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.
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!
Didn’t Chris volunteer to wake up at 4am tomorrow?
To answer your question on Matthews, he’s been good against a lot of teams. His batting average against England is 45.00, which is less than that against New Zealand (52.43), Pakistan (54.88), Bangladesh (57.00) and Zimbabwe (85.75). His overall Test batting average is 45.36, so technically he’s below par against us.
His batting average being that high surprised me. Considering that he almost always bats at 5 and 6, and the paucity of batting talent in Sri Lanka recently, I assumed it would be somewhat lower.
and, in an interesting comparison to Root, his batting average goes up ten rather than down ten when he’s captain….
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yeah, although batting with Sangakkara and Jayawardena might have helped his average a bit during that period.
Back in 2014, when Sri Lanka won the series, his average was above 50. And who can’t forget that stand between Mathews and Herath in that series?
Sadly, Mathews has been plagued by quite a few injuries. The paucity of batting resources has not helped him either, and neither has the selection instability in Sri Lanka; at one point it was a new captain for every (other) series. That is hardly an environment to thrive in.
His hamstring usually seems to go when he’s bowling if I remember correctly. Not sure why SLC still let him bowl–hopefully Shanaka coming back and doing OK will put an end to that, especially when de Silva’s fit again.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Is it unfair to single out Mark Wood’s 0-70 as particularly uninspiring? I know we’re all keen for “x factor away from the swinging green tops of home”, but a bad bowler is a bad bowler whether he projects it at 75mph or 95mph. Broad was about 78mph throughout and bowled superbly.
Whatever way it goes tonight, and I suspect it’ll be a more benign outcome than we imagine (Eng win by 6 wickets, if I had to proffer a suggestion), it’ll be interesting to see how much rotation there is given the second Test is only on Friday. Tbh I think I’d go with Broad, Anderson plus spinners, if Broad is up to it.
Finally, if England do lose an early wicket tomorrow…should they send Stu in to try and clobber our way to the target as quickly as possible? Scratching around at 2 an over strikes me as counter productive, but a coupla overs of slog sweeps against the spinners and it’s over.
I don’t love Broad BTW.
Glad I didn’t bother last night.
LikeLiked by 1 person
In the meantime, the final test between Australia and India continues to enthrall. The pitch is playing fine, most balls are behaving but the odd one hits a crack and it’s only luck if you miss or nick it. Once again, a great performance by what some might say is India’s 2nd team bowling attack. Siraj fully deserved to pick up 5 wickets and Thakur also deserved the same; he got four.
A fascinating final day awaits although I’m worried that late-day storms might ruin it.
Dobell seems to conclude that this was an encouraging performance. Am I too harsh in looking at the England 1st innings, with hardly anyone making it to double figures, and comparing the Sri Lanka 2nd innings? Ultimately there was a difference in class but England seemed to make it unduly tough
It wasn’t entirely without its positives. Leach and Bess’s bowling improved in the second innings, Lawrence had a good start to his Test career, Jos Buttler’s keeping was good (which surprised us all), and of course Joe Root got a century for the first time in over a year. They also won comfortably in the end after losing the toss, which is historically very important in Sri Lanka. There are a lot of question marks in the team, especially in the top order and bowling, but it could be a lot worse. They did win the game, after all.
Terrific effort by India so far (though it is yet another flat wicket)
It’s flat apart from where the cracks are!
People get excited about cracks but most of the time when a ball hits a crack it does too much and misses the bat by a long way.
True, but the ball misbehaving off the cracks plays on your mind. It’s fine just saying you’re going to ignore that last ball that moved a foot or two offline, but it is always there in the back of your mind and then the straight ball gets you!
Imagine trying to bat at the WACA knowing that the cracks were so big, Tony Grieg has lost his hotel keys down one when doing the pitch report.
I hope England do take notes, and will not proclaim the next 4-0 loss in Australia as a triumph.
What a thrilling last session and an amazing final day for one of the best test series in years. Congratulations to India for pulling off the series win, and congrats to Australia for making this such a compelling and competitive series. It was a privilege to be able to watch every game.
Agreed. Probably the best series in the last 8 years or so.
To win in Australia with so many players missing and doing it under COVID restrictions is incredible. I can’t think of a side who have won a series under harder conditions.
Harder conditions? Maybe not, but that is because Covid is pretty much unprecedented (the only thing that would come close is war breaking out in the middle of a series). Or death of an involved player in the middle of a series, but thankfully I can’t think of an example of that; Philip Hughes met his untimely death as the result of a freak accident in a Sheffield Shield match.
Bangladesh of course barely escaped the Christchurch massacre, but the tour was rightly cancelled after that. Same with the terror attack on the Sri Lanka team in Pakistan a decade ago. Those were obviously correct decisions.
But I can imagine that a subsequent match, even months or years later, could have been extremely hard on the players involved. No one should have to deal with the thought that you might have been killed because you play cricket.
But quality of play, can definitely be argued. England – South Africa (2012), and South Africa – Australia (2014) are probably two prime candidates to consider. And if not that one, South Africa – India (2010) may also be a good candidate.
Crikey – wish I’d bothered last night.
Can anyone explain why it is that the Indian team, young and inexperienced as they are and a lot of whom i imagine play in the IPL, are capable of adapting to test match cricket and gutsing out a final day brilliantly while our players can’t (perhaps with the exception of Stokes)? My guess is that England would have been out before tea in both the 3rd and 4th tests.