108th over: Sri Lanka 271-5 (Mathews 37, Dickwella 21) Root turns to himself, which tells you that England have a problem: they don’t have Ben Stokes. If these two can take Sri Lanka to 50 or so ahead, England will find themselves chasing something nasty.
107th over: Sri Lanka 268-5 (Mathews 35, Dickwella 20) Wood stays around to Dickwella, pursuing the novel tactic of seeking to hit the stumps; Bumble must’ve had a word. He tries a wider one … an 81mph off-spinner … and we’ve got that situation where Dickwella knows he’s trying to persuade the drive, but because he knows he’s trying to persuade the drive it’s alright for him to drive … and he misses, with meat and edge. Maiden.
106th over: Sri Lanka 268-5 (Mathews 35, Dickwella 20) Crawley is in at short leg – an unusual position for someone as long as he – and after three dots, there’s an appeal when Mathews misses with a reverse sweep; the umpire rejects it with all the disdain demanded by a ball pitching well outside leg. Mathews then comes down the track … to boot the ball away. Er, ok then. That reminded me a little of Good when he got out handling the ball – later that week, I was batting in my under 13s game and top-edged an attempted pull; as the fielder ran in for the dolly, I elbowed the ball into the ground; anger ensued. Maiden.
105th over: Sri Lanka 268-5 (Mathews 35, Dickwella 20) Wood goes around to Dickwella, and if there’s going to be any short stuff this is the time. In the middle of the over, England arrange the field to this effect, but it was a trick – a full cutter beats the outside edge! Then after five dots, Bess misfields at point and they run two; the lead is now just 18 and that’s drinks.
104th over: Sri Lanka 266-5 (Mathews 35, Dickwella 18) Another Bess over, one from it; the highlight is its penultimate ball, sent down a little quicker to force Mathews back, and he edges onto his pad.
“Rather a drab morning in Naples but with snow on Vesuvius to make amends,” brags Colum Fordham. “Really interesting situation and England clearly in the driving seat but Anegelo Mathews and Dickwella could conjure up a lead of sorts.
Mathews is so resilient and key to Sri Lanka. A few years ago I went up to play cricket with my sons in the former royal park of Capodimonte. Lots of Sri Lankans flock there on Sundays to play cricket and elle, a sort of crazy baseball. A young Sri Lankan teenager came over and asked if he could play. He was very good and said he was on holiday in Naples with relatives and that Angelo Mathews was his cricket coach back in Colombo. He did very good imitations of international bowlers including mystery spinner Sunil Narine, the kind of bowler England need.
Having just sung Mathew’s praises, he goes and plays a ridiculous reverse sweep to Bess.”
A friend of mine played against Mathews in Jewish cricket, I forget how and why. He made a few as you might imagine.
102nd over: Sri Lanka 265-5 (Mathews 35, Dickwella 17) It’s amazing how often we hear this, but when Wood replaces Broad, Bumble asks that he bowl fuller, a refrain of Broad’s mid-career semi-stasis. Apparently it brings bowled and lb into play; who knew? Maiden, but of the less threatening variety.
“Well, it’s getting a bit edgy isn’t it?” tweets Guy Hornsby. “England are still in front but they need wickets and control and they can’t seem to get both. Broad has been exceptional again but I worry this spin attack will get picked off by India. Mo and Jimmy will surely be back.”
Agreed on all counts, with the added lament that Root doesn’t enjoy Adil Rashid a bit more. I’m not having that Bess and Leach are in the same postcode as him.
102nd over: Sri Lanka 265-5 (Mathews 35, Dickwella 17) Looking at the weather forecast, at least one site reckons no rain until the day is long done, so our only enemy is the light; that’s decent. Meantime, a misfield from Sibley Dom Dom allows Dickwella a single, and three more follow; this is growing into a very nifty partnership.
101st over: Sri Lanka 261-5 (Mathews 33, Dickwella 15) This is Broad’s fifth over, about as many as can be managed when it’s this hot and humid. And he sends down four sixths of a fifth consecutive maiden before Dickwella ruins his spell with a nurdle into the on side for one.
“With Broad seemingly, maturing as a bowler and reaching that age where a fast bowler uses his head nearly as much as his body,” says Phil Withall, “can we reasonably expect him to surpass Anderson’s record at some point in the next few years? They have similar strike rates and with him being four years younger it seems a fair assumption.”
I was just thinking about this. There are more rivals for his position, so he’ll likely be rotated more than Anderson was, but he’s an absolute champion and an absolute monster, so nothing he does would surprise me.
100th over: Sri Lanka 260-5 (Mathews 33, Dickwella 13) If Bess can hold down this end England have scope at the other, and after conceding one from his first five balls Mathews attempts a reverse-sweep and misses! He avoids being bowled by the width of a watchmaker’s nasal hair. Broad will give it one more.
“A good friend of mine came up with a way of defeating earworms,’ emails Pete Salmon. “When you have one, sing ‘Lisa it’s your birthday’ from the Simpsons. Within minutes you forget the earworm and the Lisa song. This actually works!”
This is my earworm of that last few weeks.
99th over: Sri Lanka 259-5 (Mathews 33, Dickwella 14) This might be the time to ask Broad to force things, especially if he’s not playing in the second Test. There won’t be too many to come after this and this might be it, but England badly need one more wicket and in comms Nasser says if he was captain he’d be pleading for one more. Because his leadership style was very much one of supplication, as all who played for him will confirn,. Anyway, Broad beats Mathews with his penultimate delivery, the ball clipping the pad on its way through; naturally there’s an appeal, but as a matter of principle more than anything; it was missing high and side.
“Dickwella and Bess?” wonders John Starbuck. “You couldn’t get much more Dickens than that, could you? Could you?”
98th over: Sri Lanka 258-5 (Mathews 32, Dickwella 13) I think both sets of players will recognise this as a crucial passage of play; England don’t have spinners likely to run through, so Bess in his best moment of the match plus Broad being Broad, while the ball’s hard, is likely to be as demanding as it gets. And Bess finds some significant grip in beating Matthews on the retreat; there’s a strangulated appeal, but I think there was bat in it.
97th over: Sri Lanka 257-5 (Mathews 32, Dickwella 12) Another useful over from Broad, who beats Mathews with more bounce and away movement off the pitch, incited via fingers sliding down the side of the ball. He is so good, and England could really do with him getting into a temper. Maiden, and this is getting intense.
“Morning from Side Turkey,’ says I Wilson. “Weather has turned a bit nasty today here thunderstorms and heavy winds and rain. I still believe Anderson would have made a difference with his repertoire of ball movement both ways, as you say Wood is bowling length which to batsmen of Sri Lanka’s quality is just cannon fodder and Leach is also expensive, we are chipping away but possibly still see a lead 150+ to deal with to win the game.”
I can see why they picked Wood – a little extra pace can be helpful, especially if it’s reversing – but yes, Anderson would be handy here. The real problem, though, is the absence of Stokes who I’m sure would’ve personalitied at least one breakthrough. .
96th over: Sri Lanka 257-5 (Mathews 32, Dickwella 12) Bess is into this spell now, opening his over with three dots, and of course as I type that Dickwella gets down on one knee to absolutely cleanse him down to long on for four. They note in commentary that Bess won’t overly mind that because it’s a risk and he goes again next ball, top-edging … just over Bairstow on the 45, well it’s just over Bairstow on the 45. Talking of earworms and all that. They run three, and a single follows.
95th over: Sri Lanka 245-5 (Mathews 32, Dickwella 1) Avsummadat! Broad finds some lift and shape – I say finds, menaces is probably a better verb – the ball leaving the beating Mathews. He thinks about appealing for a moral wicket, but settles for sending down a maiden. It really is incredible how good he still is, and how significantly he’s still improving. I look forward to his interview after he’s left out of the next Test.
“Just catching up on the day’s events,” says Kim Thonger. “Read the scorecard, as far as Fernando and then the ABBA song popped into my head and now I can’t shake the earworm or think about anything else. Do any of the OBO amateur sports psychologists have any tricks for clearing the mind?”
I certainly do. You’re welcome.
94th over: Sri Lanka 249-5 (Mathews 32, Dickwella 5) Thanks Tim. Bess has another twirl at Dickwella, who hoists him over the leg for two, then comes down the track to create a full toss, turning it away for two more. This is better from Bess, who had a taxing morning.
93rd over: Sri Lanka 245-5 (Mathews 32, Dickwella 1) At the other end it’s Broad, who was denied the new ball earlier, and surely came close to giving an aggrieved interview during the lunch break. He starts, inevitably, with a maiden. Time for a change here too: I’m taking my floppy hat and handing over to Daniel Harris, to bring some spark to the afternoon’s play. Thanks for your company.
92nd over: Sri Lanka 245-5 (Mathews 32, Dickwella 1) Credit to Root, not just for a sharp catch, but for bringing on Bess, who now has seven wickets in the match and may be eyeing a rare feat: a jammy ten-for.
Wicket! Chandimal c Root b Bess 20 (SL 243-5)
Instant impact! Bess’s arm ball draws Chandimal forward and the nick just carries to Joe Root at slip. Sri Lanka are 43 behind with half their wickets gone.
The players are back out there after lunch and the ball is in the hands of Dom Bess, who just needs to make sure he doesn’t keep following a good ball with a gimme.
Meanwhile, in Brisbane, India have been bowled out for 336, only 33 behind. Their last four wickets added a feisty 150. There’s rain forecast and the draw is the favourite, which would mean a shared series, but with David Warner out of form, Australia just might have a collapse in them. You can follow that game here with Scott Heinrich.
Lunch: honours even
91st over: Sri Lanka 242-4 (Mathews 30, Chandimal 20) Leach delivers a beauty, looping, turning and kicking. Chandimal manages to miss it, and Buttler takes it with the sort of aplomb you associate with Ben Foakes. And that’s lunch, with honours even. England have taken two wickets, including the adhesive Thirimanne. But the other was only the nightwatchman, so Sri Lanka still have senior batsmen to dig them out of their hole, and Mathews and Chandimal have gone about the job with calm intent.
With England’s lead down to 44, Joe Root is being conservative with his fields, if not with his bowling changes. He’s used seven bowlers, three of them off-spinners, but only Sam Curran, with his waspish medium pace, has offered much threat. It’s been intriguing stuff. See you in half an hour.
90th over: Sri Lanka 241-4 (Mathews 29, Chandimal 20) A couple more to Chandimal. steering past gully. Wood is bowling with his usual pace and heart, but he’s mostly bowling length, which is Broad’s job. On this slow surface, Wood might be better off mixing bouncers and yorkers – chin music and toe balls. Easier said than done, of course.
89th over: Sri Lanka 239-4 (Mathews 29, Chandimal 18) And now back comes Leach, replacing Curran, and managing a maiden to Mathews. But no breakthrough, which is what England need before the ball goes soft.
88th over: Sri Lanka 239-4 (Mathews 29, Chandimal 18) Back comes Wood and Chandimal responds with more of his controlled uppishness, going over cover this time.
87th over: Sri Lanka 234-4 (Mathews 28, Chandimal 14) Curran keeps Mathews quiet until the last ball, which is guided for three. The deficit is down to 52. Meanwhile, in Brisbane, a thrilling partnership has just come to an end as Indian’s fearless young understudies stand up to Australia’s pace aces. If that doesn’t whet the appetite for the Ashes, and for England’s two meetings with India beforehand, I don’t know what will.
Here’s Brian Withington. “Shocked to see the chewy Malbec-munching Mac Millings sloping off to bed without so much as an amusing team list to leave us chuckling over – for shame, sir.” Ha. “On other fronts, is Stuart Broad ticking enough yet?” Hard to say, but here’s Wood again.
86th over: Sri Lanka 231-4 (Mathews 25, Chandimal 14) Another surprise change of bowling as Wood is taken off and his replacement is not Broad but Leach. As usual in this match, he is three parts tidy, one part sloppy, although the inevitable short ball goes for just a single.
85th over: Sri Lanka 226-4 (Mathews 23, Chandimal 11) It’s Mathews’ turn to edge Curran, but he keeps it down and picks up two. As long as he stays in, Sri Lanka have a chance of turning the tables. Chandimal gets a nick too, also harmless, and trickling away for four. And then Curran finds some lift – that’s Wood’s job – and beats the bat. Curran now has two for 34 from ten overs, the only wickets to fall to seam in this innings. What a competitor he is.
84th over: Sri Lanka 219-4 (Mathews 20, Chandimal 7) Chandimal looks up for the fight. He cuts Wood, uppishly but deliberately, over the slips, and then plays tip-and-run with a push into the covers.
83rd over: Sri Lanka 212-4 (Mathews 18, Chandimal 2) The stand-in captain, Dinesh Chandimal, joins the former captain, Mathews. He gets forward to Curran and opens the face to open his account. They have work to do: Sri Lanka are, in effect, minus 74 for four.
Wicket! Thirimanne c Buttler b Curran 111 (SL 210-4)
Gone at last! Curran bowls an inswinger to the left-hander and Thirimanne gets an inside edge, well held by Buttler. Curran’s gift for making things happen strikes again, and that’s the end of a very fine innings.
82nd over: Sri Lanka 210-3 (Thirimanne 111, Mathews 18) Wood starts by getting some swing. That’s Curran’s job! He’s bowling to Mathews, at 89mph, and there’s still nobody at bat-pad – which helps him get a maiden, when it’s surely more important to get a wicket.
81st over: Sri Lanka 210-3 (Thirimanne 111, Mathews 18) After bringing on Lawrence, Root is still feeling funky: he’s going to give the new ball to Sam Curran and Mark Wood, not Stuart Broad – perhaps in a bid to get Broad riled up, in a miniature replay of the start of last summer. Curran begins with a maiden to Thirimanne.
80th over: Sri Lanka 210-3 (Thirimanne 111, Mathews 18) The last over with the old ball (I presume) goes to Leach, who keeps it tight enough, conceding a single to each batsman.
“Dearest Tim,” says Mac Millings, sounding like my mum writing a letter, “I may have had a couple of glasses of Malbec too many, but as a citizen of the United States, ‘He may be surprised, but he’s not remotely bothered’ (68th over) is both the exact opposite of how I felt on January 6th, and also the perfect calming sentiment with which I now go to bed. Goodnight, everyone.” Goodnight Mac, and thanks for giving us food for thought.
79th over: Sri Lanka 208-3 (Thirimanne 110, Mathews 17) Lawrence is given a second over as England await the new ball. He’s coming round the wicket, with three men round the bat for Mathews and just the slip for Thirimanne. And Lawrence bowls a ripper! Pitching on a length on off, turning, spitting, lifting – far too good to take the edge of Thirimanne’s bat. Then, with a touch of bathos, Lawrence bowls a no-ball, to bring up the fifty partnership.
78th over: Sri Lanka 206-3 (Thirimanne 110, Mathews 16) Leach continues, flying the flag for orthodoxy, and draws a nick out of Mathews which goes to the right of slip. There’s no gully. The commentators are saying that’s because the bowlers haven’t been consistent enough – but it’s also because Root hasn’t placed much faith in them. His field for Leach here is less attacking than his field for Lawrence. And that’s drinks, with Sri Lanka having the better of the first hour and a quarter. They have lost only the nightwatchman and whittled the deficit down to 80. And Thirimanne has that longed-for ton.
77th over: Sri Lanka 203-3 (Thirimanne 109, Mathews 14) Lawrence is an off-spinner, like Bess, whom he replaces now, but quite unlike him too. He seems to bowl off the wrong foot, while looking the wrong way. But his first ball in Test cricket turns and takes the edge! Perhaps because Thirimanne has never seen anything like it. That’s as good as it gets for Lawrence, who lets slip a high full toss, duly shovelled for four. Ah well.
Dan Lawrence is coming on!
Root turns to England’s newest, and quirkiest, bowler. John Starbuck, you were right and I was wrong.
76th over: Sri Lanka 195-3 (Thirimanne 103, Mathews 12) You wait ages for a maiden from Jack Leach, and then he bowls two in a row.
Hundred for Thirimanne!
75th over: Sri Lanka 195-3 (Thirimanne 103, Mathews 12) You’re on 99. You haven’t scored a Test century for seven years. What would you like from the menu today? Ooh, something short and wide, please. Bess dishes it up, and Thirimanne slaps it away. He lifts both arms in triumph, as well he may. He’s been admirable, careful but positive, and he may just be dragging his team out of the mire.
74th over: Sri Lanka 191-3 (Thirimanne 99, Mathews 12) Better from Leach, who finds his metronome, keeps Mathews quiet and collects a maiden, only his third in 23 overs.
73rd over: Sri Lanka 191-3 (Thirimanne 99, Mathews 12) Thirimanne clips Bess for a single, and then Mathews gives a quarter-chance as Rob Key calls it – off the face of the bat, hitting Crawley at short leg somewhere near the shoulder, too fast for him to get his hands in the way.
72nd over: Sri Lanka 189-3 (Thirimanne 98, Mathews 11) Thirimanne has only ever made one Test hundred, in 36 matches, and his nerves are showing now. He pops a testing ball from Leach off bat and pad, but it’s loopy enough to get past Zak Crawley at short leg. And yet again England follow a good ball with a bad one, a full toss that allows Thirimanne to take a grateful single. England are missing Moeen Ali.
“What are the odds that Dan Lawrence will be given a go before the new ball?” asks John Starbuck. “He was talked up before the match began, so ought to be given a chance to show us what he might do.” It’s a good idea, but it’s hard to see him elbowing out Joe Root, who bowled well yesterday.
71st over: Sri Lanka 187-3 (Thirimanne 97, Mathews 10) Another near-miss for Thirimanne off Bess as he top-edges a sweep and just eludes the man running back from midwicket. But, again, Bess follows his moral victory with a bad ball – another short one, another cut for four. “England need to be 10 per cent better,” says David Lloyd.
70th over: Sri Lanka 180-3 (Thirimanne 91, Mathews 9) Broad goes off and Jack Leach comes on, so it’s spin from both ends. After a year of illness and inaction, Leach is still scraping off the rust. He hands Mathews a freebie with a short ball outside off and that’s another cut for four.
Time for a word from Abhijato Sensarma. “Sri Lanka are in the process of winning hearts with this show of grit,” he reckons. “But no one remembers rearguards in the long run unless they actually alter the nature of the result. This is their chance to show the world they aren’t merely miracle men who rely on individual innings. Even the slightest sniff of victory from here, of course, shall be to the credit of the entire team.” Some of us might settle for being mere miracle men.
69th over: Sri Lanka 175-3 (Thirimanne 91, Mathews 4) Mathews, facing Bess for the first time, brings the sweep out straightaway and takes a single. Thirimanne is tied down for the rest of the over as Bess continues to bowl fuller, and better, than he did yesterday.
68th over: Sri Lanka 174-3 (Thirimanne 91, Mathews 3) Broad tries to surprise Mathews with a bouncer. He may be surprised, but he’s not remotely bothered. He just lets it go and waits for something pitched up, which duly arrives, on his legs, allowing him to get off the mark with a clip for three.
67th over: Sri Lanka 171-3 (Thirimanne 91, Mathews 0) Bess and Sibley almost grab another as Thirimanne is tempted into an uppish drive. Sibley dives to his left at short-extra but can’t quite get a touch, and the ball goes for four. After that moral victory, Bess follows up with a poor ball, a half-tracker crying out to be cut for four. Thirimanne is calm enough to oblige.
66th over: Sri Lanka 163-3 (Thirimanne 83, Mathews 0) Broad has an over at Mathews, who fell to him in the first innings. The first two balls are wide enough to leave; the other four are spot-on, and Mathews goes block, block, block, block, knowing the ball is too old to be doing anything. Still, Broad has his maiden.
65th over: Sri Lanka 163-3 (Thirimanne 83, Mathews 0) A maiden from Bess, who lands one in just the right spot to Thirimanne – eight inches outside off, turning just enough. It’s blocked, uncertainly, and it makes you wonder why Root has only a slip in, with nobody there for the bat-pad.
64th over: Sri Lanka 163-3 (Thirimanne 83, Mathews 0) Thirimanne isn’t bothered: he cuts Broad for four, then nurdles a single behind square. If he was English, he’d be known as Sir Alastair.
63rd over: Sri Lanka 158-3 (Thirimanne 78, Mathews 0) Out comes Angelo Mathews, with a lot resting on his experienced shoulders. This partnership can’t afford to be the wrong side of 80.
Wicket! Embuldeniya c Sibley b Bess 0 (SL 158-3)
A breakthrough already! The nightwatchman Embuldeniya goes back and spoons a push straight to the man at short extra. Bess’s luck, which was outrageous on Thursday, is back for more.
62nd over: Sri Lanka 158-2 (Thirimanne 78, Embuldeniya 0) Broad’s grin soon fades as Thirimanne cover-drives crisply, on the up, for two. Talk about ruining a guy’s figures. Broad now has 9-6-5-0.
The sun is half-out, as advertised. Stuart Broad has the ball in his hand, a bandana on his head and a grin on his face.
Preamble: a deal to seal
The third day of this Test belonged firmly to Sri Lanka, who managed to induce an England collapse and then avoid one of their own. But England had been so dominant before that that, as we go into the fourth day, they remain in charge.
They could still win by an innings, as Sri Lanka need another 130 to make their guests bat again. That said, England could end up losing the match. All the Sri Lankans have to do is bat as tenaciously today as they did yesterday and bowl about ten times better than they did on Friday.
If Thirimanne and co. can turn 156 for two into, say, 435 all out, England will be chasing 150 and all bets will be off. Joe Root, after all, is now due a failure. And the only experienced batters alongside him are Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow, one of whom will be knackered from keeping wicket, the other battered after taking a few blows on the body at short leg. At last, Brian Close has his own tribute act.
Play starts at 9.45am in Galle (we think), which is 4.15am in the UK. The forecast is better – 29 degrees with sunny spells – whereas Monday is looking sodden. England should be looking to seal the deal today, which means that Root will need to set attacking fields, and back his spinners, Jack Leach and Dom Bess, to bounce back from a day of rusty frustration.