Sri Lanka v England: 1st Test, 4th Day – Provincial Towns You Jog ‘Round

So. This is my first match report for a bloody long time. Yet today, at times, took me back to around the time I started doing match reports for a humble old cricket blog called How Did We Lose In Adelaide. I confess, when I wasn’t sleeping through the day’s play, I was getting flashbacks to the Sri Lanka test at Headingley in 2014. Mathews at the crease, unfancied tailenders with him, wickets hard to come by.

I’m not going to go into the context of THAT match, because we were living in more emotionally heightened times in terms of the England team, but there is something about Angelo Mathews that sets my senses on edge. He does seem (not sure if the stats bear it out) to play well against England.

The tale of the day was of hard work and attrition. I awoke at 5:00 am and went downstairs to watch the cricket for as long as I could survive. Bess had removed the nightwatchman, Embuldinya, who bunted a ball to Sibley to get England on their way. Thirrimane completed a well deserved and hard earned century, but fell to the new ball when Sam Curran induced an inside edge and Buttler held on to a reasonably difficult chance. Chandimal joined Mathews, who had been extremely watchful when I was watching, and started quite positively. At lunch it was 242 for 4. I thought I’d nab an hour’s sleep……

Fast forward and I wake up and Sri Lanka are 8 down!

Chandimal didn’t last long post lunch. Bess removed him via Joe Root at slip. Chandimal was the key wicket, arguably, but this isn’t quite like the not long passed days when Chandimal at 6 followed the likes of Jayawardene and Sangakkara. The weight of the position may be quite telling on him, for he can be a fine player.

Niroshan Dickwella also added a score in the 20s, but did not go on. Bess removed him, caught behind by Jos Buttler, who while not being in Foakes’s class behind the stumps, has not really let England down in this game. Dickwella had made the vast majority of the partnership, but as parity with England’s total was reached, six wickets had now fallen. Five runs later Shanaka was beaten by a Leach yorker and was bowled, then after another 18 was added, Leach got De Silva to nick to Root, who took an excellent high catch, and with the lead in the 20s, England had their control.

The partnership between Perera and Mathews added 48, but unlike Headingley, Mathews wasn’t scoring at a prodigious clip. The end of the partnership came when, what looked to me a pretty straightforward stumping decision, Perera missed a good Leach ball, but didn’t get into his ground. The 3rd umpire took a lot of time to see if there was any of his foot behind the line, and finally decided there wasn’t.

Mathews tried to farm the strike, but the score didn’t really accelerate at all, and in the end he nicked off to Root at slip from Leach when trying to farm the strike. England were set 74 to win. Simples.

Ha Ha Ha.

Ha Ha.

Ha.

Ooops.

The comparison to Headingley wasn’t over. While we remember the Mathews century, we forget the five wickets that went down that evening. So in a hat tip to nostalgia, Sibley decided to leave a straight one, Crawley tried to be aggressive and nicked off to Mendis, and then Bairstow prodded one into the offside, and calamity ensued as he took a hesitant single, Root bashed into Perera, Dickwella retrieved and threw the stumps down, Root’s bat stuck in the ground (well short) and then fell arse over breast. If it wasn’t so serious, you’d laugh. Well, OK, it was a bit funny. 14 for 3 and your double centurion captain out. Looking good.

Just a few things on the world at large with cricket. Anyone mildly amused that the press are having to do their reporting and writing as we do? At least they get paid to do that. Anyone thinking that hard-pressed, tough economic times, and the need to save costs, that the day of the touring journo is over as they can do 80% of the job (what we do + good journalism) from the comforts of their own living room and a Sky/BT Sport/whoever else subscription. Where would we be if Dean Wilson can’t do “That Is Out” on Twitter from the ground and instead from his chaise lounge? Those good journalism titbits can be easily whatsapped!

I hate cricket with no crowds, and I hate it more with dubbed sound. They haven’t been putting in the dubbed sound from what I am watching, but you can hear the tension and frenetic attitudes without the dubbing as this tense play continues. Sports broadcasters sometimes assume what is wanted when they really don’t have a clue. What this whole nine month (and counting) nightmare has proved is that sport without fans (any fans, even a small crowd brings some reactions) is a corporate nightmare – both in terms of how sport can’t do without the interaction and in terms of how those supporters are treated. Let the paying punters never be abused again. Just remember what has been missed in these past few months.

The Sky at home comms team has largely worked, as far as I can tell. They have gone with a solid team – assume the female commentators are all gainfully employed elsewhere. I can even put up with Bumble, because all I need to remember is a quote from the truly, legendary awful commentary team in Australia – Mark Waugh on this particular occasion – when he said, re Tim Paine “what’s better, a man who scored 70s or a man who scores nought?” (Paine, by the way, has passed 70 just three times in his 56 test innings). I mean, you have to have played hundreds of matches for insight and analysis like that.

Atherton, Nasser and Kumar taking us through that last half hour, with the tension and lunacy of it all were terrific. Treated their audience like adults, decent insight, not too hysterical but in the moment, and most importantly, not talking for the sake of bloody talking.

So England are 38 for 3 going into the final day. The weather forecast is not supposed to be crash hot, but I suppose Galle owes Sri Lanka one after 2007 when England followed on 400 behind and it rained to save them. Yep. I have a long memory, as if you didn’t know that.

Good to be back, and I hope the mojo is returning. Not sure who has Day 5. Good luck to who has. Sad to say with the way work is at the moment, I won’t be getting up at 4ish to watch it. At least, I don’t plan to. But sleep is an elusive beast these days, so I might wander downstairs. Will panic ensue again!