Sri Lanka vs England: 2nd Test, Day Four

The whole period between October and December passes in something of a blur for me, a succession of work trips and meetings meaning that opening the front door is vaguely reminiscent of greeting a long lost relative you kind of recognise. Thus it was that plans to wake up early to watch a Test match failed utterly – late to sleep, late to rise and the persistent nagging question as to whether it’s possible to suffer jetlag on a flight back from Belfast.

Day one of this Test happened without realising it, day two similar, day three, yep you’ve got it, and day four was more a case of “oh yes, there’s cricket on. Actually this looks quite a good game”. At such times, with obliviousness concerning the actual game, a fall back to general awareness seems to be the best approach, namely that a target of 300 is a very stiff one, and that in such circumstances the chances are that there’ll be a decent stab at it, before wickets start to fall and the batting side ultimately fall short after a “crucial” wicket falls some time deep into the run chase.

For Test matches do follow a pattern. Not in the same way that ODIs or especially T20s do, where the formula is repeated each time with little variance, but more an echo of the several thousand games over a century and a half, with certain tropes to be followed and specific truths to be obeyed. The other part of this is that the wider public insist on refusing to see the evidence before their eyes and taking an entirely different view of what is going on.

Thus it is that 300+ targets are considered not just achievable (which they obviously are) but not too much more than a walk in the park. To point out that 300 has been chased a mere thirty times in Test cricket over a couple of thousand matches is met with surprise, bordering on disbelief. Now, of course the nature of the game is that fourth innings run chases aren’t a given in a game, while setting or achieving lower targets takes out another bundle, and then there are the dull draws, the games where it rains throughout (and not just in Manchester) and where teams batter another by an innings, so it isn’t quite such a small proportion, but it is somewhat rare. The persistence with which 300 is considered eminently gettable remains one of the odder cricketing beliefs out there.

There are other contradictions to the perceived wisdom held – Moeen Ali taking wickets out here appears to be taking fans’ cognitive dissonance to a whole new level – but it remains endlessly striking that the desperation for a wicket with 120 runs to get coincides so often with that wicket falling. Today, the unlucky man was Angelo Mathews, the latest player to fulfil his role as the “if only” candidate of a run chase.

75 runs to get, 3 wickets to fall. This is the kind of scenario where people set the alarms in anticipation of a thriller, only to see two wickets fall in the first over, or to watch the rain fall for three hours while contemplating the lost comforts of a duvet. And yet, once in a while that thriller happens, just enough to ensure everyone thinks they don’t want to miss it, while at the back of the mind the nagging certainty that it’s going to be a waste of time keeps sticking up a hand and telling the viewer not to bother. And that is quite a special attraction, to know that it could just be worth it.

I’m not going to get up early to watch the denouement. Oh I might. Maybe I will. Maybe I’ll oversleep. Oh who knows? But it’s fun when it gets like this anyway. See you tomorrow. Possibly.

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5 thoughts on “Sri Lanka vs England: 2nd Test, Day Four

  1. jennyah46 Nov 17, 2018 / 12:24 pm

    Well done Chris! 🙂 Good to see you back.

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  2. Rooto Nov 17, 2018 / 12:46 pm

    I, too, have totally missed this test thanks to boring stuff getting in the way, which is a shame for me, as it seems a cracker. I thought I could share a comment with you that I heard on the BBC’s Cricket Social when I was getting ready for work on Wednesday.
    They were chatting about ‘sliding doors’ moments, when lives or careers change direction. Dan Norcross mentioned that FICJAM has let it be known to friends that he believes he could have had a successful test match career if he hadn’t been sawn off lbw for 16 in – what became – his last innings at the Oval in 2003. Cue Strictly Come Dancing’s Michael Vaughan:
    “Let me tell you that I was captain of that side, and no, he wouldn’t have…”

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  3. d'Arthez Nov 18, 2018 / 4:38 am

    Looks like England will win by allowed cheating and some 50-runs or so.

    Asked it yesterday, but got no response, so I’ll ask again.

    Why is it cheating to not ground a bat while running, but not cheating when falsely claiming a catch, and thus claiming an advantage, because if replays are inconclusive they go with the on-field call, and thus it is to one’s advantage to unduly influence the standing umpires to give the soft signal “out”?

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    • RufusSG Nov 18, 2018 / 11:13 am

      A few things to unpack here:

      1) The idea that fielders always know if the ball has or hasn’t carried into their fingers is a myth. I’ve seen catches given out when the fielder wasn’t sure as well as not-outs for vice versa. I’m don’t know why you automatically think Stokes was trying to game the system (this ties into 3) as well).

      2) The soft signal system is by no means perfect. And yes, as with anything in human hands, umpires make errors and give the wrong soft signal. In an ideal world, replays would clear everything up like they can for other decisions, but we’ve seen in practice it doesn’t always happen.

      Soft signals are simply a sticking-plaster way of getting around the limitations of the video replays, as before it pretty much every low catch was being given not out because of the doubt involved from the foreshortening of the image. Bear in mind the umpire can only give a soft signal of out if he’s been able to get a clear enough view of it (I can’t think of many catches in the deep, for instance, with out as the soft signal). If he’s too far away, it’ll usually just default to not out.

      3) If international umpires can’t differentiate the volume of a player’s appeals and the substance behind them (*cough* Niroshan Dickwella *cough*) they’re in the wrong job. I mean, players could try and genuinely cheat in the way you’ve described, but I’d like to think they’re strong enough to take the emotion out of the situation.

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      • d'Arthez Nov 18, 2018 / 12:21 pm

        Yes, and?
        1) He was celebrating. Not saying he was uncertain. So not knowing whether or not he caught it is no defense here. He definitely pretended he knew he caught it. He did not.
        2) Soft signal system is not perfect. But why is it perfectly permissible to unduly influence the umpires by CLAIMING a catch, rather than saying that he was not certain, and thus get the benefit of the soft signal in case the evidence for the TV umpire is inconclusive that way? Because that is effectively how cheating gets rewarded in such instances.
        3) You’d like to think that proves what? Nothing. And the umpires apparently had sufficient enough evidence to award those penalty runs. So, they must have felt there was deliberate intent.
        Therefore the fielding side got an undue advantage (similar to the batting side running short for a run, to have more time to make it back). So, why did the umpires not penalise England for that? And if Stokes did not intend to cheat, why the hell did he not say that he was uncertain?
        If INTENT can be proven in the case of a failure to ground a bat while running (which the umpires did, because they did not simply subtract one run for running one short, then how can it not be proven for falsely claiming a catch?
        Or is this another episode of pathetic umpiring standards the world over these days?

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