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.


23 thoughts on “Sri Lanka v England: 1st Test, Day 3 – Reversal

  1. Elaine SImpson-Long Jan 16, 2021 / 3:54 pm

    not the most riveting test I have ever seen but such a joy to stagger through early in the morning with the first cuppa of the day and have cricket on the telly. As always, Chris, a cogent and witty report. Thank you


    • simpsonlong1 Jan 17, 2021 / 11:01 am

      Sorry it is NOT Chris!


      • dannycricket Jan 17, 2021 / 11:56 am

        Yeah. I didn’t want to correct you in case that diminished your opinion of the post.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Marek Jan 16, 2021 / 10:06 pm

    On England’s WTC final chances: I would think they pretty much only have a mathematical chance. As soon as they lose any of their matches–or fail to win 2-0 in SL–even if they win the other five they’re going to be reliant on the largesse of South Africa [stands well clear of d’Arthez’s reaction…!]

    So we’re talking about 2-0 in SL and 3-0 or 4-0 in India. Good luck with that one!


    • Marek Jan 16, 2021 / 10:16 pm

      Just checked: England have played fourteen series in India and won four of them, never by more than two tests (and one of those was in 1933). India on the other hand have won two of the last six either 3-0 or 4-0.

      REALLY good luck with that one….


      • dannycricket Jan 16, 2021 / 10:22 pm

        Yeah. As I imply in the post, I can’t see England getting any kind of result in India. If India beat England 4-0, I think they overtake Australia or New Zealand (whoever is in 2nd) to make the final.


      • Marek Jan 16, 2021 / 10:38 pm

        And if my maths is correct, if they draw in Brisbane then 3-0 would do them and if they win in Brisbane victory by two tests would.


        • dannycricket Jan 16, 2021 / 10:45 pm

          Maybe. I’m waiting until there are as few games as possible before I grab my calculator and work it out. I just think, with all of the injuries for India, it will take a huge effort not to lose that one.


        • Marek Jan 16, 2021 / 11:03 pm

          The absolute aim is 505 points for India (or England) and 421 for Australia, which would guarantee a place in the final–although one of them (but not more) could do it with less depending on results. The final can’t be India v England either.


          • dannycricket Jan 16, 2021 / 11:09 pm

            It just gives me a headache since they switched to using win percentage rather than points. Once the two current series are over, it will be a lot simpler.


    • dannycricket Jan 16, 2021 / 10:20 pm

      I think someone said it was a 9% chance. I don’t know whether that was assuming each result was a 50-50 coin toss or assessing the strength of the teams though. Considering England’s record, including not beating Australia at home, that’s more of a chance than I thought.


  3. dArthez Jan 17, 2021 / 5:58 am

    Looks like the Indian tail is fighting for a draw there. Really impressive stuff from Washington Sundar in particular, who had not played a FC game in three years (!). Shardul Thakur is also not known for his batting (FC average of 16). 185/6 looked really good for Australia, now it is 299/6; a lead of just 70 runs left for the Australians.

    This one may well come down to the wire, and given India’s injury woes, that is quite impressive from the tourists to be honest.

    With regards to England:
    What is worrying thus far in this innings, that despite the pitch assistance, the spinners have taken just two wickets from 46 overs (52 if you count Root’s overs as well), with one of the wickets being the nightwatchman. That still might be good enough to win this and the next Test in Sri Lanka, but India will probably be far less obliging.


    • Tom Kerr Jan 17, 2021 / 6:44 am

      I’m only watching the Sri Lanka vs England game in short spells as I’m concentrating on the Aussie vs India test. The whole series has been superb and given India’s injury problems, their fighting performance in the current test has been wonderful to watch. Congratulations to both teams for such an enthralling series, one of the best I’ve watched in years.


    • dlpthomas Jan 17, 2021 / 7:00 am

      Fantastic effort from India especially given all the chat down-under after Adelaide about this being one of Australia’s best ever test bowling line ups. (and it really is a very good bowling line up)


  4. pktroll (@pktroll) Jan 17, 2021 / 8:45 am

    I can’t say that I am very surprised to see England’s spinners struggle and toil. Put it simply they aren’t match winners against competent test batting. In the first innings, Sri Lanka performed like my club team on a day when my club team has about seven designated bowlers available. That said even we wouldn’t have played some of the shots that they did.

    Second innings,Sri Lanka have batted with the application and no little class that you expect to see of a test batting lineup and two average to mediocre test spinners have been shown up as exactly that. Sure, Leach has the reason of hardly having done much bowling at all in over a year as to why he might have struggled but watching him bowl in test cricket before then, it was pretty clear that what there is will mostly be a steady rather than outstanding bowler. Maybe Bess will develop in a couple of years, after all he is still very young, but I am not holding out my hopes. When England were last in Sri Lanka, Ali and Rashid provided far more threat. Yet circumstances have meant both are no longer regular picks for tests.

    Can’t see anything more than a very comfortable defeat in India.


    • Tom Kerr Jan 17, 2021 / 8:59 am

      As I can’t keep up-to-date with day-to-day news about England cricket, could someone explain to me why Rashid has not been considered for the Sri Lanka and India tours? I understand why Ali isn’t playing in the current match, hopefully, he’ll be back for the second test, but surely Rashid is England’s most skillful spin bowler?


      • dannycricket Jan 17, 2021 / 9:25 am

        I think I read that Rashid has essentially retired from red ball cricket due to shoulder issues. A shame, because he took 12 wickets in the last tour of Sri Lanka.


        • Tom Kerr Jan 17, 2021 / 9:59 am

          Thanks for that. After I read your comment I checked out Rashid’s bio on cricinfo and it seems to confirm what you said. That is definitely a shame. Although I suppose there’s a chance he’ll recover, reading between the lines suggest he won’t. I was hoping to see him in the Ashes series next winter alongside a full-strength English pace attack as I suspect he might have done quite well on Aussie pitches, but that looks unlikely now. Oh well, I guess we just have to wait for the next Swann.

          No criticism of Bess and Leach intended, they are perfectly capable bowlers, they just don’t seem to come with that threat of taking a wicket with every ball.


  5. dArthez Jan 17, 2021 / 10:48 am

    If you give Buttler 3 minutes, even he can make a stumping. That was poor from Dilruwan Perera.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tom Kerr Jan 17, 2021 / 11:43 am

    I was watching the latest Big Bash game and returned to watching Sri Lanka vs England and see England have made a tremendous start in chasing 73 runs. 14-3 right now…


    • dArthez Jan 17, 2021 / 11:48 am

      And could have been 15/4 if the fielding punished Bairstow’s sloppy running.

      Still expect England to win comfortably from here.


      • Tom Kerr Jan 17, 2021 / 12:07 pm

        I agree, but with the spinners turning the ball as much as they are, the last thing you ought to do is run out the captain. You defend your wicket at all costs and let the spin give you some extras, as it will. Wait for the odd bad ball and punish it. Do not take risky singles.


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