Sri Lanka v England: 1st Test, Day 3 – Reversal

To let you in on a little behind the scenes secret from BOC, everyone thought someone else was doing the match report today, hence the relative lateness. In the end I got the honour or drew the short straw, depending on your perspective.

Having done the report for day 1, today’s post might have been an almost copy-and-paste job with the names changed. The team batting first played somewhat loosely with the bat, gifting their wickets to the opposition, and then proceeded to bowl in a similarly generous fashion. That we are talking about England rather than Sri Lanka is the only difference in this broad overview of the day.

England began the day on 320-4, and by any measure would have hoped and expected to post a big score which would absolutely force Sri Lanka into batting last on this pitch. Whilst Joe Root met or exceeded this expectation, taking his personal total to 228 by the end, no one else stuck around to support him. Only Jos Buttler lasted more than a few overs to support their captain’s efforts, and even he wasn’t there for much longer. England number 11 Stuart Broad was the only batsmen in the bottom five to even reach double digits in the runs column, at which point Root was caught on the boundary.

The whole theory behind the selection of Jos Buttler, Dom Bess, and Sam Curran is that they are handy with the bat. They are not considered the best at wicketkeeping or bowling in the squad, particularly in Asia, but their contribution with the bat is supposed to offset these deficiencies. Buttler scored 30, whilst both Bess and Curran (at 8 and 9 in the order) didn’t manage a single run. Today was not a great showcase for their batting talents.

Even with their poor performance with the bat, England still posted a first innings lead of 286 runs. Scoreboard pressure, a wearing pitch and fresh legs for the bowlers having spent most of the last three days watching Joe Root bat should have meant that would be more than enough. Instead, Sri Lanka’s application with the bat combined with a lot of very innocuous bowling by England and a pitch which is still relatively benign meant that the hosts are still very much with a chance of salvaging the game.

England did manage to take two wickets, eventually. The first was Kusal Perera, who contrived to find a fielder on the boundary when dispatching a wide long hop from Sam Curran. The second was Kusal Mendis, who Leach managed to draw an edge from and (somewhat miraculously) Jos Buttler caught.

Perera’s wicket highlights the fact that almost all of the Sri Lankan wickets have been taken by what can only be called atrocious deliveries. A lot was made of Bess’s five-fer in the first innings relative to the quality of his bowling, but a couple of Broad’s wickets and the run out by Leach might also be considered somewhat undeserved. England will struggle to defeat Sri Lanka on that kind of form, and certainly wouldn’t be considered favourites to defeat India in their own back yard. This is important because England’s only chance of reaching the World Test Championship final this summer at Lord’s is to win at least five of their remaining six games this winter. On the evidence so far, I can’t see that happening.

Tomorrow’s action begins at 4.15am again, but I might be tempted to have a lie-in rather than watch this quality of bowling from England.

Thanks for reading. If you have any comments about the post, game or anything else, please post them below.