SL v England: 1st Test, Day Two

There are a few things different about this match in these Covid times. The lack of any media coverage at the ground hasn’t especially impacted the commentary, although being reliant on TV pictures means they miss things they’d otherwise see, but it doesn’t take long to forget they are all in their pyjamas at home. One thing that is very much absent is the repeated social media posts about how amazing their press box meals are, which is no bad thing. Nor is their realisation that getting up in the middle of the night to watch the cricket is an experience the rest of us are very much used to. It never stops being amusing to see them experience how the lesser half lives.

As for the game, well England could hardly be more on top. Sri Lanka’s abysmal first innings has probably lost them the game on the first day, a reminder to those who needed it that you can’t win the game on the first day with the bat, but you can lose it.

The hosts took only two wickets all day, Jonny Bairstow for 47 and Dan Lawrence for 73, a fine debut knock before being undone by one of the few deliveries that spat off the pitch. Initial strong scores are not remotely indicative of a good Test career, but they are equally much better than failing to get any, so he will be pleased and he looked the part. More than that can’t be said.

But the day was dominated by Joe Root. He’s had plenty of criticism for failing to turn his fifties into hundreds, but when he gets to three figures, he goes on to make a big one half of the time. It’s a curious anomaly in his career, and perhaps indicates that he’s thinking about his conversion stats and relaxes somewhat when he reaches his century. Either way, the only means of overcoming it is to do it more often, which sits nicely in the “easier said than done” category. Yet he averages 49 and so much of the debate surrounding him focuses on what he doesn’t do rather than what he does. He’s far from the first to suffer from this, indeed all those in recent times for England who have had averages just shy of 50 have gone through it to varying degrees, either with excuses made, or unfair criticism. Either way, it avoids a more rational examination of their strengths and weaknesses. For anyone over the age of 40, an England batsman averaging nearly 50 is a rare beast indeed, and one to be cherished.

As for where the game goes from here, it’s moved on apace but we’ve only had two days, which is why it’s always puzzling to see some already starting to push for England to declare. There’s not remotely any need for it, they can bat the whole of tomorrow if they are capable of it without having a shred of effect on any risk of failing to win, short of the kind of biblical downpours that shouldn’t be factored in at this stage.

Which doesn’t make it very interesting, except in terms of seeing how the individuals go. Even if Sri Lanka have a miracle session, they are so far adrift as to be almost beyond the horizon. That’s Test cricket, and we should never apologise for the one sided games when the format has the potential for thrillers. What would be more of a concern is if this is how the whole series goes, though it’s hard to believe Sri Lanka will bat quite as badly again as they did yesterday. The differential in income around the world is an ongoing subject, but can’t be used as a justification for the abject shot selection that placed them in these dire straits. It is a separate, but valid matter to a team playing well below their capabilities, irrespective of the difference in resources.

Despite the immense time remaining, England’s scoring rate of nearly three and a half an over it’s entirely possible this game will conclude tomorrow. At a time when any cricket is good cricket, it’s not to be sniffed at, but everyone will hope for something more competitive in the Test to follow.

7 thoughts on “SL v England: 1st Test, Day Two

  1. Marek Jan 15, 2021 / 1:04 pm

    As I posted yesterday, the selection hasn’t really helped.

    Apart from what I posted yesterday about the top-order batting, I wonder about picking Perera, who since the last England series is averaging 98, has a strike rate of 170 and has only played two tests out of seven where’s he’s gone at much less than 3.5 an over (well, he is the oldest active test player in the world, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if he’s a little bit past his best…)

    I can understand picking Hasuranga although he’s been pretty expensive on the basis that he’s young and promising and needs a run to find out if he’s got what it takes in tests or not. But I suspect Sandakan (or even Vishwa Fernando) would have been a better option than Perera.

    That said, he’ll probably get a five-for tomorrow! (Which would probably be great for England, since I suspect it would be a supercharged version of a Buttler 150…)

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  2. dArthez Jan 16, 2021 / 4:35 am

    That is exactly the fear – for England to improve its chances in India, Buttler would need to collect as many ducks as possible, or drop dollies for fun in Sri Lanka. So that they’ll actually pick a keeper who is not completely useless when keeping to spinners. Does not look like that is going to happen, and I do expect England to pay the price for that.

    This Sri Lanka side is probably the weakest in the country’s history, in both batting and fielding departments. To even think that it is close to the 2010 or 2014 side is insane – and yet people will do that, since they usually don’t bother to follow other teams but their own.

    Thirimanne (22.68, this game not included, 1 ton and 6 fifties) has a worse average than Mike Brearley (22.88 66 innings with 9 fifties). Obviously, Brearley made up for that by being an outstanding captain. Thirimanne is making up for it by being outstandingly useless. Oh wait …

    I am not sure if there are any alternatives, but if this (barring Karunaratne, Lakmal, and Oshada Fernando) is even close to Sri Lanka being full strength, I’d fail to see how they would even compete with some of the stronger Ranji sides across the Palk Straight.

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    • Marek Jan 16, 2021 / 1:33 pm

      In the same vein, this may well be a terrible day for SL in anything but the short term: Dilruwan Perera gets among the wickets, Thirimanne gets among the runs and Kusal Perera gets another 60–which would be great every match from your keeper at no. 7 but which isn’t going to win or save many matches from your opener.

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  3. man in a barrel Jan 16, 2021 / 11:04 am

    The England scorecard is more than a little weird. 421 is not a massive total but you would expect more than 2 people to get to 50. I guess it shows that this England team is always likely to collapse when confronted by even friendly looking spin bowling. Ashwin, Jadeja and co must be impatiently waiting for a chance to improve their figures

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    • Marek Jan 16, 2021 / 1:29 pm

      Exactly. This was a very ominous batting display by England I think–ten batsmen plus extras getting less than 200 against a very ordinary bowling side.

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  4. dArthez Jan 16, 2021 / 12:43 pm

    We got treated by Sri Lanka to some proper test match batting. Of course they were lucky at times, but at least the application was there – even if at times giving the impression that they have learned little from the first innings, in terms of shot selection. England struggled a bit with their lines and lengths, but it was much better from the hosts.

    Sri Lanka probably won the day, but they were so far behind in the game, that it is still very hard to see beyond a comfortable England win here.

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  5. Miami Dad's Six Jan 16, 2021 / 2:08 pm

    England were crap today. 101-6 and then they were lucky to get 2 wickets. Somehow they’ve avoided killing the game off completely whilst retaining the status of being huge favourites still. I am dreading any chase over 50. Hopefully they won’t have to bat again.

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