Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test, Day 1 – Man Plans, God Laughs

Trying to predict the weather in Sri Lanka is a fool’s errand, and it seems to have caught most English observers out yet again. With a torrential downpour yesterday and rain expected through most of today, it was certainly a surprise to me when I woke up at 6am and discovered I’d missed most of the first session. Less of a surprise was the fact that England had already lost 3 wickets.

The game began on time, England picking their expected XI with Leach, Burns and Foakes replacing Broad, Cook and Bairstow. Joe Root also won the toss again for the 6th game in a row, and decided to bat first. With early indications that the pitch will be conducive to spin, I think it was the better option for England to deny Sri Lanka’s bowlers the 4th innings.

England’s batsmen were woefully under-prepared for this game, and unfortunately it showed. The touring team had only scheduled a couple of two-day warmup games, and due to the poor weather only batted 140 overs in total. Despite England’s notorious weakness against spin, it was Sri Lankan seamer Suranga Lakmal who made the initial breakthroughs in the third over. Debutant Burns was the first to fall with a fine leg-side edge to the keeper, and he was followed immediately by Moeen Ali who was bowled by a full, straight ball from around the wicket.

What followed was a bizarrely aggressive first session from England’s batsmen. I had seen it suggested on Twitter (font of all knowledge) before the game that the English batsmen should pretend they were playing limited overs cricket, a format they excel at even against spin, rather than attempting to defend and getting out cheaply. Trevor Bayliss has certainly stated several times that he prefers ‘aggressive’ batsmen in Tests. England scored 113 in the morning session at 3.9 runs per over, which is a good start but for one minor detail. They had also lost five wickets.

The three dismissals were all examples of over-aggression from England. First there was Root, who yorked himself by running down the track to an innocuous ball from Herath. Next was Jennings, who was bowled after missing an attempted cut to a ball heading straight at middle stump. Last, but by no means least, Stokes got himself out by going outside off stump whilst attempting to sweep the ball to fine leg and instead being bowled behind his legs. All of these shot selections would be fine in a T20, but seem utterly nonsensical in a Test match. You have to wonder what Trevor Bayliss and England’s batting coach (Is it still Mark Ramprakash? I can’t believe he hasn’t been fired yet) think about this display.

The afternoon session followed the typical script of England’s lower order rescuing their specialist batsmen. This time it was wicketkeepers Buttler and Foakes showing the top order how to bat, adding an extra 51 runs at a relatively sedate pace of 3.4 runs per over. Unfortunately for England, Buttler edged a ball from Perera to the keeper just before the drinks break, bringing in England’s inexperienced ‘tail’.

I use the quotation marks because England’s tail seems like their best batsmen. In fact, from the start of the summer England’s top five average 2.17 less than the bottom six. There’s a genuine argument to be made for reversing the batting order. Sam Curran outperformed the specialist batsmen yet again, scoring 48 runs including three sixes before edging one from Dananjaya to slip. Adil Rashid then added a quick-fire 35, including another two sixes, before also edging to slip. Jack Leach made it through to the end of play with a somewhat lucky 14 runs, surviving two edges through the slip cordon.

And throughout all of this was Ben Foakes, the second Surrey debutant and England’s new wicketkeeper. He came to the crease in the first session when the score was 105-5 and guided England to 321-8 at the close of play. It would be difficult to overstate how important his innings was in terms of the tourist’s chances of winning this game. He was calm and composed, and most importantly didn’t get himself out.

At the same time, his batting abilities shouldn’t be a surprise to us. Although regarded as a specialist wicketkeeper, Foakes has a first-class batting average of 40.64. That’s more than Jennings (33.95), Malan (36.98), Stoneman (35.03), Vince (38.44), Westley (36.31), Hameed (30.91) and Duckett (38.69). In fact, the only two batting debutants in recent years to have higher first-class averages than Foakes are fellow Surrey players Ollie Pope and Rory Burns. Now this might suggest that the Oval has been pretty batting-friendly in recent years, which is fair, but you have to question why it’s taken so long to get him in the team. Jonny Bairstow wants to be England’s Test wicketkeeper, and I can’t say I know how Foakes’ outfielding stands up, but there has to be a way for them (and Buttler if need be) to fit in the team? Surely as an alternative to picking Vince ever again…

So the day finishes with England in a position which is not bad. Sri Lanka in some ways let them off the hook with defensive fields and poor fielding, but you have to give credit once more for England’s bowlers and Ben Foakes for bailing out the team. It’s now set up for England’s bowlers to put some pressure on Sri Lanka with the ball tomorrow.

If they’re not too tired from carrying England’s batting unit all the time, of course.


38 thoughts on “Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test, Day 1 – Man Plans, God Laughs

  1. Mark Nov 6, 2018 / 6:08 pm

    I have said before England should try reversing the batting order. Why not? Would anybody notice the difference?

    Perhaps the top five would be less effective batting as the lower order than the real lower order are at bailing out the team. But then if they can’t bat with a ball thirty overs plus old should they be in the team in the first place?

    Englands cunning plan has been to create a team of eleven batsman. We have seen this movie so many times before it’s boring. Top order fail, and are bailed out by plucky lower order. How many more times are they going to make this film? You would think the other teams would have spotted this as the only plan England have by now, and come up with a plan to bowl to the lower order,

    And why do we even bother with a batting coach? It’s a pointless job.


    • Elaine SImpson-Long Nov 6, 2018 / 8:59 pm

      Ramps was on the field before the game and really I am surprised he is still there. He may do a nifty salsa or Argentine tango but what use is he to the team?


      • dannycricket Nov 6, 2018 / 9:22 pm

        More to the point, has any batsman in the England Test team while Ramprakash has been coach not regressed? I would think that the bowlers recieve the least coaching, attention and net practice, and they’re the ones getting the job done. Root’s solved his problem of ‘only’ getting fifties by not getting any, Bairstow’s technique seems shot, Cook was down to one decent score a season, and no other specialist batsman has lasted more than about 10 games before being dropped.


  2. Rohan Nov 6, 2018 / 8:10 pm

    Am I imaging things or were there more than 91 overs in the days play!?

    Good review Danny. Same as you, when I checked the score first thing England were 5 down for 100 odd, I was not at all shocked. What is being done about this? Poor from batting coaches and unit.

    Loved Foakes and Curran’s batting, I’ve thought for a couple of years now Foakes should be given a run of games!


    • Elaine SImpson-Long Nov 6, 2018 / 8:58 pm

      Bumble spotted the extra over. ‘Oh look a Brucie Bonus’ he cried. I laughed and wondered how many viewers knew where that expression came from


  3. man in a barrel Nov 6, 2018 / 8:52 pm

    Excellent. Foakes has given a massive V-sign to Flower, Strauss and everyone involved with selection in the past 5 years. Stokes out for 7. How I laughed. Even more than when good old Cooky was getting out for less than 30 time after time when it mattered.

    F you England!!!!!


    • Elaine SImpson-Long Nov 6, 2018 / 9:02 pm

      I have to sayoh Man in a Barrel I found myself taking great joy in watching today. It was a feeling that was unusual to say the least and I found myself pondering why. Took me all of ten seconds to come up with the answer…

      No Cook, No Broad and No Anderson

      I found I could even tolerate Stokes so I must have been in a happy mood.

      Same old though. I see Mark, along with many others today, has suggested reversing the batting order. And why not? the top four are doing nothing. It was good to watch Foakes today (I presume he is Foakesy in the dressing room) batting with style, precision and PATIENCE and yet still moving the scoring along.


  4. oreston Nov 6, 2018 / 9:51 pm

    I wonder who’s going to open the bowling with Jimmy and how Root is going to manage his bowlers.

    A newly Cook-less England have dropped Broad, picked a proper wicket keeper batsman and (seemingly in recognition of the actual nature of the anticipated playing conditions) gone into a Test match with three spinners. Oh, and the full complement of overs were bowled today – which would be remarkable enough these days even without the forecast of a washout. Pinch me…


  5. Benny Nov 6, 2018 / 10:45 pm

    I don’t do early so I managed only the last session. 2 hours of Foakes, Curran, Rashid and Leach, playing like proper England Test cricketers and I really enjoyed it.

    I tend to agree with Elaine, which is why I usually cheer on Eoin’s ODI side. If I get to see a brilliant keeper catch and a few wickets from Leach tomorrow, I’ll be very happy.


  6. alecpaton Nov 7, 2018 / 6:55 am

    Top quality work from Foakes. Who would have thought that picking a batsman with a first class average north of 40 would have meant getting a batsman who could build an innings?

    Nice bowling performance as well from England. They may *just* be able to take 20 wickets away from home for the first time in 2 years


  7. dlpthomas Nov 7, 2018 / 8:42 am

    A century, a catch and a stumping – not a bad start by Foakes.


    • oreston Nov 7, 2018 / 11:17 am

      Yes, but never mind all that actual cricketing performance on the pitch stuff. Is he from the right sort of family? Is he the life and soul of the dressing room? Does he have Andy Flower on speed dial?


      • LordCanisLupus Nov 7, 2018 / 3:17 pm

        Keaton Jennings made a century on debut!

        Dirk Wellham made a century on debut!

        Sachin didn’t.

        No point. Just bored.

        Liked by 1 person

        • oreston Nov 7, 2018 / 4:14 pm

          Gooch made a pair on debut…

          Of course, you do have a point, M’Lud. A century on Test debut is always an achievement but it’s not the be all and end all and can set up expectations which are difficult to follow through on. Like everyone, young Foakes needs a run of games to establish his credentials – but he’s surely earned the right to be given that chance.

          If he’s going to bat at seven, England should be careful to judge his batting by an appropriate standard of performance. You know what’ll happen though? There’ll soon be the temptation (born out of desperation at the state of the top order) to move him up a couple of places, and therein lies potential danger.


        • dlpthomas Nov 8, 2018 / 11:30 am

          He’s still looking pretty good. (I’m trying to psych myself up to read your post about Jake but I’m not sure that I’ll get all the way through it.)


          • LordCanisLupus Nov 8, 2018 / 2:20 pm

            Cheers DLP,

            It’s had quite a few readers – more than I expected – and it is a tough read if, like me, you get emotional about stuff. Thanks to those of you who have taken the time. I am more proud of it than most of the work I’ve done on the cricket blogs. One day, I might turn to what I feel about the environment we are in now and do the same sort of emotional feelings post. Lord knows I’ve tried to do it in the past.

            Dmitri / Peter


  8. thebogfather Nov 7, 2018 / 12:50 pm

    From this morning’s free Metro…. exclusive by Derek Pringle


    Yes, muppet has it on good authority that Alastair Cook will be knighted in the New Year’s Honours List…

    I weep.


    • mdpayne87 Nov 7, 2018 / 2:08 pm

      That’s virtually half of the posts on this thread about Alistair Cook. You guys must be missing him!

      Liked by 1 person

      • LordCanisLupus Nov 7, 2018 / 3:04 pm

        Well. I would say that when you follow the sport on Twitter, the main people raising it are the media people, and some former bloggers turned gamekeeper – yes, I saw those who may not be in his fan club called the “lunatic fringe”. It really cuts both ways.

        This nonsense sucked the life out of me. But no-one really cares. We’re expendable.

        Liked by 2 people

        • thebogfather Nov 7, 2018 / 3:47 pm

          ..and the fact that a membrain of the ECB/Essex mafia posted a column on this rather than what was an interesting first day of a Test Match…

          Liked by 1 person

          • mdpayne87 Nov 7, 2018 / 4:06 pm

            A cricketer likely to receive a knighthood is a newsworthy story, no?


          • thebogfather Nov 7, 2018 / 7:21 pm

            But, a kinghthood for what?

            Most runs ever (most Test played…)
            Most tests as captain (most losses as well as wins…)
            Most long gaps between influential innings?
            Most innings of a batsman/captain without a ton?
            Most mollycoddled player of all time?
            Most MSM cum swaddled doe-eyed ECB lightning rod of all time?

            Most sensible lovers of the game of cricket accept he was a good but not greatest Test opener with superior skills of longevity at the crease(but nor in recent years), a good but deteriorating slip fielder… but no-one, nowhere, with any sense of proportionality nor knowledge nor common sense can ever say he was anything bar a hopeless Captain, in Tests or ODI’s. Now whether this was totally his failing or the fault of being micro managed by coaches and ECB power whores is realistically not even worth debating.

            So, a Knighthood… why?


          • LordCanisLupus Nov 7, 2018 / 8:15 pm


            If he is getting a knighthood, then he (or someone close to him) has committed a very naughty faux pas. You are supposed to wait until the formal announcement.

            Other than that, it is someone just talking about it, and it’s speculation.

            It really is a nothing.

            PS – If interested, I have written a piece on my other blog on Jake.


          • mdpayne87 Nov 7, 2018 / 9:14 pm

            I agree with LCL, it’s just an article, nothing has been happened yet.
            As for your reasoning, most of that is your opinion rather than fact, which is fair enough, but as most knighthoods are given for major national contributions to their field there must at least be an argument that he qualifies.
            FWIW I wouldn’t give him a knighthood, but then I find the whole Honours system archaic anyway, particularly when a drugs cheat like Wiggins has one. But that’s another argument.


          • Mark Nov 8, 2018 / 11:48 am

            So news of Cooks Knighthood has leaked out? The ECB doesn’t leak. ha ha ha.

            Everything about Cook leaks out. Has done for the last four years. I can’t imagine who the source is who keeps leaking how wonderful Cook is.

            I wonder who that could be?


      • thebogfather Nov 7, 2018 / 3:56 pm

        Hey MDP, apparently the team were also shown a thoroughly invigorating, ‘Churchillian speech’ from , err, umm, Chef, prior to this match… (according to ‘Good Journalism’ reports…)

        Methinks ’tis they who miss him most!


        • mdpayne87 Nov 7, 2018 / 4:09 pm

          SO I understand, yes. If it helped the team, which Foakes said it did, where’s the harm?


          • dannycricket Nov 7, 2018 / 4:40 pm

            Well Foakes said it helped him. It clearly didn’t help Burns, Root, Moeen, or Stokes. In the first session, when the impact of this pre-match video message was presumably at its greatest, England were 115-5. I don’t see how, logically speaking, you can credit Cook for England’s successes but not blame him for their failures.

            Which isn’t to say I blame Cook for England’s collapse, just that I don’t think his message had any impact on Foakes’ score either.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Mark Nov 7, 2018 / 5:19 pm

            Well his speeches never helped the team when he was captain. So why anyone thinks him giving his State of the Union speech now will make any difference gawd only knows.

            But as always with the muppets it’s always about Cook. Even when he has retired.


        • oreston Nov 7, 2018 / 4:32 pm

          “I wish I could be like David Watts…”


      • man in a barrel Nov 7, 2018 / 3:58 pm

        You mean that a mumber of replies allude in passing to Cooky. That is not the same thing as being about him. But you knew that, didn’t you?


      • Mark Nov 7, 2018 / 5:28 pm

        Thanks for coming to check up on us, and to monitor if we are all clapping loud enough. No doubt Cooks latest desperate atempt to be seen as still relevant will be much approved by you Cook devotees and obsessives.

        And laughed at my most sensible people.


        • mdpayne87 Nov 7, 2018 / 7:07 pm

          Haha. You must have trouble walking with that enormous chip on your shoulder.


        • Mark Nov 8, 2018 / 11:50 am

          I have no need to go on sites that don’t agree with me, and tell people what to think.

          I leave that to people with real chips on the shoulders.


          • LordCanisLupus Nov 8, 2018 / 2:26 pm

            The issue has always been this, for me. KP was a polarising figure. We got that. The media got that. While I defended much of his career, even I accept KP was (a) polarising and (b) great to write about.

            Cook is, for a good number, similarly polarising. Where every KP comment was forensically dismantled, or reacted to with disdain / support on social media was seen as acceptable, it never has been with Cook. The “received wisdom” was/is that he’s not the same, so he should be treated differently.

            The knighthood thing is a nonsense. The rush to shoe-horn Cook into the Foakes hundred, pre-match publicity, the general England environment is understandable, but as a polarising figure, annoying to me.

            It starts with the basic premise. “I (the individual concerned) do not understand what you have against Alastair Cook. Therefore, when you have a go at Alastair Cook, you are wrong, or part of a lunatic fringe.” (Not you MD, but the “you” in general). The twain is never going to meet. And in all honesty, I’m tired of it, I’m sick of cricket, England cricket, in part because of it, and I ask why the fuck I should be bothered with writing about it.


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