SL vs England: 2nd Test, day one

A day of hard work for the bowlers, and something of a grind throughout. Shorn of the first Test scenario where the home team had an unadulterated nightmare, we had instead one of setting up the game and providing what should be a more interesting day two. It’s always a truth of Test cricket that the first day of an even encounter leaves everyone unsure of what to make of it, it’s both the beauty of the format and the bane of anyone trying to say anything vaguely interesting about it. But that shouldn’t be a negative, for a Test match unfolds, and the unspectacular setting up lends more to the intrigue. At the end of day one in the first Test, we had a fair idea of the likely outcome. At the end of this day, we don’t have much idea. What a pleasure that is.

What might be said is that in these first two Tests Anderson and Broad have shown that their nous in Sri Lankan conditions has been quite evident, and perhaps is a good sign for the Indian tour. Bowlers with exceptional longevity often seem to develop in unfriendly cricketing environments, and while it’s far too much to ask of bowlers of this nature to run through an opponent, the skill on show can’t be denied by any but the most churlish. There is something special about the wily old fox coming towards the end of a career trying to outwit the batsmen, something that only Test cricket can really provide. As a child, the same experience was had watching the great Richard Hadlee, running in and bowling at a modest pace but it being abundantly clear the batsmen – the English batsmen at least – were struggling to cope with him. The records of Anderson and Broad overseas have been questioned often enough, and there’s no doubt that they are more effective at home, though this in itself isn’t a particularly unusual thing. But places like India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are never going to be their ideal conditions, any more than a spinner finds England their favourite haunt. A few do manage it, and that’s why they are amongst the very greatest of a given era, but it should not be a stick with which to beat a player that they aren’t quite the threat in some countries as they are in their own. With the notable exception of in India, over the last five years Anderson has a pretty strong record away from home, an indication of how he’s developed in the latter part of his career. Today, he was exceptional and led the attack throughout. As for the England spinners, they were much improved from the first Test, albeit without the same level of success. Both had pointed to a lack of match practice as a reason for their inability to maintain the degree of control expected of them last week, and while people may or may not accept that, there is a case that they should be granted the same degree of understanding that a batsman without many games should be.

Angelo Mathews is one of those players who seems to fly below the radar when discussions are had about the leading batsmen, but his record is good enough to be exceeded by only a handful over the last decade. It sometimes seems as though he particularly enjoys scoring runs against England, but the statistics suggest as much as anything a degree of consistency in all conditions. Either way, he was the centrepiece of a vastly improved batting display that leaves Sri Lanka with at least the potential for getting into a strong position. Since it’s so much better than the first Test, that’s all that was required at this stage. Dinesh Chandimal provided ample support, but the lower order are going to need to contribute to turn a reasonable position into a good one.

The media coverage is providing an interesting insight into both the shortcomings and merits of the normal cricketing circus. The commentary works well generally, though watching television pictures removes the wider context of seeing what is going on – Jonathan Agnew’s mildly embarrassing episode of commentating on a replay being one instance, Ian Ward not realising an umpire had given a player out another. But while commentators being at home is palpably obvious at times, in general it is acceptable. It’s not quite as unusual as might be thought, there are broadcasters in other sports who are happy to allow the listener to believe the commentator is in the stands when in reality they are in a broom cupboard watching a television feed. What’s notable in that instance, and perhaps it can only be the case with radio, is that few are aware of the fact.

Where there might be an issue for the media in future is with the written press. Unable to go to Sri Lanka, they too are confined to watching the television, and then writing up what they had seen. For a newspaper, the considerable savings on flights and hotels must offer a temptation to make the current enforced policy an optional one. There will undoubtedly be howls of protest that not being present will deny them access to the players or to question, and that’s true enough. But there are local options and pool feeds of which to make use. The damn virus is going to make a lot of changes for the future, and there must be a possibility that this will be one.


16 thoughts on “SL vs England: 2nd Test, day one

  1. Miami Dad's Six Jan 22, 2021 / 12:32 pm

    It’s still quite in the balance, given that an early wicket of Mathews tomorrow morning could easily see a sub 300 total. Wood got quite a lot of praise and did manage to bag the wicket of Chandimal, but the stats again bear out a poor day for him and Curran. There seemed far less turn for Leach and Bess, and bar Anderson it was apparent that England didn’t really have anyone keeping control on proceedings at times. You’d think that in India they’ve got to pick two of Broad, Anderson and Archer, with Stokes as the third seamer.

    Agnew not knowing it was a replay was quite funny and I was actually listening to TMS at the time, but it also struck me that aside from his commentary gigs, he must simply not watch any cricket at all. I can’t think that I’ve ever made the error of thinking a replay is live action.


    • thelegglance Jan 22, 2021 / 12:35 pm

      I guess on the Agnew bit, when we watch we don’t have to talk about whatever is in front of us all the time. When at a ground he can look around and chatter – watching a TV screen and having to talk, I can understand how it could happen.


      • Miami Dad's Six Jan 23, 2021 / 7:55 am

        That’s very sympathetic of you.

        I for one think Aggers is merely in it for the jolly old boys chat, and knows little about cricket off these shores.


  2. dannycricket Jan 22, 2021 / 12:33 pm

    I wonder what commentary from home might do for radio broadcast rights. As the Guerilla Cricket/Test Match Sofa example shows, there’s not really anything cricket boards can do if someone wanted to do live radio commentary from TV pictures without paying, so long as they don’t use the sound or pictures from Sky. Now companies can see they don’t even really need an expensive studio, and everyone can do it from home. What’s to stop Talksport, or Times Radio, or LBC doing unlicensed commentary?


    • thelegglance Jan 22, 2021 / 12:35 pm

      In their case, I would imagine that what stops them is that no governing body will talk to them again.


      • dannycricket Jan 22, 2021 / 1:33 pm

        So you get dirt cheap sports coverage for 7 hours a day AND a guarantee the ECB will never talk to you again? Win-win!


  3. Mark Jan 22, 2021 / 5:34 pm

    I can’t imagine it’s a great loss to the fan having entitled pompous cricket writers not being able to interview the players. It’s very rare that any utterance in post or pre match interviews amounts to anything.

    I certainly don’t miss the likes of Selvey writing in some crypto code that he knows things that you don’t know. I found the endless pieces by tame journalists about the inner workings of a previous England captains mind rather tedious. You knew said reporter had had a cosy dinner with said player, and was allowing him to settle a few scores. In some cases it seemed the only way other players in the team found out if the captain liked them.

    inevitably it lead to the journalist not doing a proper job as they enjoyed their matey relationship with certain players, and hoped for more access and scoops. Anyway, the players can always send them an email these days. There goes the expense account perk.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dannycricket Jan 22, 2021 / 8:52 pm

      If newspapers are getting 90% of their regular coverage for 50% of the cost (no expenses for hotels and food, for a start), why wouldn’t they keep that up afterwards? Especially the publications whose readership tends not to have a huge affinity with cricket.


      • Mark Jan 22, 2021 / 9:23 pm

        I think it’s going to to be one of the consequences of lock down in the long run Danny for many professions. Institutions, public and private are going to be questioning if they really need certain personnel in the future. Jobs that seemed essential may no longer be so well regarded….

        “Do we really need to send someone half way round the world to be somewhere?” That knocks into the travel and hospitality industry. Be it journalists filing copy from in front of a TV screen or office workers sitting at home with a laptop.


        • thelegglance Jan 22, 2021 / 9:25 pm

          I can categorically assure you Mark that us in the travel industry couldn’t give the remotest shits whether it is anywhere near what it used to be in the next few years, we just desperately need it to be better than 2020.


          • Mark Jan 22, 2021 / 10:01 pm



  4. dArthez Jan 23, 2021 / 8:27 am

    England may be trying to take all 10 wickets with pace. Good performance from Jimmy, but little support.

    Sri Lanka will probably end up with 370-ish, and they won’t be too unhappy with that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Miami Dad's Six Jan 23, 2021 / 9:13 am

      It’ll be really tough from here for England to build any kind of big lead. We’ve not got form for scores above 450. The pitch does look a belter, mind.

      Dickwella threw a ton away earlier.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dArthez Jan 23, 2021 / 10:07 am

        It took only three overs of spin for Sri Lanka to get the first wicket. Sibley’s struggles cut short.

        Wonder if Keaton Jennings is on standby for India …

        Even if England do get 450 (which is not exactly given), it could still be a tricky fourth innings chase on the cards.


    • Tom Kerr Jan 23, 2021 / 11:54 am

      I would argue that it wasn’t a good performance by Anderson, but an exceptional one. Yes, a couple of wickets were gifted (K. Perera, what were you thinking?), but for a seam bowler to have figures of 29-13-40-6 in Sri Lanka and on one hell of a placid pitch is damn impressive.


  5. Tom Kerr Jan 23, 2021 / 10:15 am

    Another tremendous start by England’s openers. Roll on India…


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