What a difference a day and a bit of cloud cover can make, this Test which looked like it was ambling serenely towards a high scoring bore-draw, now has a bit of life in it.
England bowled tremendously in the morning, with both Woakes and thankfully Finn finding some much needed form with the ball to restrict Sri Lanka to 56-5 in the morning session. It does have to be mentioned that they undid some of their good work in the morning session by wasting the new ball when faced with a Silva and Herath (who has scored more runs than Joe Root in this series) counter attack; however if you had offered England a lead of 130 last night, they would have snapped your hand off. The fact that we bowled so well in the morning must have had the English management team scratching their heads, such was the ineffectiveness of the bowling unit yesterday, albeit in batsman friendly conditions. Perhaps they felt that they were just going to blow Sri Lanka away yesterday and it wouldn’t have surprised me if Ottis Gibson gave them a stern talking to last night. Whatever was said, it certainly worked.
With England maintaining a lead of 130, it was expected that the English batting unit, minus Captain CBE, would be able to bat Sri Lanka out of the game. Alas, this was not the case. Compton looked pretty good before he edged a decent delivery from Eranga, thus sadly signaling the end of his International career, Joe Root got an unplayable grubber (I didn’t think I would’ve be saying those words last night) and Vince had a brain fart in deciding to leave a delivery going down the slope. Vince has so far, got off rather lightly, considering he too has had a very poor debut series. An average of 13.5 in 3 Tests is not something that fills me with too much hope and with Compton now gone, the MSM will need someone else to fill up their pages, Vince could soon find himself in their firing line in the Pakistan series. The thing with Vince (and one could easily apply the same to Compton & Hales to a certain extent) is that he just doesn’t look an international player yet, more a player who dominated attacks in Division 2 but one that had a mixed season in Division 1 last year. Now I’m not advocating dropping Vince yet, as I believe a player needs 8-10 Test matches to prove whether he can cut it at this level and I certainly don’t want to go back to the late 80’s/early 90’s where players were given a couple of games then dropped back down to County level, but Vince needs to have a good series against a strong Pakistan attack, otherwise we’ll be looking a new number 5 as well as a new number 3.
England’s second innings collapse meant that poor Jonny Bairstow didn’t have much time to put his feet up and rest before coming out to try and save England’s bacon again. Indeed if I were him, I’d be having some strong words with my top order colleagues, no wonder the shot he finally got out to was so loose and there have been mistakes with his wicket keeping, he must be absolutely knackered! Indeed if England are going to get to a 400+ lead, which I feel they will still need to win the game, despite the odd ball misbehaving, a lot now is going to rest on Hales kicking on and scoring some big runs. Put this way, I can’t see a run a ball hundred from Captain CBE at number 9! That said, the weather doesn’t look too healthy over the next couple of days, so it may well be taken out of all our hands.
On a completely unrelated note, do have a read of the piece from David Hopps on county cricket and the rise of social media bringing it to new fans as opposed to the traditional press coverage, which has all but disappeared – http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/1024073.html. I thought this was a particularly well written and thought out article and it got me thinking around what more could be done to boost the popularity of our county game (although that could form a whole new piece). In essence it is still about access and money in my opinion, schedule the games when most people can see them live (i.e. Saturdays), negotiate with Sky, who only show a very limited amount of 4 day cricket, around streaming highlights packages of each day and each game on social media for free and of course, make the costs far more family friendly for attending. This is not rocket science, but will ever get done? Sadly I think we all know the answer to this.
Anyway, I’m off out to watch the football. Day 4 comments and thoughts below: