England vs Sri Lanka: 1st Test, day one

Unless the team batting first has an absolute horror then the first day invariably leaves the spectator unsure of where the match is going, even more so if a session is lost to the weather.  171-5 is not a great score, that’s certain, but as ever with Headingley the context of the overhead conditions and the pitch may mean it is better than it first appears.  Equally however, the movement off the seam and in the air was anything but prodigious – enough to keep the bowlers interested and the batsmen wary, but no minefield.  Therefore conclusions are entirely impossible to draw except to say that both teams will probably be fairly content with their work overall.  Sri Lanka have dismissed half the side and will hope to wrap up the rest reasonably quickly, while England have recovered well from the parlous position of 83-5.

That they did so was down to one player batting against type and another who is finding Test cricket rather easy at the moment – with the bat anyway.   Alex Hales found himself in the probably unfamiliar position of having to hold the innings together, and as a result batted cautiously throughout.  Without his knock England would have been in dire straits.  And yet it is to be hoped that Hales doesn’t see this as his role in future, for there are much better defensive openers in the game than him, and in the South African series he appeared to be struggling to try and play a game different from that at which he excels.  He does have technical limitations, but so does David Warner, and it isn’t a problem there because his role is to be the dasher.  When in, such players are devastating, but they can be knocked over cheaply by quality bowling.  Today Hales had little choice and deserves immense credit for battling his way through, but it would be a waste of what he is capable of if that is to be how England see him batting, for it is hard to see how he can succeed over the longer term.  But as England’s David Warner, well it might still be a long shot to be as effective, but it’s probably his best chance.  Today however, it was just right.

Jonny Bairstow is either in the form of his life or has thoroughly found his feet at the highest level, and perhaps something of both.  Middle order players who can turn the tide are invaluable, and England have a couple in the shape of him and Ben Stokes.  Ah yes, Ben Stokes.  It didn’t take long for the knives to come out concerning a poor shot.  As needs repeating time and time again, Stokes plays this way.  You cannot stand and cheer if the ball he was out to had gone just out of reach of the fielder and sped away for four – same shot, different outcome.  When Stokes is batting well, he chances his arm and gets away with it, the margins are that narrow, and it is as it always was, two sides of the same coin.  The glory of run a ball double centuries come with the disappointment of poor shots for not very many, it really cannot be something people have both ways.  His overall performance is the key, because there will be glorious highs and abject lows.

Naturally, the pre-match build up and the rain breaks were dominated by the whole story around Alastair Cook approaching 10,000 Test runs.  Sky went as preposterously over the top as they always seem to with all things Cook, offering an interview that was about as incisive as a This Morning chit chat, with unquestioned adoration of the Great Man throughout.  Cook did say that he just wanted the whole thing over with, and that would be quite understandable, for the use of him as an icon by broadcaster, media and the ECB is not his fault.  They have successfully turned what is undoubtedly going to be a fine achievement into something that has created serious irritation at the nature of the idolatry.  It’s quite an achievement, and it is to be strongly suspected that Cook is uncomfortable with the circus.  It’s a great pity, for achievements should be celebrated, instead they are having to be qualified because of the excessive claims.  Cook will get to 10,000 and he will and should be extremely proud of himself for it.  He’s been a fine player with power to add.

For Sri Lanka the man of the day was clearly Dasun Shanaka, who received his first Test cap before play began, and then came on as the fifth bowler just before lunch and promptly removed Cook, Compton and Root in the space of eight balls.  As debut victims go, that’s not bad at all.  He lacks pace, and bowls the kind of line and length that should have county coaches purring, and the ECB grinding their teeth having so recently announced the death of such bowling in the English game. Headingley has often rewarded bowlers of this nature, being the only ground where (back in the days they actually got more than the occasional Test) the phrase “horses for courses” would routinely make an appearance pre-selection.

One final thing to note, in two sessions of play only 53 overs were bowled.  It is unlikely this would have speeded up in the final session, and quite clearly the ICC no longer care, for fines for slow over rates appear to be a thing of the past, let alone suspensions.  It is of course one day, and one curtailed day at that.  But the pattern has been in place for quite some time.

My flight tomorrow is at 16:05 from Heathrow, so that is it from me for this Test and this series, though I daresay something will annoy me enough to post over the next month.  I’ll probably add some travel observations to my travel blog (I’ve already put up an intro for this trip – and if you’re interested in Myanmar, there’s plenty there from the last one), which is http://www.thelegglance.wordpress.com if you feel so inclined to say hello, otherwise, back in mid June!

Enjoy the rest of the Test – oh and day two comments below.



63 thoughts on “England vs Sri Lanka: 1st Test, day one

  1. escort May 19, 2016 / 7:35 pm

    A nice summary of the game thus far, I’ve neither seen nor heard any of the play but it looks like a good recovery from England after a good spell from Shanaka.
    Safe journey Chris.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. pktroll (@pktroll) May 19, 2016 / 7:45 pm

    I must say that although I have enjoyed Bairstow’s contributions both today and South Africa I don’t equate it to the recently held idea that he should bat at no.5 without the gloves. His previous efforts as a specialist batsman alone as recently as the last 3 Australia tests and the first 2 Pakistan tests suggests that the pressure to both dig in and score is a fair bit different higher up the order. He had a little licence to counter attack at 7 and it really wasn’t unlike many a Prior knock.


  3. SimonH May 19, 2016 / 7:49 pm

    James at TFT did well to notice that the details of the new points’ system were announced yesterday. Four points for a Test win, two for ODIs and two for T20Is. Prize money is £25,000 and there will be no trophy ceremony (I’m slightly disappointed about that – the awkward body language between Morgan and Cook was something I was looking forward to).

    I’m daft enough to be wholly against the idea in principle (while acknowledging that it’s only a tiny part of the solution). The details stink, though. A T20I is worth half a Test match? Further confirmation of the way things are going right there (as if any were needed). 5-2-1 would have been about right. The media manipulation beforehand was typically crass – they hinted that it would be 3-2-2 so we’re meant to think 4-2-2 is brilliant for the status of Test cricket? It’s transparently what they wanted all along.

    Yesterday’s announcement was another ECB masterstroke – it came out in such a way as to gather very little coverage (as the media were all focused on Cook). Only the ECB could try to revive interest in the game with an announcement guaranteed to be ignored. Whether this was deliberate (trying to smuggle it past the flak it was going to get) or a cock-up (the details had only just been agreed – perhaps they hadn’t found a spare fag packet to write them on earlier) – who knows (or, frankly, much cares)?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sean B May 19, 2016 / 7:51 pm

    I thought Bairstow really looked the part today as I think he finally believes that he should be playing international cricket and is more assured about his role in the team now. I’d personally like to see him bat at 5, but that’s just my own view.

    Have a safe journey Chris…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. man in a barrel May 19, 2016 / 8:36 pm

    I might be like Percy Fender and thinking Bradman was inferior, but Bairstow is so bottom handed that he should be a walking wicket. Isn’t it?


  6. man in a barrel May 19, 2016 / 8:42 pm

    One thing we will never see again, Muhammed Asif bowling on a day like today. England all out 180?


  7. LordCanisLupus May 19, 2016 / 8:43 pm

    So let’s look at Newman at the Test..

    He really wanted to pile in on Compton after the denial of his dream 10000 run piece. But how could you when his hero had got himself out to a very loose shot. These couple of paragraphs rather misrepresent the pedestrian going of the first session…

    “England have achieved much in the last year by copying Brendon McCullum’s entertaining Test template but on days like this they needed to earn the right to play the attacking shots that led to the top order’s downfall.
    Shanaka, bowling at barely more than 70 miles per hour, simply pitched the ball up just outside off-stump and watched Cook, Nick Compton and Joe Root implode in a spell of three wickets for one run off just eight balls.”

    Erm. They were hardly lashing it to all parts, so what the hell did BMac and his crew have to do with it? Compton was surrounded by two ordinary shots for dismissals. So how do you write that up? Pretend Cook is having a right old go? 16 in an hour and a quarter or so?

    Anyway, Compton got his little couple of paras…

    England’s other show of faith to an under-performing batsman was less successful, Compton lasting just three balls before he pushed with hard hands at Shanaka on the ground where his first coming as a Test player ground to a halt.
    The longevity of his second coming must be in considerable doubt now and a man encouraged to relax by his captain ahead of this Test was later seen in deep conversation with batting coach Mark Ramprakash about his problems.

    Nice linkage with an England under-performer Newman. Beautifully done.

    Selvey resists the linkage in a more than reasonable article. Pringle strangely silent on Twitter about Compton too. Stocks, of course, was blaring from the rooftops.

    Come on, Chris. He was surrounded by awful dismissals. Why pick on that one?

    Liked by 1 person

    • jomesy May 19, 2016 / 9:57 pm

      I was watching over early lunch hour. Cook and Root’s dismissals were big wafts. Compton did try to play with soft hands – but failed to get soft enough – you can see it.

      Anyway, catching up on sky highlights … who applauded Hales on his 50? I know who I saw (fabrace, bayliss) I also know who I didn’t see. Cook and the rest of the clique. Shameful IMHO


    • Mark May 19, 2016 / 10:37 pm

      Notice how Newman scolds Compton for not listening to his captains advice. Ie relax. A double whammy there. Praise for Cook and hitting Compton at the same time.

      Quite how Newman knows what was said between Cook and Compton we will leave to others to figure out. Smacks of good cop bad cop routine to me.


  8. Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) May 19, 2016 / 8:59 pm

    Sadly I didn’t see any of today’s play but thank god for cricket apps in work meetings. On the drive home I did have the misfortune to listen to a discussion on TMS about T20 with Simon Hughes and Ed Smith involved. There was no discussion or discussion despite the intervention of Agnew – it was simply an endless stream of marketing spiel on behalf of the T20 format. As I got home Graeme Swann came on and seemed to start putting them right on a couple of matters but it was truly awful radio up to then. What’s the angle for Hughes in particular – he must be on some sort of consultancy arrangement to behave like that surely?


    • northernlight71 May 19, 2016 / 9:23 pm

      When Graeme Swann is putting you right, you KNOW you’re so far past wrong that there’s no way back . . .

      Liked by 1 person

      • Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) May 20, 2016 / 5:36 am

        Ha, that did occur to me as even as I wrote it!

        I missed the Groves interview earlier on but apparently get called the Blast a mediocre tournament, to which one County Chairman apparently tweeted “Gerald Ratner’.


      • AB May 20, 2016 / 3:53 pm

        We’ve commented before how the ECB genuinely appear to be trying to undermine their own tournament. Describing it as “mediocre” the day before the thing starts is just yet another example of that.

        So much is clear, they actively want it to fail and short of leaving fake incendiary devices in the toilets at Trent Bridge, there isn’t much they’re not willing to do to try to dissuade people from attending.


    • Mark May 19, 2016 / 10:21 pm

      Simon Hughes has become a sort of roving reporter. Jack of all trades master of none.


    • SimonH May 20, 2016 / 7:28 am

      There’s been a three-line whip out to bludgeon existing cricket fans into falling in love with T20. It’s been obvious since Selvey’s extended love letter to David Saker.

      The key to the BBL’s success was targeting it at people who didn’t currently follow cricket (which included “yoof” but was never merely just them). I don’t see any sign that they get this – or that if they do, they’ve got the foggiest idea how to go about it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • LordCanisLupus May 20, 2016 / 8:21 am

        I think your final sentence hits the spot. Colin Graves knows the square root of eff all about social media.


      • thelegglance May 20, 2016 / 8:26 am

        One of the things they don’t seem to get is that by the time people have migrated to social media it’s too late anyway, their tastes have already formed. You grab the young when they’re five years old, not when they’re fifteen.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mark May 20, 2016 / 9:47 am

        The idea of the ECB delving into the Yoof market is a comedy waiting to be written. I would almost like to see it happen just for the jokes.

        Launch day with Srauss and Graves wearing Base ball hats the wrong way round, rapping about getting down with the kids.





        I’ll get my coat………..


  9. Badger May 19, 2016 / 10:01 pm

    First time I’ve ever not bothered listening to TMS on the first day of the test summer. Just couldn’t get excited about it. I don’t know if I can even blame it on my dislike of the ECB and the events of the last few years. I just feel lost to it all. Maybe it’s an age thing. Maybe it’s having a young family and running my own business, whatever the reason, I still miss it.


    • LordCanisLupus May 19, 2016 / 10:05 pm

      I think it’s an age thing, Badger. I’m putting it down to that.

      But got to say, the comments on here during the day keep me involved!


      • Mark May 19, 2016 / 10:26 pm

        I think it’s not an age thing, but a change thing. Cricket has undergone huge change in the last 15 years. The 20/20 thing is good news, bad news. The good news is cricket is getting rich. The bad news is it’s lost its soul.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Badger May 20, 2016 / 12:14 am

        This blog and its comments are my go to resource for cricket commentary/opinion these days. I have my suspicions that it’s not entirely fair or balanced of me, but in this partisan world, I know whose colours I nail to my mast… Or something!


  10. Mark May 19, 2016 / 10:20 pm

    Best joke of the day was on the Cricinfo feed….

    This is gold, from Jed: “If people are not singing ‘here comes Dasun’ by the Beatles when Shanaka is bounding in, they are not doing it right”


  11. Mark May 20, 2016 / 8:45 am

    Bob Willis was in good form last night. He pointed out that maybe things have swung to far from the shambles in the 90s. Then county chairman had no interest in how England performed to now when it is almost only about team England. He had a goood dig at how many people were now employed at the ECB, and the cost of Team England is now £30 million.

    The test match bidding process has caused huge financial problems to some counties. Durhams problems seem to stem from the ground improvements that were required to keep holding test matches. Not much point if you have to pay a whooping amount of cash to the ECB for the privilege.

    My view on 20/20 has always been its a monster they let out of the cage, and they now don’t know how to control it without it killing every other living thing. Problem is,it has so changed the cricket landscape that things will never be the same. Also they know they have an older, loyal test match fan base that is not interested in 20/20. But those people are disappearing more and more each year. So perhaps it soon won’t matter anyway.

    One point about the Big Bash is that is on Free to air TV. Not sure Graves has quite grasped this fact.

    Liked by 1 person

    • SteveT May 20, 2016 / 10:26 am

      Not a mention of That Milestone though. Odd that.


    • Simon K May 20, 2016 / 10:38 am

      There has been a limited recognition over the last year or so that some cricket of some kind needs to be on FTA. The ECB has certainly noticed the impact that BBL and related initiatives have had on viewing and participation figures in Australia. If/when a franchise based T20 competition comes in here, I strongly suspect some of it will be on FTA, perhaps as part of a split deal like F1.

      They also think that test cricket is now a niche interest which doesn’t need FTA promotion, and unfortunately they’re probably right, though much of that is down to their own actions.


      • LordCanisLupus May 20, 2016 / 10:54 am

        I think it’s a bit of a shame that an attendance for the first day of a test Summer under 10k is seen as OK. Nothing compares to the buzz of a test. They really need to look at pricing.


      • Benny May 20, 2016 / 11:25 am

        Good point Dmitri. The event is so much more attractive with a huge buzzing crowd.


  12. "IronBalls" McGinty May 20, 2016 / 8:59 am

    I dipped in and out on TMS,seems every time I dipped in FICJAM was on…i thought they’d binned him??…followed by Lovejoy! Ye Gods!! It seemed like a conspiracy!!
    Speaking of which, I listened to that horseshit Graves came out with, especially the unequivocal statement that Test cricket will NEVER be seen on FTA again! I wonder why they wonder that Test cricket has evolved into total insignificance to the British public


    • pktroll (@pktroll) May 20, 2016 / 9:26 am

      If the audience that watches test cricket keeps diminishing/gets driven away by rising subscription prices then the game will either die/and or won’t be worth satellite tv shelling out zillions to keep it afloat.


      • thelegglance May 20, 2016 / 11:01 am

        What they either don’t grasp or don’t care about is that the role of a governing body is not to just maximise the income for the Test and county sides, but to look after the interests of the game as a whole. They don’t give a stuff about the clubs, and without those you have no game at higher levels in a very short time.


  13. Mark May 20, 2016 / 10:02 am

    Oh look, our friend………

    ” Neil Harris has a spring in his step: “Much better forecast today – 98 overs. England to bat for 60. Sri Lanka 5 down by close #prediction”

    The modern England cricket supporter does so like 3 day test cricket these days.


    • LordCanisLupus May 20, 2016 / 10:31 am

      Do we have to? Really? Life was calming down on that score. Time to focus on what we do so well, not what those for who this blog is not their cup of tea might want. There’s room for all.

      But this is a place for your comments.


      • Mark May 20, 2016 / 10:39 am

        It’s probably a pretty good prediction of what will happen today actually. Sri Lanka may have missed their chance already. Judging by the warm up games they will struggle to make 250.


        • LordCanisLupus May 20, 2016 / 10:47 am

          Not sure we should judge on warm up games. However good sign of resilience in this England team to overcome real strife.

          Sick and tired, frankly, with the nonsense from before. They still read our stuff and that’s fine. They may still misrepresent me and I have to say so what. The blog is strong, material good and is one of a kind. Rather concentrate on our strengths than think about how others feel. You lot will soon let me know and see through me if I try to be different.


    • SteveT May 20, 2016 / 2:18 pm

      Not looking a bad prediction at the moment. Geoffrey reckons they’ll struggle to avoid the follow on. 12-3, Chandimal and Mathews in. Lot resting on these two. Hope it’s not all over as a contest before day 3 (back to last summer all over again)


  14. SteveT May 20, 2016 / 10:46 am

    OO-eck it’s Lovejoy and FICJAM in tandem. Time for a loo-break


    • Mark May 20, 2016 / 11:09 am

      Safe trip.

      Good summer to miss I think. I was going to say enjoy your holiday but it is work……..


    • Benny May 20, 2016 / 11:28 am

      Have a good trip. I collect duty free ciggies. Hint


  15. Sherwick May 20, 2016 / 11:50 am

    YES JB!!! 🙂


    • Mark May 20, 2016 / 12:07 pm

      Why don’t they just rename it The Cook Paper?

      Hayter …….”Cooks career would be a movie epic.” Sounds like a complete Turkey to me.


      • d'Arthez May 20, 2016 / 2:14 pm

        Well, if epic means sleep-inducing movie with seemingly no end to it, then yes.

        The man is not exciting. Good at his job, but not exciting.


    • Clivejw May 20, 2016 / 12:34 pm

      I bet Hollywood directors are falling over themselves to land that script.


      • Mark May 20, 2016 / 2:27 pm

        Perhaps they can put a twist on it. Make it crickets version of Forest Gump.

        12/3 after 5 overs. bad luck if you’ve got a ticket for Sunday.,


  16. d'Arthez May 20, 2016 / 2:16 pm

    And Sri Lanka 12/3 now, after barely 5 overs. But yeah, 3-day Tests are a sign of the game being in good health …

    What applied to Border in the 1980s probably applies to Mathews now.


  17. SimonH May 20, 2016 / 2:22 pm

    Time for another thrilling update on “holding all the trophies” (TM):

    By my reckoning, India, Pakistan and NZ have never managed the feat.

    Moving on……


    • Mark May 20, 2016 / 2:31 pm

      It’s a meangless concept now. Strauss told us yesterday that to give Test matches more credibility we need a point system that will bring in 20/20 and ODIs.

      So those Trophies are meangingless under the new system.


    • d'Arthez May 20, 2016 / 2:33 pm

      New Zealand definitely not. I don’t think they’ve ever won a series against South Africa.

      India were probably either upended by Australia or South Africa at various points in time (at one point they had the trophies against Pakistan (2007/08), Australia, England, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and West Indies. But the one against SA was missing, due to the many drawn series. This was before the 2011 tour of England. So they were quite close.Not that anyone in the MSM would be bother to even think that. These include away wins to England, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and West Indies. So not that bad.

      Pakistan has never really come close.


  18. d'Arthez May 20, 2016 / 3:34 pm

    43/4, with Chandimal just gone. Mathews is still there and it all depends on him.

    Mind you, there are only 2 players in this lineups with averages above 36 (Mathews and Chandimal). Thirimanne does not even average 25. Thirimanne has played 23 Tests before this one.


    • SimonH May 20, 2016 / 4:34 pm

      And that 25 includes 155* against Bangladesh before Bangladesh became quite good.

      Another stat that shows how weak this SL batting line-up is – apart from Mathews, only one other batsman has scored a century outside Asia (Karunaratne in NZ).


  19. AB May 20, 2016 / 3:46 pm

    The crowd for yesterday was 2000 fewer than the same opponents at the same venue 2 years ago.

    That’s a 17% drop in 20 years. That’s terrifyingly huge. We all know why: because cricket is deliberately being kept invisible to the vast majority of the country. We’ve talked about this ad infinitum and here is yet another example of the devastating effect it is having on our national summer game.

    But, you know what the most depressing thing is? Some people will try to spin this as the younger generation not being interested in test cricket and use it as justification for the marginalisation of the format. It goes without saying that this is ignorant, patronising, condescending drivel of the highest order, and the people who come out with this bullshit do not have cricket’s best interests at heart.


      • AB May 21, 2016 / 8:21 am

        I think a lot of journalists seem to think that the obvious reason has now been discussed to death, and is becoming polarised between those who are angry about it and those who don’t really care, and so try to search for a “new angle”.

        Which is stupid. If there is a clear and obvious reason for something disastrous happening, then just keep restating that loud and clear until something changes.


  20. GeneralZod May 20, 2016 / 4:49 pm

    Gotta say I absolutely love watching Anderson when he is bowling like this.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) May 20, 2016 / 4:55 pm

    This is on another scale to the collapses at Jo’burg and Trent Bridge in recent times. I’m not sure how anyone could play Anderson when he and the conditions combine like this.

    Maybe Mathews could be more selfish. Given his record and the state of the game he is arguably worth a DRS punt whatever the non-striker says.


    • alecpaton May 20, 2016 / 6:53 pm

      This is a collapse that has been coming for the last few weeks.

      Sri Lanka have been troubled by bowlers from Essex and Leicestershire (both of whom were fielding 1st and a half XIs). Even England’s batsmen found it almost impossible, excepting Jonny Bairstow who played what is undoubtedly his most disappointing century of the county season so far.

      Mathews should have referred his dismissal, but you can forgive him for not doing so. Thus far, the DRS has really not been Sri Lanka’s friend.


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