Watching test cricket overseas is not like anything else and certainly not like cricket in England. But definitely different in Sri Lanka! My first impression is that you ‘go with the flow’ and things eventually happen as planned but you need to be patient and understanding (and before any of my readers who know me scream otherwise that these are traits I don’t possess, well I’m learning!).
There’s more to come over the next 26 days on tourist things but for the moment it’s cricket. England seem to have dispensed with the pre-play football knockabout having learnt the lesson that injuries will happen even in kickabouts and so Bairstow misses out even though he’s able to join in the lunch time running on the outfield.
Broad is dropped to allow for three spinners to play and Foakes gets his chance behind the timbers. Burns opens and with Curran S the other fast bowler (with Anderson), that makes three Surrey men in the side. If Pope can squeeze in and these three succeed Surrey will need to look to their reserve squad for next summers Championship defence!
Sri Lanka wish farewell to Herath after this test and on the evidence seen so far, he will be missed! England won the toss and decided to bat with Jennings and Burns opening in the post-Cook era.
In overcast and humid conditions and on a ground underprepared due to the monsoon Sri Lanka open with a mix of fast swing from one end (Lakmal) and spin the other. Burns looks confident but a little underprepared as he strikes a couple of fine boundaries before succumbing for 9 to a quick delivery which from afar seemed to do a bit. Ali follows next ball completely beaten for pace; so at 19/2 not a great start.
Root and Jennings try to restore some order as they take the score along to 60-odd but by then it’s spin at both ends with Herath making an entrance with two wickets amid much rejoicing and accompanying fireworks! Today is dewali so this is not unexpected.
England’s way of playing spin is either to sweep having plonked a leg down the pitch or to dance down the pitch to hit over the top. Neither is effective as Jennings goes for a 40-odd, Root tried to dance and lost his timing and footwork, Stokes fails to impress so England reach 113/5 at lunch. Foakes making an entrance just before the break.
The only downside is that Sri Lanka have wasted both their reviews but they would take the lunch score with both hands! Will England still be batting at tea, is a mystery to be revealed as the humidity rises but the temperature stays on the ‘warm’ side!
The afternoon was England’s session reaching 199/6 with Foakes manfully striking 49no and Curran 14no – the latter playing with an excellent and exceptional straight bat – significantly more than I’ve seen him in the past and definitely better than his peers. Play could almost end on time (shock horror!) with 29 overs before lunch and another 29 before tea! England…learn from this!
Interestingly, playing patiently and playing spin properly (ie the dancing is stopped and the sweeping replaced with skill in hands and arms), then wickets stop falling regularly! Sri Lanka also went a bit off the boil after lunch so the game swung!
The Galle Ground occupies one huge roundabout at the entrance to the Old Fort – a UN World Heritage site which could lose that status as it has a sports ground inside it! The fact that Galle bus station and rail station are opposite and the rest of the area is (today) a massive coach park seems irrelevant in that possible decision?
The game is being played in front of essentially an England home side – there are a few and I mean only a few locals present; the ticket prices are low but it seems that all have been sold to English tourists today! There are thousands upon thousands here! But tomorrow…rain is forecast.
My forecast (as live) for close of play is England 270/8 but we shall see!
Well, I got the wickets right but missed the final total by 51 runs! Curran S was undone by the drinks break for 49 but he will learn, Rashid made a comfortable 30 and Leach looked like a number 11 playing at no 10. However the star of the day has to be Ben Foakes for a fine 87no. He played with style, class and patience something we see regularly for Surrey. What this does do is give England a selection problem and a nice one to have! When Bairstow is fit, who makes way from the current team and who keeps wicket?
You can go round and round that one…just like the roundabouts here in Galle!