deliberately did not ground his bat as he turned for a second run. Dead ball called and what Sri Lanka thought was four, cost them five – Englands score is moved to 290. This is a rare event in indeed!
But Sri Lanka continue to flourish and achieve a lead of 46 with the excellent Roshen on 85. England let them off the hook, just as we did yesterday as perhaps the humidity begins to sap strength. The interminable additional odd drinks for players – one just taken one over before drinks were due – needs to be addressed. If you want a drink…go off, retire not out, just stop messing about!
This will be close game…and the first innings lead could be invaluable. It all hinges on the first session tomorrow.
Away from the action, the Barmies were very quiet and needed to be cajoled into action by the SL cheerleaders. I don’t think the army is here in great numbers.
Wandering around the ground as much as security will allow, there was an inordinate amount of English flesh on display almost akin to the turkey counter at Sainsbury’s on Christmas Eve! But away from the stands there is a party atmosphere with cricket watchers and sunbathers in equal measure and they all seem to get along. There was an unseemly incident with an Australian yesterday but nothing else to report.
It’s probably a blessing in disguise that you don’t have better quality photos of the other parts of the ground (yet!) and looking around it does look like it’s been created in the middle of a jungle clearing!
Back to the play, 90 overs for the day were completed with 20 mins to spare but Sri Lanka were all out for 336. England to face 4 mins of batting or one over and open with Jack Leach as night watchman- when did that last happen?
So, the first session tomorrow will be key – England at 45/0 would be happier, at 45/4 SL would be on top…but who knows.
I got my letter from JR personally signed, and hopes to see me at the match and I play a part in a memorable game. I wonder what he wants me to do? I need to get down with the lads!
Today is a return to cricket but not until saying farewell after one night at the Queens Hotel. I say one night as I’m one of the 100 or so tourists to be thrown out of the planned hotel by Sri Lanka cricket board and the powers that be! The Queens Hotel dates from 1840 in honour of Victoria although I’m told Elizabeth stayed there too. The hotel has lost its grandeur and has a USP of its colonial past. It would suggest that little has changed in the 175 years…charm, colonial past, wooden floors (and a party of elephants in the room above me added to the ambiance) and the noise of the rush hour after the early dawn calls to prayer just added to the experience. My feedback form asked if I would stay again…hmmm, not sure.
The Test is played at Pakalelle – a suburb of Kandy. The Ground is in an industrial and business park, an attempt by local and national governments to move the commercial centre away from the city centre but even if the locals did want to attend the match they would have to travel distance! But as they tend not to support the tests in person…
England win the toss and elect to bat at the start of the second test. The team is unchanged except for Stokes moving to #3, and Moeen moving down the order. Sri Lanka have a number of changes due injury, retirement and non-selection via suspension for various reasons. Nonetheless they have the best of the first session taking four wickets for about 100. Only Burns showed some permanence with 43 but Buttler is still there batting well. Jennings fell to his favourite failing, Stokes made a start, Root didn’t and played down the wrong line…foot work against spin needs attention.
Lunch and….Sorry didn’t have the chance to write something at lunch in more depth but I had to accept the continuing hospitality of the Sri Lanka cricket board as I’d been booked into the hotel they wanted the players to stay in but as they hadn’t confirmed the tour operators booked the rooms for people like me. As a result and a bit of a carry on last week and this, all of the affected tourists have been bumped out of their rooms and into already crowded hotels and since they had picked a premium hotel, the alternatives were not necessarily available or desirable. But we’ve all been sorted and offered compensation including lunch at the ground each day, free tea/coffee etc through the day. It’s a bit churlish I know but I’ve come to watch cricket and not be force fed like a turkey in the run up to Christmas so I’ll use the ‘compensation’ sparingly. But there’s supposed to be something ‘special’ tomorrow!
The ‘special’ today on offer in the crowded lunch room (which probably would not have passed UK Health and Safety laws – the room that is) was ‘chicken in garvy’ – that well known misspelt lunch option. The humour in the room was not helped by England’s position but also that one whole tour group had been displaced to Dambulla – some 90 minutes drive each way to the north so in reality one night in the Queens was nothing in comparison.
Tea (England 212/7 off 59 overs) is reached with a number of alarms during the afternoon but Buttler gave his wicket away for 63 when he should have stuck around for a century but no one stayed with him. Curran and Rashid steer the ship to calmer waters towards tea. No one bowler has dominated with the wickets being shared around. Spin from one end all day, if not both, is England’s undoing as the skill and aptitude against spin is clearly lacking but then if we don’t play the county game in summer on dry pitches – and this is a dry pitch as can be seen from afar- we shall suffer here and elsewhere but then I’ve been going on about that for ages.
The considered view at tea is that 250 here in these conditions will be a good score although we need to see Sri Lanka bat too!
Some robust hitting but I should really call it class batting by Curran who makes 64 see England to 285 having been 225/9. It was poor cricket from Sri Lanka and a loss of control by the spinners as Curran took charge with several boundaries and sixes. The Sri Lankan outcricket faltered as well but they eventually took all the wickets. A difficult spell of 12 overs at the end of the day was not welcome for Sri Lanka who ended on 26/1.
But one feature of the series so far is the standard and class of wicket keeping – Foakes in the last game and again today and Dickwella are both excellent exponents. Foakes for me has been the best gloveman in England and probably now across Test cricket. Dickwella can appeal in true Hollywood/Bollywood style and is certainly a ‘character’ – what is it about that role in the game that shows off such ‘eccentrics’? Perhaps a blog for another time?
I think this will be a low scoring game with no side making 300: England should achieve a first innings lead so the third innings of the game will, as often happens, be crucial. The game is too close to call after day 1 but England just have the edge. Curran could be the difference between the teams but we all carry on in Kandy tomorrow and wonder which side Garvy plays for!
The day dawns after a chill if not slightly-bordering-on-cold night to a spectacular start to a new day. Whilst everything has already been more than expected, there’s only so much tourist stuff one can take on a cricket tour and I’m probably reaching that point soon. But with the 2nd test starting tomorrow, we start the journey to Kandy.
It’s a relatively short hop so a morning resting is most welcome before venturing out on the train from Hatton to Kandy across even more tea plantations, uplands and greenery. The distance is c60km but will take just under three hours, and alight at the station before Kandy as parking for the tour bus is a challenge at Kandy station. A brief city tour awaits – assuming the travel arrangements all work – before we are despatched to our hotels. But that’s in the future.
The group is travelling light as our luggage is being taken on the coach…and hopefully the logistics will work, if not someone else will get all my newly and neatly laundered clothes (if Mrs Agnew is reading this..,please note!).
Any train journey is a voyage of discovery even on Network Rail so Sri Lanka railways should be no different, and I’m not disappointed. The carriages are adequate, the rolling and rocking a little heavy but we are also climbing for most of the time, as well as doubling back on ourselves as the shortest way is also on the railway equivalent of a hair pin bend. We are on time – or thereabouts bearing in mind that this train started its journey only just after breakfast and we’re well past lunch time. Numerous officials in very smart dress are in attendance on and off the train (in fact every official is always smartly dressed as our school students come to that – not something seen every day in the UK).
One different aspect is that trespassing on the track is a normal activity and I took the opportunity to do just that…not crossing by the footbridge! I have evidence! Another difference is the at-seat buffet service- street hawkers (duly authorised) – sell their wares on a regular and frequent basis but at significantly lower prices! On board wash rooms are cleaner than on Southern or Greater Abellio or whatever but are of a slightly different style. Photo available on request!
The outside views continue to be spectacular as the train rolls along stopping for the occasional station. There are only a few trains each day on this route (from deep in the hill country to Kandy and then Colombo) but train is still busy – tourists, back packers, locals et al – but not the extreme overcrowding elsewhere in Asia; and no, I’m not hobnobbing in first class!
There’s no TV crew or retired politician in sight presumably as there is little of interest on this line or didn’t Bradshaw reach this part of the Empire but how difficult can it be to sit on a train and chat…and no I’m not wearing garish clothes!
We arrive at the station one stop before the main Kandy station – a sort of Clapham Junction but much smaller – to take our journey into the city centre. Platforms here tend to be at ground level whereas the carriage floor is a few feet higher. Hence embarking and disembarkation is not as swift requiring passengers to step down or up. This means that the group takes longer than an allotted time to disembark and the train moves off with someone in mid flow! Fortunately messages got to the driver and no damage was done but that’s not the sort of thing on Network Rail.
Arriving at the hotel, am glad to report that Sri Lanka cricket are true to their word regards compensation- fruit and wine on arrival are excellent and the suite they’ve upgraded me to is probably bigger than my first property in the UK.
But there is news of the cricket in that Buttler could well move to #3 and swap with Ali but it seems that the compensation package offered by the Sri Lankan board could be enhanced even more by the ECB and if so, I may spontaneously combust with excitement! But more later, if it happens!
To start a small technical point. The photos may not be to the usual quality as I’m unable at the moment to recharge my cell phone to upload photos from my camera. Therefore for the moment please bear with me and all else being equal I’m hoping to back fully functioning soon. If not, I’m going to bore you rigid with my holiday snaps when I’m back in the UK! I think all my friends will be too busy to see me for months!
Today dawns at the Strathmore Mandria bungalow in Hatton to the smell on the breeze of tea dust and the dulcet tones of someone practicing Fur Elise on their recorder. The whole scene is idyllic.
I need to point out at this stage that I am one of the few people in the world who doesn’t drink tea – the smell is all it needs to send me running for cover! So a visit to a tea plantation in the tea growing area of Sri Lanka would seem incongruous but it will add to the sum of knowledge!
But first, a couple of stops at viewpoints for two of Sri Lanka’s largest waterfalls.
To grow tea bushes (originally Sri Lanka was earmarked for coffee production in the 19th century but that failed when parasites affected the crop) you need warmth (here in abundance), water (ditto) and labour (ditto too). The advantages that tea bushes have is that they will or even prefer to grow on hillsides – I don’t know who asked them or how they know but they do and there’s loads of steep hillsides, rolling landscapes, sharp bends, steep gradients, nooks and crannies and every square inch of land covered in tea bushes.
The visit to the tea factory was a little disappointing as their working patterns mean that they pick today and process today/tomorrow and as yesterday was Sunday, there was little to see except some idle equipment and a few maintenance men and builders- everyone else was out on the hillside. The equipment did seem a little pristine and lacking in evidence of any recent tea leaves but interestingly the pickers – as it reached lunch time or even the end of their shift – had all their bags collected by another team who then proceeded to carry all the bags up the mountainside in the opposite direction to the factory.
The option to sample the output was politely declined without causing an international or diplomatic incident and a few photos snapped.
Lunch in Nurawa Eliya – the local commercial centre – at the Grand Hotel was fine and a wander around the gardens aided digestion after a pleasant coffee! And a spell outside the post office emphasised how cooler it was in the uplands compared to the incessant humidity of the coast where even paper almost disintegrated in front of your eyes.
By way of light relief, I’ve seen a Naandos, the option to buy Kodak Flim, a school called the Terminal Education Academy and at Galle cricket ground, the ‘right wing stand’ as it was on the right as you looked from one end of the ground.
I’ve checked my tickets for the Test in Kandy and it seems I’m not allowed to take a juke box, food, back pack, camera, weapons, short sticks (presumably long ones are ok?), selfie stick, sharp objects (presumably my sharp edged wit and repartee will allowed?), bottles, umbrellas, crash helmets or coins into the ground. Doesn’t say anything about trumpets, trombones, picnic set, cuddly toy, fondue set etc….
Today sees the journey from Galle to Hatton in the central highland areas of Sri Lanka but not before a slightly delayed departure to join the hundreds of English fans who gathered at the Clock Tower in the old Fort in Galle to commemorate Remembrance Sunday and the centenary.
The journey starts heading back towards Colombo on the E1 expressway built with Chinese investment into the Sri Lankan economy. The route then heads east through towns large and small with a lunch stop at a restaurant where like Barkis, everyone was willing but service was closer to a well known fictional hotel in Torquay- but who cares? The group were all fed and watered eventually and a convivial time was had.
As we proceed upwards and eastwards, through Avissellawa the incline becomes noticeable as the roads twist and turn. The greenery across Sri Lanka is something to behold and the vegetation becomes thicker and thicker; this is starting to sound as if we’re trekking through jungle but no…rubber plantations, tea plantations and coconut palms in abundance.
Today being Sunday the use of the horn seems to be more subdued but it may be due to lighter traffic. If you’ve been to Asia you will know what appears to the visitor to be chaos and driving ‘at the edge’ but no one seems to mind if you travel three abreast in one lane of a two lane road – a tuk tuk, a bike or scooter, and a bus/coach all side by side. It all works because this is the norm. Lane dodging on the M25 would appear equally strange to others! All you need to survive in both is skill and judgement!
Following on from comments from readers regarding my audacious question to Mrs Aggers yesterday and the laundry process in the Agnew suite, she spotted me in the hotel lobby before we all departed and I advised her of the level of disquiet expressed. She assured me that she blogged about the laundry first and I should not take the comments of others to heart!
Gradually and almost imperceptibly the gradient increases, the bends become hairpins and the ascent to over 650m (3,000+ feet) in traffic which allows overtaking on two lane road! The views are increasingly stunning and as the sun sets increasingly beautiful but as we are behind the original schedule, the light fades too much and too quickly for what I had hoped would be some picturesque sunset snaps but as I write this we are at a stop for an off-licence (or what Brits would understand as such) cum liquor store as the hotels the group is booked in does not have its own licence and guests need to provide their own. A couple of dry days will help me restore an equilibrium and give my liver a chance to ‘rest’.
After much searching in the darkness, the hotel – or rather the bungalow – was located. An exquisite Empire style tea plantation managers bungalow operating as a boutique hotel. There are only four rooms for five of us staying here so we are outnumbered by the most welcoming and helpful staff. The best way to describe everything is to recall the TV series Jewel in the Crown. If Rules restaurant (the oldest in London and one of the most opulent) ran hotels…this would be it!
The process seems to be that the guests form a ‘house party’ in that we all eat together and eat the same. This is wonderful as it gives everyone the chance to properly meet each other and discuss the meaning of life, the universe and everything in very convivial company.
There is only one aspect I’ve found to fault…the bath is very deep so if anyone has issues with their hips or knees, they may not be able to get their leg over.
It has not quite fully upgraded itself to life in the 21st century as the Wi-fi is spasmodic and I cannot recharge my phone at the moment but the power will recharge my iPad? Odd but I suppose I’ve come here for relaxing and sightseeing so being ‘off the grid’ is not the end of the world! After all the human race managed for centuries without the technology of today but it does show me how reliant I have become on such technology so perhaps it’s time for me to rethink.
And at least we would be none the wiser about others laundry arrangements which prompts me to…
With the first test ending almost on the close of the 4th day, today was ‘cricket free’ and time to be a tourist.
So today there are few words other than the captions for a few of the better photos I have selected.
However, events cannot pass without mentioning meeting the delightful Mrs Agnew in the hotel lift and just sufficient time to ask her why, in her blog, she was concerned about the number of pairs of underpants Aggers had left for her to collect in preparation for the laundry service; she adamantly stood by her claim which was disputed by the editor of her blog (presumably J P Agnew, Leicestershire and England). It’s probably best that we don’t know the accurate answer!
Day 4 dawned after a night of torrential storms and rain as prospects of play looked slim. However as the sun broke through and dried things out, play started on time and with it Sri Lanka’s hopes of delaying what is probably the inevitable. Moisture in this part of the world doesn’t stay around for long once the mercury rises!
The crowd is larger today after some needed a rest yesterday and the heat of the day before but strangely and eerily play has proceeded in almost total silence- I’ve heard more noise in church! Sri Lanka progress with few alarms until drinks and 50 on the board. However, the break brings a break in concentration and Silva leaves.
What is muddling is some of Roots field placing for his spinners- at one stage four on the boundary and close field looking a bit sparse. Gone are the days of not worrying about the runs and attacking and attacking but we shall see.
Debates continue about the declaration yesterday and the illogical decision to have Curran batting for one ball for no runs. The consensus is coming to a conclusion of muddled thinking.
However, what can’t be denied is the sheer excitement of watching England playing test cricket overseas. I am extremely fortunate to be able to do it and my emotions run from almost wetting myself with excitement at one end to feeling ready to spontaneously combust at the other! I suppose the former will help with the latter should either happen!
Sri Lanka lunch at 98/3 with the first falling straight after the drinks break and the last in what was the last over before lunch as Stokes worked up a head of steam as, after an appeal was overturned on review, there was a hint of copybook blotting but who knows?
I haven’t spoken much about the ground and facilities as there is little to say; a lot of the facilities are temporary or basic or both. None more so than the scoreboard which is just that – a board with minimal scoring information; the PA system seems only able to play music and no announcer at all and the video screen is somewhere in the distance but we survive!
Sri Lanka progress slowly as do England with the score zooming in on 190/5 as tea approaches. So as things move forward the more infrequent or unusual sightings start to be noticed – for example Stokes put his second slip back on the boundary for a couple of overs. I suppose I could be generous and call it a very fine third man and the other third man a square one but that’s all. With one/two others on the boundary, short pitched bowling was to be expected but then the double bluff of only the occasional ball got that high!
Another unusual sight is to see the keeper standing up to Jimmy- not a sight seen everyday and, be it far from me to criticise one of England’s finest ever players, but is Jimmy reverting to the action of his youth when he never actually looked at the batsman as he bowled ? There’s nothing here to excite the quicks!
Which leads me into one of my favourite topics – team dynamics! The team seem to have jelled as a unit quickly after Cooks retirement with new players coming in but also the dropping of Broad and one less challenging character to manage, Root has visibly grown into the captaincy role in this game. Admittedly not everything has gone according to plan and there were times when more attack could have been useful but other than the first two sessions on the first day, it’s been all England.
Looking ahead even though this game still has some life left in it, there are no obvious changes needed for Kandy (Bairstow is unlikely to be fully fit); and no place for Broad unless he and Anderson are rotated to extend their shelf life? But that’s getting ahead. I’ve been hatching a theory that Sri Lanka can find enough spirit and determination to take this into Day 5 but famous last words…
And following on from yesterday and the reception where Mike Gatting spoke, readers can rest assured that his skill at the buffet has not faded with time. The group I was in was being very British and polite and declining to take the last canapé on offer; that was until an arm shot past my right hand side, grabbed the canapé and ran off (well not quite as fast as he used to be between the wickets) but you can imagine the scene. The whole movement was as fast and as graceful as one of David Attenborough’s slow motion films of a lizard catching a fly! Gatting the Great Trencherman!
By the time is takes to read the above Sri Lanka collapse to 249ao just after 4pm, Mathews showed the best resistance with a fine 50 but no one was able to stay with him. Sri Lanka are a team in transition with the stars of recent times retiring as did another Sri Lanka hero today.
England win overseas for the first time in a while and for the first time ever at Galle. We have been exceptionally lucky with the weather based on every forecast seen. And give credit to Sri Lanka for a fine game- they are no pushover.
The celebrations including Heraths retirement were overshadowed by an attempt at streaking by a spectator. It needed over 30 police and security staff to detain him but he was clearly trying out the new guidelines for streaking negotiated as part of the Brexit deal…in that you keep some clothes on! Nonetheless the culprit was duly led away to await his fate under Sri Lankan law; and quite right too.
Tourist trail starts tomorrow!
And finally…the new hairstyle of the England team is also revealed!
Day three in Galle dawns a little (!) cooler than yesterday but more overcast with a threat of rain later this morning and to last all day. But play starts on time in front of a slightly smaller crowd as the heat and excitement have clearly overcome some of the Brits.
After a locally inspired breakfast- woodapple juice and hootas – the scene was enhanced in the hotel with the start of a Kandyian style wedding, with groom, best man, pages, bridesmaids and bride all ready by 7.30am for the first photos and by 8am all changed into the next set of wedding outfits for the second photo shoot. This is normal practice I’m told! But it’s only day one!
The Barmy Army are surprisingly quiet so far (thankfully) as, in the main, they continue their protest about ticket prices; the prices for the best seats, or any seats really are closed to the immediate means of the local populous at 25,000 rupees per day – as a guide a Magnum ice cream costs the equivalent of 45p; my consumption of which has been entirely for economic research purposes! So the BA are residents of the Fort ramparts for a while as they protest at the differential pricing for England supporters! But some battalions have jumped ship and infiltrated the ground! May I suggest that they consider themselves extremely fortunate to be able to afford to make the trip!
To the cricket…England resume on 39/0 and progress initially like a small ship on calm waters until Burns tries for a sharp single and fails, the experiment of Ali at #3 has yet to produce results and Root fails to take root and so arrive at lunch on 111/3 a lead of 250 with Jennings showing some stickiness as he sails to his 50 – well deserved and forcing some words back down the throats of the odd critic/expert – I’m not quite sure which category I fit into – odd or expert. So lunch is reached with the ship intact, if only slightly off course.
Despite a long opening spell by Lakmal, Sri Lanka bowl 30 overs in the session and it was a joy to watch. Not least the appealing of the wicket keeper (Dickwella) who whilst short in stature crouches so low his eyes are lower than the bails but manages to spring like a jack in the box into a style of appealing not seen for many a year; how he doesn’t lose his balance is beyond me!
One poor aspect of the Sri Lanka team is their use of reviews…they have lost so many that they missed one which the umpire got wrong! I suppose you can appeal too much?
At tea the ship sails regally to a lead of 350 with England 212/4 and Jennings approaching his hundred on 98no, accompanied by Buttler; Stokes made a fine 80 but got himself out and blotted an extremely overcrowded copybook by displaying his frustration as he threw his kit down on the outfield to dry in a manner more akin to Harry Enfield’s teenage alter ego than an international sportsman of high renown. He should keep these frustrations behind the dressing team’s door. He needs guidance.
The debate over tea descended on the declaration figure, time left and weather forecasts which are increasingly unreliable. Over 400 should suffice but the pitch is not showing signs of deterioration but, if anything, getting better for batting. The Sri Lankan fielding and bowling was excellent – 32 overs in the session – but marred by evident time wasting in the last few minutes before the break. England could bat to the end of the day, but the perceived wisdom is for a period of hitting out after Jennings’ century and give Sri Lanka an awkward half hour or so…but we shall see.
In terms of adding a little local tinge…health and safety issues don’t seem to worry this school party as they jump over a large gap in the Fort ramparts!
England eventually declared with a lead of 461 with 20 mins or so left in the day after Jennings was out for 148. The thinking appeared to be muddled as Root still sent Curran in to bat but for one ball? Perhaps time of day (4.30pm) or the prospect of bad light against the quicks came into the thinking? Anyway, England used five bowlers for the seven overs they needed to bowl and Jimmy didn’t open the bowling (remember both those quiz fans!) as Sri Lanka reached 15/0 even with two openers who gave a good impression of never having met before, let alone played together! It’s England’s to win by tea time tomorrow- monsoon notwithstanding.
The day was topped by an evening session of stories and a Q and A with Mike Gatting and since he was a ballroom dancing medalist in his younger days, had he been asked to do Strictly was the question I posed? You needed to be there to hear the answer!
Finally I ask…what other sport can cover the topics of weddings, the economics of ice cream, the frustration of teenagers, time wasting, health and safety, critics eating humble pie, the issue of strategic timing, quiz questions and was he offered Strictly or not…all in the space of 6 hours?
And…does that appeal?