Sri Lanka v England – 2nd Test, 3rd Day – I’m More Precise, To The Point I’m Nice

This is a report in two parts – one written 45 minutes before the close, and then, well, you’ll see when I changed the tone a bit. That’s test cricket. Never assume it is going to drift, it has drifted for the previous hour or so. You’d think I’d learn!

It was about fifteen years ago, to get all Ronay on you, that I found myself at Whitgift watching Surrey, I think playing Lancashire. It has been another day when a certain Mark Ramprakash had gorged himself on runs, and some wag, sitting near me uttered the line I remember, and use, to this day. “Ramprakash has carried more passengers this season than London Transport”. If Anderson is the bus network when it comes to the bowling in this test, Joe Root is both the Underground and Southeastern. Eat your heart out Barney!

This test match has emphasised just how really handy it is to have your best player, and since KP was ushered off the scene, Root has been that (yeah, yeah, argue about Stokes, but he just isn’t) in top form. This is seriously brilliant stuff, Cook in India 2012 stuff, where you are surprised he gets into any strife. So far he’s got out trying to hit out with the last man in, and been run out in a moment of supreme idiocy in the abbreviated run chase last time out. He’s look reasonably untroubled (as I start writing this a difficult chance at slip has just been missed) while accumulating, all in the hope someone might stay with him in this mission. He did have a fluent partnership with Buttler, and a dogged one with the impressive Bess (seriously like this guy’s temperament) to steer England out of imminent peril, although disaster looms in all directions. Such is the joy of test cricket.

In that sense the game’s position hasn’t really changed for the action of today. England started it in a position to post a lead, or to subside, and to dominate with a strategic partnership or have a weak (on paper) tail subside quickly. It sort of still sits like that. England lost Bairstow early, Lawrence didn’t last long either, both falling to Embuldeniya, who looks impressive but also ought to be asking questions about worktime directives and overtime with the bowling load he has had to carry. Buttler came in to steady the ship, while Root continued to his 19th test century in his 99th test.

While never totally dominating, it wasn’t a minefield either and both players took England away from the rocky shore of a 200 deficit to calmer waters. Buttler passed his 50, and of course the commentators started on the “how great is he doing now” schtick before our talented one reverse swept a shot straight into his boot and straight up in the air giving Ramesh Mendis his first test wicket. I watched the replays – front on nailed Buttler, but the side on made it look, to me, that it hit the ground then hit the boot, which it didn’t. It was an optical illusion. It was given out out out by the 3rd umpire, and England looked vulnerable. 229 for 5 with a reasonably long tail. A 97 partnership that threatened a lot more, and in truth, we probably needed it.

I muttered to myself “I’ll take a deficit of 70 from here”.

Curran hung about for a while, coinciding with my walk of Teddy over the park to beat the snow. He fell to Embuldeniya, nicking the new ball to slip, and the deficit was still 129. Enter Dom Bess! I remember back when he made his debut at Lord’s that he got to 50 and then appeared sick to be out. He looked similarly peeved at Headingley. I like that. As Root, understandably, visibly tired, playing a few rash shots, looking desperate to reach the close, Bess was solid and kept his wicket.

But as time expired and we passed 5pm local time, and he nicked one to gully. The soft signal was out. The replay made it look, as always, as if it hit the grass then the hand. This was the only shot. Not out. But not to be denied Embuldeniya induced the edge and Bess was nabbed at slip. A vital 81 partnership was broken. Bess went for 32.

Mark Wood went down with all guns blazing, and brains held in suspension when he nicked to slip. Thirimanne pouching his 5th. But in the last over of the day, Root perished. 186. Run out as he hit the ball to short leg, who threw the stumps down before a knackered Root could make his ground. The last half hour saw England lose 3 wickets for 6 runs, and finish the day at 339 for 9.

What can you say about that Joe Root innings? Let’s put some things in perspective, this isn’t a vintage Sri Lankan attack. But this is gruelling work, no England player had made more than 151 in a test innings in Sri Lanka prior to this tour. The 228 was good, very good, but this was better. The 228 rammed home a massive advantage the bowlers had given him. This innings kept England within touching distance. A deficit of 44 is not negligible, but it is not large either. Root struggled at the end. He is our captain, and isn’t new to the role when some skippers seemed to get a boost – he’s very much in the worn down by the role zone others encountered. He looked in very little trouble until he got massively tired and limbs and muscles seized up. To quote the song that the lyric in the title is from, he felt like he was going to sweat until he bleeds. This was an amazing physical and mental effort. I was privileged to watch a fair bit of it.

So having prepared a “game has not changed that much in context” piece from 45 minutes out, now it has a little. Sri Lanka are probably going to have a small lead, worth around 45 minutes of batting time. The third innings will be interesting here, as the home team have to make the running. They will need to take risks to set the game up to give them enough time. The 4th innings is not usually England’s friend when batting out to draw, but maybe more interesting given a teasing total to chase. Embuldiniya will be a major obstacle, turning it away from our predominantly right handed batting order. His 7 wickets in just his third test bodes well (let’s hope he doesn’t become a T20 dart thrower). The wicket will deteriorate. It’s the beauty of test cricket, and why I love it.

Needless to say, England have won a test match and Ed Smith can come out and do a victory lap masquerading as high-performance selection. I might go into this more after this test match, but how can one argue with logic like this…

 “We’re not traveling by boat, we don’t go away five months at a time. We need to be more nimble. And if we need to break a tour up so we can get people in and get people out for their good and for England’s good, we’ll do it.”

I mean, you need a Double First to work that one out.

Looking forward to Day 4 which I will not be able to watch as I have to work. Enjoy!

Little Stattage… Last 186 in test matches was made at Galle. Karunaratne in 2015 against the West Indies. 186 is the joint 501st highest score in test history. Two other players have made 186 for England. Paul Collingwood at Lord’s in 2006 (I was there when he brought up his ton) and Kevin Pietersen in Mumbai.

Other Postscripts – 5 overs short. All that spin. Hmmm. We’ve been there before. Also, never met many opposition keepers I liked, they mostly spoke nonsense and bored me senseless. As Michael Vaughan might put it, just saying (with a hashtag).


25 thoughts on “Sri Lanka v England – 2nd Test, 3rd Day – I’m More Precise, To The Point I’m Nice

  1. dlpthomas Jan 24, 2021 / 12:56 pm

    Root may well be England’s best player but he really needs to start converting those centuries into double centuries.


    • dannycricket Jan 24, 2021 / 1:03 pm

      If India play more than one wicket-taking bowler (unlike Sri Lanka), he might need to convert those double centuries into triple centuries.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mark Jan 24, 2021 / 1:04 pm

    When was the last time England traveled anywhere by boat?

    Keith Miller was flying Spitfires and Hurricanes against The Luftwaffe during the second world war. Even Fred Truman knew what an aeroplane was. When was the last time a tour lasted five months? Nasser has been banging on about “horses for courses” for decades.

    I know what he means, but quit trying to prevent you have invented the wheel Mr Smith.

    Otherwise some people might cynically think he is deliberately over complicating matters to hide his quirky selections. Are Spinners now selected because they don’t mind being in life boats?

    The real reason is that there are so many tours and different formats that he has to pick and mix. He has no choice. It has nothing to do with travelling, and everything to do with revenue. The days when KP wanted to play IPL, and was castigated for it seems a long way off. Its standard ECB policy these days.


    • Marek Jan 24, 2021 / 1:34 pm

      I read Smith’s comment as starting from the same point as the first part of yours: planes have been around for a long time, so we don’t have to make once-and-for-all selections for tours as if the replacements have to sit on a boat for six weeks. After all, sides are not selected for a whole home test series at once, unless it’a two-test series.

      I think you’re ignoring one extra problem on current tours as well–that they’re security-bubbled. So there’s an element of stress and not going mad which makes it virtually imperative to rest anyone who’s either a multi-format player or has an IPL contract during the tour.

      For the consequences of ignoring this, we only need to look at the apology of a WI team currently in Bangladesh (who, probably not coincidentally, are the first team to do three Covid-era tours).


      • dArthez Jan 24, 2021 / 3:57 pm

        The problem is that if you give someone a couple of weeks off, they’ll probably need to be in quarantine for a couple of weeks before they have become eligible to play. So if you give someone the first two Tests off in India, you’re giving them 1 week holiday, and 2 weeks quarantine, rather than the imagined 3 weeks off. All this will depend on protocols and all that.

        Obviously bubble fatigue is a real thing. And it has to be done very carefully, but with compressed touring schedules the powers that be don’t give players much of a break.


  3. man in a barrel Jan 24, 2021 / 6:46 pm

    Doing this without reference to Wisden but I think it was Len Hutton in the West Indies in 1953 – 54(?), who basically decided that if his team were going to win, he would have to do it off his own bat. He did it. His team included May, Graveney, Compton, I think, but he did it with successive double centuries in 2 Tests. Root is getting to that sort of level. Almost worthy of the Chef 😁


    • dArthez Jan 25, 2021 / 7:36 am

      Think the West Indies were a bit stronger than Sri Lanka.

      To call this abysmal batting, is probably an insult to abysmal batting. Sri Lanka seem to have been desperate all day to throw away the advantage they had, and it is unreasonably to expect Embuldeniya to somehow bowl them singlehandedly to victory with just 120 runs to defend.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dArthez Jan 25, 2021 / 7:48 am

        Okay, it will be more than 120, but only because Embuldeniya topscored with the bat.


  4. Marek Jan 24, 2021 / 7:02 pm

    Are you saying that you don’t much care for that gentlemanly Tim Paine, LCL? How could you….?


    • LordCanisLupus Jan 24, 2021 / 7:11 pm

      Purely in my playing experience of dreadful club cricket, Marek. Purely that!

      My particular favourite was one who welcomed me to the crease with “oh, hello, it’s that cheating fat c***”. Nice man.


  5. pktroll (@pktroll) Jan 24, 2021 / 8:25 pm

    For all Anderson and Root’s brilliance, Sri Lanka even stumbling to a lead of around 200 should make them firm favourites to win this game. The pitch did start to deteriorate and I don’t believe Bess and Leach have it in them to make enough of it so that England won’t have too much of a chase come last innings. Of course, I could be proven wrong and Sri Lanka may yet panic with a win in their sites, but that is the way I see it right now.


    • dArthez Jan 25, 2021 / 6:14 am

      They look pretty decent when the opposition is batting like a bunch of drunk morons.


      • pktroll (@pktroll) Jan 25, 2021 / 12:38 pm

        I might have not batted worse than some of them when I’ve gone out to bat after having a few beers, and I’m no good at batting anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. dArthez Jan 25, 2021 / 6:12 am

    Not sure what is worse / more senseless. Sri Lanka’s batting in the first innings of the first Test, or Sri Lanka’s batting in the second innings of this Test.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Tom Kerr Jan 25, 2021 / 9:04 am

    That’s a first for me. Bairstow hits a six and deposits the ball into a bucket of paint and the ball needs changing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. man in a barrel Jan 25, 2021 / 10:01 am

    I thought cricket was a game played by 22 people? There are only about 4 people playing this series


    • dArthez Jan 25, 2021 / 11:32 am

      That is quite generous to the hosts. Mind you the two injuries to Karunaratne and de Silva (both sustained in South Africa) did not help them. I’d sack the whole batting unit, and next time send out the U-19 side. They can’t be worse than this lot.

      Embuldeniya has taken what over half the wickets from England at a third of the cost of his colleagues?


    • Marek Jan 25, 2021 / 8:18 pm

      I’m not convinced that would help, d’A–and SL’s batting problems aren’t the ones that are obvious from today in terms of who to drop.

      Mathews has played well in this series (as he usually does), Fernando’s match may well reflect nothing more than that he’s rusty and coming back from injury, and Chandimal has a much better average than most current Sri Lankans (his test average is not far off Bhanuka’s f-c average, for example)–although he probably needs a kick up the backside and to be told to play like a captain!

      The obvious issues to me are that only one of Perera and Dickwella should be playing, probably the latter and probably at no. 7 given that they almost never score centuries against top sides (which unfortunately then unbalances the team); and that Thirimanne’s hundred doesn’t eradicate the fact that he’s played test cricket for a decade and averages not much more than Stuart Broad: if they want to look at anything other than the very short-term, surely they have to be brave enough to replace him with Nissanka in the WI.


  9. Tom Kerr Jan 25, 2021 / 10:07 am

    I really like the way England have approached batting in the 4th innings – take a run whenever you can get it.


    • Miami Dad's Six Jan 25, 2021 / 12:34 pm

      It was negligent from Sri Lanka to have so many boundary riders through the chase. I don’t mind covering the sweeps either side of the wicket, but long on and long off?


  10. Tom Kerr Jan 25, 2021 / 10:15 am

    Oh crap.Root is out.


  11. Miami Dad's Six Jan 25, 2021 / 12:01 pm

    What a terrible day’s cricket from Sri Lanka, Embuldeniya aside.

    Well done to Sibley. There was a fair amount of sneering at him from the TMS lot about how he was a bunny for the spinners with a new ball and even though Crawley was getting out at a similar rate, the types of dismissals for Crawley were deemed somehow more acceptable. Crawley is of course famous for playing on tour in India twice as a teenager which really “helped him against spin”. One of the pair average 40 in First Class cricket, the other averages 34. One of them worked a method which helped win the Test match…

    Also, Buttler’s had a pretty good series. I wouldn’t have picked him, and now I wouldn’t drop him for the first test in India. Bairstow too. Oh wait.


    • dannycricket Jan 25, 2021 / 12:03 pm

      Buttler’s in the first Test, I think. Not the second, third or fourth though.


  12. Mark Jan 25, 2021 / 1:01 pm

    However bad England are, they often seem to rely in these modern times on other teams being even worse. The standard of Test cricket continues to fall alarmingly among so many countries.

    Will this work in India or Australia? I doubt it. But if Root and some of the old war horses perform well they may be competitive. It was like the last Ashes down under. They needed Cook and Root to perform in the first three test matches to have any chance. They didn’t….. and England were stuffed. The media’s fawning of Cooks match saving innings in the forth test rather missed the point.

    Sorry to be a grinch but I have absolutely no interest in the test championship. A pointless and silly concept to hide the fact that there are fewer and fewer close series. That’s why the recent Aus vs India one was so welcome. It would have made a much better Test Championship finale.


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