I wasn’t sure whether to write something vaguely incisive about the build up to the First Test or just to post a picture of some puddles and the weather forecast for the upcoming game, in what has quickly become a farce of a tour. I mentioned in ODI review that holding a Test series in the middle of monsoon season was just about as stupid a thing one can do, unless the players and fans particularly enjoying sight seeing in the wet.
If by some miraculous occurrence, the weather does clear up for long enough to hold the game, then one must think England will be at a serious disadvantage. In the past, when teams were actually committed to winning a Test away from home, they would organise at least 3 tour games of sufficient length to try and get their batsmen and bowlers acclimatized to the foreign conditions. This has long since been dumped in favour of shorter tours, combined of more ODI cricket and then the odd 2 or 3 day match to try and get the players somehow ready for the upcoming series and the media wonders why it is so difficult for teams to win away from home in this modern age. Unsuprisingly, the weather has played havoc with England’s warm up preparation with a 50 over knock about on a flat, unresponsive pitch hardly likely to replicate the conditions they will face in Galle, should there be any cricket held there this week. I’m not surprised that Sri Lanka didn’t prepare a rank turner for England’s warm up games, just as I am never surprised that England don’t hold warm up matches on green seamers whilst preparing one for the first Test. This should be something that the ICC actively looks at if they want to keep Test cricket at the forefront of the game and stop it from being a procession of home Test victories; however I’m not going to hold my breath, based on what the ICC and the other governing boards have done in the past.
As for the team itself, for a change it is quite hard to predict what team England will actually go for, especially in light to the injury to Jonny Bairstow whilst playing football in a warm up for one of the ODI series. Now there are many ways a player can get injured on the cricket pitch, so actually losing one of your best players in a warm up during a football knock about is unforgiveable; if Bairstow misses more than just the First Test, then serious questions need to be answered by the English coaching team. I would imagine that Burns will rightfully get a go at the top of the order after a fantastic county campaign last season alongside Keaton Jennings, who is incredibly fortunate to be included on the tour. Jennings has built a reputation as a good player of spin, though that could be heavily weighted on his century in India a couple of years ago, and without doubt if he fails again in this series, a place on the scrapheap with England’s other tried and failed openers from the last 5 years await. As for the rest of the line up, then aside from Root batting at 4, your guess is a good as mine! We’ve had speculation that Buttler will bat at 3, or that it will be Moeen, or that it could be Denly – in other words, no-one has any sort of a clue as to how the English batting line up is going look. Personally I’d have Denly at 3 and Moeen at 5, but then personally I would have had the best player of spin that England currently has at the moment on the tour and in the line up! Whatever James Hildreth has done to upset the English selectors is beyond me, perhaps Mike Selvey has marked his card sometime ago! One would also imagine that the no matter how much rain falls between now and the beginning of the game, that the Galle pitch will be conducive to spin bowling; hence I would guess that England will line up with Anderson, Stokes and one of Broad, Woakes or Curran with the latter probably earmarked for the role due to his batting. As for the spinners, then it will be down to Moeen, Leach and Mike Selvey’s favourite bowler, Adil Rashid, to take the majority of the wickets once the ball stops doing anything for the seamers after 4 over or so.
Sri Lanka, will start the series as hot favourites in my opinion whatever the bookies think, especially if they can reproduce their performances against South Africa earlier in the year, where the decimated the Proteas by 278 and 199 runs in the two Test series. Sri Lanka’s array of spin bowlers befuddled the South African batting line at every turn and we can expect a heavy reliance on this again in this series. As a side note, Galle will be the last Test in his career for Rangana Herath, who despite his portly appearance and lack of a ‘magic ball’ has had a tremendous career at International level, especially on the sub-continent and someone Sri Lanka will miss massively. Herath may not spin the ball prodigiously but the control and accuracy that he has displayed throughout his career has meant that the opposing batsman has not been able to lose concentration for one minute when he is bowling. England will be very grateful to see the back of Herath after Galle. As for the Sri Lankan batting, they will once again lean heavily on Dimuth Karunaratne, who had his breakthrough series against South Africa alongside Angelo Matthew (provided he hasn’t been dropped) and Dinesh Chandimal, who are the backbone of the Sri Lankan batting unit.
The toss will be incredibly important to win and England must hope that Joe Root has his lucky shirt on, as England face a tough enough prospect to win this series, let alone batting 4th on a raging turner. This of course could be rendered completely irrelevant if the forecast stays true and hence, the fans have the pleasure of staring at puddles on the pitch rather than any live cricket. Perhaps they’ll be kind enough to beam the AB De Villiers masterclass into the stadium should the weather forecast prove right.
As ever, all thoughts on the game are welcome below:
I have been supporting and watching English cricket for more than 30 years. This is the first time that I can recall not being able to have an educated guess as to what the team will be. And the fact that Bayliss said he has 5 different permutations at the moment suggests we will get thumped on this tour.
This is unprecedented in its chaos in my view – and that is only partly due to the rain.
p.s. the team for tomorrow will be…
But it could also easily be
Oh and Stone should be playing… but who for?
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I say England.
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The problem with your second go is Denly at 3. He’s not got to grips with things so far. Not Stokes either if we want him as an effective bowler. Moeen at 3. Nah. We are in a bind at 3.
“we are in a bind at 3.”
Nothing much new there then! Unlike the Aussies, England don’t even have the excuse of senior players being absent due to suspensions to explain – even partly – the top order’s weakness.
I don’t envy you having to try to conjure a semblance of enthusiasm for this farce, Sean.
Sadly I think the title of TLG’s previous post had it about right (…though given the weather it seems that drainage will probably be significant in this series for more literal reasons).
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It wasn’t exactly the most enthusiastic post I’ve ever written. Farce is the perfect description though. I just feel sorry for the average fan who has paid for their flights, tickets and massively jacked up hotel prices for this. Fat chance they’ll get any cash back either….
Just for the record, Sri Lanka do not start the series as hot favourites. Ladbrokes have them at 6/4, England at 13/8 and the series draw at 9/4. So Sri Lanka are very slight favourites. Betting for the first test has the draw as favourite (5/6) with Sri Lanka at 5/2 and England at 3/1.
Interesting, I’d have Sri Lanka as bigger favourites than that especially with our batsmen’s inability to play spin. Then again it might just rain for 3 weeks..
Had the odd thought that I need to credit Bayliss with the fact we’re seriously discussing playing 3 spinners. Lot of times in the past England have been reluctant to play more than one in subcontinent conditions, despite the pitch likely being a turner.
As a retired person, I do enjoy test cricket being on TV, even if I don’t sit through every ball. Watching SL muster thousands of guys to race on with the covers is a great spectacle but hope it’s not too often.
As for the team, we’re used to not having 11 players performing so maybe the names aren’t too important.
Having watch that review, I find myself wondering “Is Wella” Sinhalese for head?”
Some ludicrous dismissals in that session and the pitch hasn’t misbehaved. England will be lucky to scrape 200 and a heavy defeat beckons.
Going to be honest here. I have said I don’t think Burns will make it as a test opener. Would dearly love to be proved wrong.
Also really surprised at how well Foakes has batted. I’m not sold on that element of his game, but there is no better place or time to show your worth than in your first test.
Good grief! An old fashioned wicket keeper batsman coming in at seven and digging the team out of the mire. Very retro. If Bairstow really can’t reconcile himself to playing as a specialist batter there could be trouble ahead.
Problem is that there isn’t much evidence that Bairstow bats that well without the gloves bar the Lord’s test v SA back in 2012.
Thanks to Foakes the situation looks a whole lot better now. I still wonder if our spinners will cut it though. I’ve been wrong once already, maybe I’ll be wrong again regarding them!
Tell me about it. During one of the ODIs, when everyone was wet and drenched because of the heat and the rain, one of the comms seriously started going on about what it would be like if Cook was there, because he doesn’t sweat.
Good grief, how soul destroying it must be to play for England cricket these days. They make them watch Cook videos the night before. I suppose it will send them to sleep early so they will get a good nights rest. Didn’t do much for the top order though.
It’s a mental illness. But the sycophantic media are eager to play along.
Paul Collingwood trashes his reputation…
Highlight of the match: Well tossed Joe Root. For that sterling effort he should get Man of the Match.
The cricket was almost utterly irrelevant, as toss will move to 23-7 (barring comical ineptitude from England, which I think is beyond them at this point in the match) in Sri Lanka since 2011, and Sri Lanka will probably have losing records against England, India, South Africa and Australia since that time, when they have lost the toss (and only drawing records against Pakistan and New Zealand).
You may have seen on Twitter last night. A further explanation:
And most importantly….
You know how this rolls. Dmitri talks about himself in third person. Dmitri feels sorry for himself. Dmitri says he will stop writing for a bit. Dmitri blames whoever. Dmitri gets the love back and starts again, and people can call him what they like.
Every time I say this feels different, but this one does. I’ll still be here. But the urge to write isn’t, and hasn’t been, on cricket.
I know exactly what you mean Peter. I feel no passion for it anymore. Cricket as I loved it has gone, and it won’t be coming back. And yes, I know it wasn’t all great, and had many flaws, but it felt real to me. And football, another love is fast disappearing up its own backside. The European super league will kill that off as well.
Sport as a money making product is now what it’s all about. Look at Rooney coming back for one England match. Really? Is this the managers idea or Sebastian in marketing? Are people such dopes they will buy a ticket just to gorp at Wayne for one last time?