Today was one of those frustrating days at the cricket, with rain ensuring a wash out of the first session and then the players coming on and off the pitch at regular intervals during the rest of the day. Certainly England would’ve been hoping for no rain interruptions at the start of the day to allow them the opportunity to push on to 400 and ensure that Sri Lanka had no way back into the game; however we have a situation where, dependent on the weather, all 3 results are theoretically possible.
As for the batting, Hales showed a new found maturity and batted well, mixing some big attacking shots with some nice nudges to keep the scoreboard ticking over. This has been a criticism of Hales in his short career so far, in that he seems to get himself bogged down with an inability to turn over the strike and then gets out looking for the big shot (see his dismissal to Herath in the first innings); however both yesterday and today, he seemed to be pick able to pick gaps in the field to relieve the pressure. Graham Thorpe he is not, but it does show that he has the mental ability to look at his game and try to improve certain areas that have been holding him back. It was a shame that he missed out on a century and I do think it will be a weight lifted as soon as he reaches three figures, but out of all the un-established batsmen in this team, he is the one that looks most secure in his position.
As well as Hales batted, he really should’ve been out a couple of times, especially after being bowled off a ‘no ball’ that admittedly kept low. It does seem a complete mockery that a batsman can be reprieved by the third umpire on review for a no ball, but that the opposite, where an umpire makes a mistake with a no ball call, cannot result in the batsman being given out. Cricket really doesn’t help itself at times and Sri Lanka can rightly feel aggrieved at some of the umpiring decisions they’ve received in this Test, especially with the ridiculous ‘umpire’s call’ methodology used with DRS at the moment. I believe that this is likely to change ASAP after the ICC reviewed the current protocol and in my opinion this change can’t come quickly enough.
The afternoon passage of play was an odd one and did have me shaking my head in disbelief at times. I appreciate that Hales had a hundred on his mind and so didn’t want to be ultra aggressive (though his strike rate was decent), but Cook’s innings really wasn’t what we were looking for given the pursuit of quick runs. I’d have personally put Moeen ahead of him in the order and asked him to try and bash a few runs before tea, with the view of a declaration just afterwards; however Cook came in at 7 and proceeded to nudge and prod the ball about. Sure Cook did finally play some shots after the 2nd rain delay after tea, but by then it was almost 6:30pm and he still only ended up with a strike rate of 56, meaning that England had almost wasted an hour to have a go at the Sri Lankan batsmen this evening. I slightly facetiously posted on Twitter that the captain was protecting his series average; however can you imagine if that had been Compton who had managed a red inker with a strike of just over 50 and England needing quick runs? There would’ve been howls of anger from Newman & Selvey etc that he couldn’t score quickly enough and that he was potentially costing England the game. I bet we don’t get that narrative applied to the Captain tomorrow! As with everything in the MSM, what gets reported tends to be through their very ECB rose-tinted spectacles…
As for tomorrow, it will be interesting to see if the pitch does break up at all and does offer some turn for Moeen, as the 12 overs this evening from England’s bowling unit weren’t exactly threatening. You do feel that Moeen could do with a few wickets in the 2nd inning to build his confidence in advance of the Pakistan series and this pitch should offer him far more assistance than either Headlingley or Durham. You do also feel that if England are going to win tomorrow, then they will need him to contribute with the ball. As for Sri Lanka, if they get through the morning session unscathed, then it’s not out of the question that they could chase this total down. Matthews, Chandimal and Kaushal are all destructive players and with the right platform, they could push on for the victory.
I won’t be able to see any of the game tomorrow, so any report does rely on me getting back from a work event at a decent time and getting to see some highlights. Anyway, Day 5 comments below: