It’s on days like this that it is sometimes difficult to muster the will to write much about the game as from first observations nothing much really happened. The pitch looks like an absolute road with no seam movement or swing for the bowlers and a surface that is deader than John Cleese’s parrot. I said in my pre-match report that I felt that Lords would prepare a dead, flat wicket and unfortunately my cynicism towards the ECB has been proved right again, money before entertainment has been the order of the day in this Test.
With the pitch looking like something akin to Antigua in the 1990’s, England’s first innings of 416 looks no more than par on this pitch and dependent on how Sri Lanka bat in the first innings it could end up being at least 100 light as to what it should have been. As for the good today, Bairstow batted like a man in the form of his life and would’ve likely gone on to make a double ton had anyone stuck around with him and the Sri Lankan top three showed they have both decent techniques and some fight on a pitch that offers very little for the bowlers. As for the bad, England’s bowling attack again looked fairly military medium in it’s nature (always a worry when England come across flat pitches away from home) and Bairstow’s horrendous drop of Karunaratne, when it seemed more difficult to drop the ball than it did to take the catch (Atherton, Selvey and others may have tried to blame conditions at Lords, but for me, it was just a poor piece of wicketkeeping).
The Jonny Bairstow wicketkeeper conundrum is going to be something that rears itself time and time again. It isn’t just the fact that he keeps dropping chances, it’s the fact that the chances he has dropped are ones a club wicketkeeper should expect to take. Sure this is a dead Test (despite the amazing super series points on offer) but what happens when Bairstow drops Kohli on 1 in Mumbai over the winter? How many runs will that cost this England team in a series where you need to take every chance on offer? I can see why England are persisting with Bairstow at wicketkeeper/batsman, because quite frankly without his batting England would have been a complete shambles this series, but is it really prudent to pack the side with all-rounders who aren’t quite good enough at one or more of the disciplines (Bairstow with the gloves, and Moeen with the ball as an example) in the hope that they can score enough runs to compensate for our consistently woeful batting in the top order? Despite all the protestations of the progress that we have made in the Strauss era, we still don’t have a convincing opener, our number 3 is toast, our number 5 (albeit 3 games into his career) isn’t pulling up trees and our spin option looks as threatening as Min Patel. Sooner or later our lower order is going to fail to dig England out of a hole of their own making and the results are unlikely to be pretty.
A final note on the pitch again (sorry pitches are a big bugbear of mine), no-one wants to see sides being consistently rolled out for under a hundred (unless it’s Australia, then it’s supremely hilarious), but equally no-one wants to see 500 vs. 500 on featherbed either. This pitch is not like Adelaide where things are likely to start happening on Day 4, this is Lords and the chances are the pitch won’t change over the next 3 days. The reason I mention this is ‘entertainment’ as after all, that is what sport is about. Cricket is about to go up against the Euro’s and the Rugby Union over the next couple of weeks and to stand a vague chance of retaining people’s interest, then it needs to produce some compelling action not the yawn fest that this Test match has produced (hell I’m bored of it and I’ve only watched the highlights on both days). Perhaps I’m missing the point again, after all the ECB has the type of people they want packing out the game at Lords over the weekend and they’re very happy to pay £75 a ticket et al, so why bother spreading the game to the masses, after all the average punter probably can’t afford to be a part of the ECB’s exclusive club. Let them have their football…
Day 3 thoughts and comments below: