‘Getting down with the lads’ – penalty runs and an opening night watchman…2nd Test Day 2 Kandy

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!

Let’s hope England are not on all fours by the end of this game?

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!

Mike Gatting too enthralled in the play to get to the food available!

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!

Chicken in garvy…or Carry on in Kandy – 2nd Test

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.

Not sure if this is a zebra crossing, traffic lights or what…but everyone goes wherever they like, when they like!

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!

The scoreboard here tells you almost everything-except the mode of dismal but interesting use of first and last names

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?

My ‘work view’ for the next five days

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!

Great Sri Lankan railway journeys – and not an ex-Cabinet minister in sight!

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.

An early morning train to Kandy

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!

Clear pride taken!

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!

Not quite my cup of tea but fascinating nonetheless

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!

The tea factory in Hatton in the valley below the plantation managers house

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.

Devon Falls and St Clair’s Falls…but not necessarily in that order!

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.

The Gardens of the Grand Hotel in Nurawa…

The post office where you can buy flim

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….

Mrs Aggers’ exoneration and the Jewel in the Crown experience

The plantation managers bungalow

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…

The view to the tea treatment works…idyllic as someone close by is practicing Fur Elise on their recorder and the sounds drift across…

Stilts, turtles, the Fort at Galle and commentators laundry

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!

The stilt fishers of Galle. Catches are so small, they earn more from being photographed than from selling their catch

Turtle hatchery… eggs are retrieved, grown in the hatchery and released when ready to help maintain numbers/species
Otherwise hatchlings would have to make it across the beach, avoid the birds and other predators. And they only have little flippers!

The Fort at Galle. There are no signs to tell you or fences to stop you falling over the edg……
The Ramparts Hotel…v colonial in architecture

Up on the ramparts! Still no signs to stop you falli……

Series of historic statues in the Fort ramparts

The view of the test ground from the ramparts. Not sure how much detail you could see

Tuk-Tuks in the Old Fort…not convinced that either advert/markings would give me much confidence to ride in!
The only elephant seen so far!

And finally…cricket is played wherever there’s space! The pitch looks a little iffy but the batsman only had one shot- the same to every ball!

Shock news…England win test abroad and new streaking guidelines revealed!

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!

Am I appealing to you?

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.

Come on ump…he must be out…before I fall over

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!

What the best dressed Barmies are wearing this season!

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?

Eye level lower than the bails!

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.

How many portions of humble pie is that then…?

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!

Health and Safety on a school trip means…?

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!

Was he offered Strictly or not? After all he won dancing medals as a youngster?

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?

That’s All Foakes and the hottest you can ever be with your clothes on!

Day 2 dawns with Foakes poised on 87no and with only Leach and Anderson for company.

By way of background and atmospherics, it’s worth pointing out that the weather forecast for regular rain is as accurate here in Sri Lanka as in the UK! ‘Warm and sultry’ would be the essential English understatement but to repeat a phrase I’ve used before ‘it ain’t ‘arf ‘ ot mum!’ In fact I don’t think I’ve ever been this hot with clothes on before other than on a BR train in an English heatwave! It’s a cliche but it’s like sitting in a sauna fully clothed! Even perspiration has perspiration! So, to do any form of physical activity in this must bring one’s sanity into question but then ‘mad dogs and Englishmen…’ but if you’re born and grew up here then it’s ‘normal’

So the efforts by Foakes yesterday and today are phenomenally monumental as he strokes and glides his way to a century on test debut- rumours have it that Bairstow is more injured than first thought so the keeping question can be deferred for a while.

Ben’s debut ton!

England strike early and deep, Sri Lanka waste another review (3 out of 3) as the openers are dispatched quickly and the middle order looks as fragile as England’s this time yesterday. Lunch is reached at 42/4…300 behind with wickets shared equally between Anderson,Curran, Ali and Leach. Will Sri Lanka be all out by tea?

Tea…136/5 Mathews 52no but tea taken a shade early as Burns was injured/hit but made it off the field ok. Sri Lanka’s session as the batsmen looked increasingly settled and the heat rose!

Imagine the conversation- Root to Broad ‘tomorrow it’s your job to carry the sun umbrella for the batsmen’, Broad replies…?

Hug a captain in celebration!

Once Mathews went, it was all a bit of a procession other than a bit of last wicket robust hitting as Sri Lanka made 203 leaving England a tricky half hour or so but with a lead of 139, it’s England’s to lose from here! Not that I expected to write that at 1030 yesterday! Ali bowled with purpose and intent taking four wickets, Leach two and Rashid two. But we’ve seen both top orders look a bit brittle so far but this is a chance for Burns and Jennings to cement their places.

But the star of the show remains Ben Foakes (Stokes of that ilk was poor today…what had he done since getting back in the side in August? Other than manfully hobbling on one leg in the ODIs). Foakes kept very well, took catches, a stumping and also stood that little bit nearer for the quicks than Bairstow and hence the slips.

So far that’s all Foakes!

Select your choice of sun protection!

Apart from…someone who thought it was too hot for clothes and streaked across the ground in the interval between innings and was welcomed with open arms into the bosom of the Barmies; and Burns and Jennings adding 38 by the close of play for a lead of 177 at the end of Day 2.