Today dawns with a warning from the hotel of hot fogging at 6am. The noise apparently could wake guests. Hot fogging is a process to remove or reduce mosquito infestation in garden areas. Must have passed me by as I hear nothing.
The day therefore dawns with anticipation and excitement as I reach the first day of the last test and a new ground to experience. Colombo in the rush hour is the same as any large city and with a one way system to rival every gyratory system known to man, the journey is uneventful. The SSC or Sinhalese Sports Club is more than just a test ground. It’s a sporting complex in the middle of Colombo and clearly where the SL elite come to play. Colombo seems to be being rebuilt or developed depending on your viewpoint and millions of whatever being invested from overseas sources.
The test ground – there’s another ground next door – holds c 5000 people and is about the size of a UK county ground. It’s in need of a bit of renovation and a lot of organising as our premium seats turn out to be at the top of a stand with a view of half of the ground and out of sight of the scoreboard.
Anyway, as with most things here, improvisation is the order of the day so everyone moves around the ground for a better view. One such was beside a generator which was quickly disregarded and for once a seat with the Barmy was a possibility. As before the BA here is down on numbers and as the average age of the current contingent is increasing I think I’ve come across the pensioners brigade of the BA.
Full order is restored on the hour as other premium seats are procured for the rest of the day and the rest of the test. On the field England win the toss, bat and lose both openers in that time for 36. The first hour belongs to SL. The Yorkshire pairing of Bairstow at 3 and Root at 4 restore order with a patient partnership unbroken at lunch on 102/2 26 Bairstow 42 Root 28.
Temperatures and humidity are the most intense experienced to date, with fingers wilting in the same way as when you spend too long in the bath. Heaven fofrend what else is happening but hydration is the order of the day. And all that perspiration from just sitting in the shade! The effort in the middle for all – including umpires – is monumental.
At drinks and after what could have been a large lunch by both teams since the pace was considerably slower…or more likely heat sapping all strength, England reach 136/3 Root having made 46, finely crafted and with one late cut so late it was out s9 late that it was almost coming home tomorrow morning! It was worth the gate money alone if not the shot of the tour. Class is permanent. Root is really blossoming as a captain- long may it flower as he no longer has his immediate predecessor on the field even though AC was asked for input from time to time. He also has only one of Broad and Anderson to manage at the moment!
Tea 197/3 Bairstow 81 Stokes 38. England’s session even though the pace of both sides is slow. Overs bowled 55 but I suspect as do others that we may have seen the end of play for today as the clouds loom over, the ground staff on the pitch even before the players leave and the towers in the distance increasingly start to disappear into the encroaching bad weather.
Surprisingly over tea the clouds passed over and even though the 100plus ground staff covered the ground they were able to uncover it in time for play to restart on time. Stokes went to his fifty having added 99 with Bairstow who had gone on to make his century with somewhat excitable celebration. The runs themselves were scored with elegance and grace and dare one say it, this could be the answer to the number three challenge.
Stokes went to a false shot and did himself no favours in remonstrating with himself as he was dismissed. His already full copy book possibly gaining another mark? So from 235/3 England succumbed to 312/7 at the close. After Stokes and Bairstow it was a bit like the Lord Mayors Show with batsmen making a start but no more.
Generally one does not notice umpires and the decisions they make and invariably they are spot on. However they too can have an off day and in the heat etc it’s not a massive surprise that five mistakes were made. Admittedly SL wasted their reviews and they’ve had a poor series when it comes to reviews but all the mistakes took place after they left them.
Appeals against Bairstow and Stokes were both declined but were mistakes by the umpires. They really must be suffering too in the heat and humidity…so I feel for them. I reckon England had the rub of the green today and are probably 50 or 60 runs better off then they could have been. But that’s life! And a monumental effort by all concerned, players, officials, spectators and the catering staff cooking food all day.
I’ve said before I’ve never been so hot with all my clothes on as here in SL but today surpassed even that.
As I write, an almighty thunderstorm is rolling in but play finished 90 minutes ago as the light faded, the final review took forever and the day was an over short. But well done all round, and it all happens again tomorrow!