It’s going to be a hard afternoon’s aggravation for England – the pitch is flat as Stanley and both batsmen are set. We’ll be back in 30 or so for more unfathomable joy.
26th over: Sri Lanka 75-2 (Thirimanne 42, Mathews 26) Here’s Bess for what’ll be the final over before lunch, as it occurs to me how much this side needs a Manc; Besseh, Leacheh, Sammeh, Woodeh, Jimmeh and so on. Thirimanne cuts a single through backward point, the only run from the over, and that is lunch.
25th over: Sri Lanka 75-2 (Thirimanne 42, Mathews 26) This looks suss I know, but we didn’t see him stretching, I promise; Sammy is back. Yeah, and Mathews flamingos his second ball for four to deep square, breaking his bottom wrist late to guide finer than you’d expect. He then shoves one that bounces to leg and they amble one more, Thirimanne responding with another to midwicket. For anyone worried, Sky are getting more than their money’s worth out of the drone they’ve got going on, handing us more gratuitous ocean shots as we stare into the abyss of this country.
24th over: Sri Lanka 69-2 (Thirimanne 41, Mathews 21) Yessssss! “Come on Bessy!” hollers Jossy, who is packed off for three singles. I’d be thinking about bringing back Anderson and Curran, because there’s no pressure at the moment so England need either some genius or some golden arm.
23rd over: Sri Lanka 66-2 (Thirimanne 40, Mathews 19) He goes on to say that the spinners need to give the ball some air because the pitch isn’t biting, and to bowl a tight line and length to enable the setting of attacking fields; Bess and Leach, though, are both looking to go a bit faster. And Leach is milked for three singles before Thirimanne clobbers a slog-sweep for four; these two are making Perera and Fernando look a little silly.
22nd over: Sri Lanka 59-2 (Thirimanne 35, Mathews 17) Mathews is warm now and he bangs a single down the ground to give Bess five at Thirimanne. He’s actually looking more dangerous than Leach, finding better and faster turn, but five dots disappear without undue alarm. Sanga says the pitch looks a typical Galle one, so he expects it to crumble gradually then rag on day five. In other words, a decent toss to win.
21st over: Sri Lanka 58-2 (Thirimanne 35, Mathews 16) A single to midwicket hands the capped Mathews the strike and he eases down the track to wrist four in the same direction, on one leg; that’s extremely competent. and raises the fifty partnership. This is looking like a long slog for England now, because nothing’s doing anything, and looks to be a lesson in pitch preparation for India: one that only the best spinners can get anything out of. I’d expect to see Anderson back presently.
20th over: Sri Lanka 52-2 (Thirimanne 34, Mathews 11) Mathews knocks Bess away to fine leg and sends Leach on a long chase; he does well to haul the ball back just before it hits the rope and while they run three. A single to Thirimanne follows.
“A joy to wake up in the darkness to watch drone footage of a train from many miles away,” says James Walsh. “Anderson and Broad both seem pretty good. I wonder if England have ever considered playing them in tandem?”
There’ve been a lot of gratuitous ocean shots too – I wonder how Chappelli might describe them. And for those seeking a different mental vista, I’ve just imagined Branderson looking sweet upon the seat of a bicycle made for two.
19th over: Sri Lanka 48-2 (Thirimanne 33, Mathews 8) Yup, Leach returns, so we’ll have spin from both ends. Thirmanne takes his first ball for one to midwicket, then Mathews dabs his last to point for one more. England have gone a little quiet here; it’s a while since either batsman was seriously imperilled.
18th over: Sri Lanka 46-2 (Thirimanne 32, Mathews 7) There are nee demons in this track; if the batsmen don’t give it away, wickets will be hard to excavate. Bess comes on for Leach to enable the latter to bowl with the wind from the other end – I assume – and his fifth ball is a good one, forcing Thirimanne forward to get on top of the turn; a single follows, the only run from the other.
17th over: Sri Lanka 45-2 (Thirimanne 31, Mathews 7) The first 10 overs yielded 22, likewise the next seven. It’s been a while since anything unduly troubled anyone, so Wood stamps on the gas and directs a 90mph lift-ah towards Thirimanne’s teeth; he gets up and behind it well, knocking into the ground, then turns a single to square leg.
16th over: Sri Lanka 44-2 (Thirimanne 30, Mathews 7) Runs are coming more easily now that Anderson is off – funny that – with Thirimanne, who between overs had the physio out looking at his hand, easing a brace to cover. He then stretches to drive four through that same area, and looks really easy out there.
“The Spin’s piece on names is cute, I suppose,” patronises Max Bonnell, “but it seems to have overlooked the old Yorkshire and Northants wicket keeper Kenneth Fiddling, whose name had the result that between 1938 and 1953, 226 batsmen were ‘caught Fiddling’.”
15th over: Sri Lanka 37-2 (Thirimanne 23, Mathews 7) The left-handed Thirimanne clips two down to the square leg fence, chucked back left-handed by the right-arm bowling Wood; just this week I realised I brush my daughter’s teeth left-handed but my own teeth right-handed so what I’m saying is that yes, I should be playing for England. Anyway, yerman turns away one more into the leg side and the partnership is now 30.
14th over: Sri Lanka 34-2 (Thirimanne 20, Mathews 7) There’s not been much turn for Leach and Mathews has had enough of waiting for it, taking one big stamp down the ground to muscle over mid off for a one-bounce four. Two singles follow.
13th over: Sri Lanka 28-2 (Thirimanne 19, Mathews 2) Apparently Graeme Swann was saying he wants Leach to bowl straighter, more at middle stump, which he looks to be doing, but here comes Wood for another hurtle. He slings down two dots, then Thirimanne chucks hands, clattering four through the covers when he overpitches. Drinks.
“Ey names,” begins Johnny Starbucky. “Danny, wot, no Curry?”
Bessy called him Sammy in interview last week so I’ve gone with that one. As a seven-year-old I briefly decided I liked being called Danny; no one called me Danny and various of my mates rinse me for it to this day. We’re 41.
12th over: Sri Lanka 24-2 (Thirimanne 15, Mathews 2) Leach is looking decent out there – that first Test will have given him confidence, because he’d had bad luck with illness and now bowled much before he got going here. Maiden.
“Following with my three day old son, Angus,” says Stuart Lumsden, “who has already got the last day of the Aus-Ind series under his nappy. My other son, Fraser, has followed with me England debacles against Scotland, NZ and Ireland – to name a few. Hope this isn’t Angus’ first. And yes, we only realised that we’d called our sons after grumpy medium fast Middlesex legend Angus Fraser on speaking to the midwife early hours Tuesday…”
Mazal tov and that is outstanding. Do you plan on a Robert? Tangentially, here’s something on cricket and middle names should anyone fancy.
11th over: Sri Lanka 24-2 (Thirimanne 15, Mathews 2) Woody replaces Jimmy, who I remember played with Cookie, Straussy, Belly, Broady, Swanny, Trotty and Finny. He’s quickly up above 88mph, using all of his 1.21 giggawatts and the batsmen take a single apiece. They’re looking fairly comfy-y out there now, and desperately need to build a telling partnership.
10th over: Sri Lanka 22-2 (Thirimanne 14, Mathews 1) Yup, Curran is did and replaced by Leach who was the better of England’s spinners last week. He’s immediately on the mark and told Sky that he was hoping to bowl a little quicker, taking inspiration from the cutters bowled by Broad and Wood. Thirimanne clips a single off the pads then Mathews gets off the mark down to point as we see footage of Leach’s first-Test wickets; “well bowled Leachy,” says Buttler, which makes me wonder if this is England’s most y-ey team ever. Creepy, Jonny, Rooty, Sammy, Leachy, Woody, Jimmy – and who’d be surprised to hear a Bessy, a Danny or a Jossy? Thirimanne works away one more.
9th over: Sri Lanka 19-2 (Thirimanne 12, Mathews 0) Anderson is making it so difficult for the batsmen, giving them nothing; Thirimanne has to defend five balls, then takes one into the on side.
Yet he’s two for four off five. That says hilarious quantities about both Sri Lanka’s batting and his bowling.
8th over: Sri Lanka 18-2 (Thirimanne 11, Mathews 0) Thirimanne looks in nick here, lining Curran up well in what might be the final spell of his over. He defends with purpose, seeing away five dots before twizzling a single to square leg.
“In the first Test of this series Broad took three fairly quick wickets and knocked the top off the SL batting,” says John Starbuck; any chance of Jimmy imitating Stuart? If so, is the rest of this match going to be a like-for-like reproduction?”
I’m not sure about that, but it’s possible; Sri Lanka will be relying on at least one of this pair to do something decent.
7th over: Sri Lanka 17-2 (Thirimanne 10, Mathews 0) Five dots from Anderson before Thirimanne flicks to backward square for one.
“A magnificent week for five-day test cricket,” emails Ian Foyth. “Listened with growing incredulity to the 5th day at the Gabba on a campsite with a stranger – Peter from Geelong in his Toyota Landcruiser, where we shared an early evening chardonnay (Peter supping his through gritted teeth, as it were). We all love radio commentary, but Ian Chappell certainly added a maverick je ne sais quoi to proceedings. Sample: ‘Good captaincy is like pornography. Hard to define, but you know it when you see it.’ Not a subject his fellow commentators felt impelled to enlarge upon.”
AS IT WERE! A panoply of other things he might’ve said are engorging my brain, but I’m not sure whether we’re after or before the watershed. Anyway, what a
6th over: Sri Lanka 16-2 (Thirimanne 9, Mathews 0) Sri Lanka were all out for 135 in the first innings of the first Test and they’ve made this easy for England again; Anderson and Curran have bowled well, but the wickets were handed not snatched. anyway, Thirimanne gets himself going with consecutive fours, one forced through fine leg and one edged through where third slip isn’t. A no ball follows, then tree dot.
5th over: Sri Lanka 7-2 (Thirimanne 1, Mathews 0) Fernando lost his balance playing that, almost on one foot by the time he played the shot; Anderson, meanwhile, has 2-2. Turns out he’s quite good at this.
WICKET! Fernando b Anderson 0 (Sri Lanka 7-2)
Is it happening again?! Anderson coaxes more bounce from the track than Fernando’s expecting and looking to work away on the off side, he slices into his stumps! Sri Lanka are in a situation, and it’s entirely of their own making.
5th over: Sri Lanka 7-1 (Thirimanne 1, Fernando 0) It’ll be extremely quiet in that Sri Lanka changing room, eyes down as Perera admonishes himself. And have a look!
WICKET! Perera c Root b Anderson 6 (Sri Lanka 7-1)
What on absolute earth! Perera decides that it makes perfect sense to mooch down the track at a new ball brandished by Test cricket’s leading quick, looking to lummox over long on … but he edges to one, where Root takes an excellent catch above his head. He’s going to feel extremely embarrassed when he sees that back; it’s a revolting shot and silly, silly behaviours.
4th over: Sri Lanka 7-0 (Thirimanne 1, Perera 6) There’s a soupçon of swing here for Cuzza, more than in the first match, and his second delivery induces a false shot from Perera, who edges into his pad. He’s got a lot of barnet going on has Cuz, a huge wad swept across his heed, which doesn’t seem like what you’d want in this weather; he’ll never feel the benefit when he gets back to England, or something. Anyhow, Perera bludgeons his fifth delivery down the ground like Bill Sykes with a hangover; that’s four, and a single into the leg side follows.
3rd over: Sri Lanka 2-0 (Thirimanne 1, Perera 1) Anderson’s fifth ball, the 17th of the innings, allows Thirimanne to bunt down into the off side and they take a run, the first of the innings, then Perera does likewise.
2nd over: Sri Lanka 0-0 (Thirimanne 0, Perera 0) That was a good ball, swinging away then nipping back in, but did just a bit too much. Another maiden.
NOT OUT! UMPIRE’S CALL ON THE STUMPS!
About two-thirds of it was hitting off stump, about five-sixths of the way up; that was extremely close, about as close as you’re getting without seeing the finger.
Did it come back enough? It looked close, I must say, and there was no edge…
2nd over: Sri Lanka 0-0 (Thirimanne 0, Perera 0) In bustles Curran, angry face on, and his first ball, swinging, rapping Perera on the pad; there’s an appeal, it’s rejected … and England go upstairs!
1st over: Sri Lanka 0-0 (Thirimanne 0, Perera 0) I wonder if England will be rotating Anderson or Broad in India, once Stokes gives them a natural fast-bowling option in their middle-order; I wonder if they’ll back their spinners against a superior batting side. Anyway, Anderson gets grooving, shaping the ball away, only his first two deliveries force Thirimanne, who made a place-saving ton in last week’s second innings, to play.
Email! “Here’s the TMS link for all us vagrants and ne’er do wells that don’t live within the range of a UK radio mast,” says John Parkinson.
Thanks for that; dig in people.
That England team, then. I’m surprised Mark Wood is playing a second slog in a row, and also surprised he’ll not be supplying reverse in India. Otherwise, it’s pretty much as expected; I’m looking forward to watching Jimmy Anderson bowl because what clown wouldn’t be, especially when we need to make the most of him while we can, and I’m interested to see how Jack Leach and Dom Bess so. They were good in the second innings last week but got away with it in the first. That won’t happen for them again.
These days, I find that my eyeballs sweat pretty much every time I watch an interview with any young sportsman. Here are Nasser and Robert Key with the extremely impressive Dan Lawrence.
Right, I’m going to mix myself a hot water and lemon and hope that SkyGo on my computer rights itself; otherwise it’s a bout of phone-squinting. Action coming up in 19 minutes.
Sri Lanka 1 Kusal Perera, 2 Lahiru Thirimanne, 3 Oshada Fernando, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (captain), 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 7 Ramesh Mendis, 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Lasith Embuldeniya, 11 Asitha Fernando.
England 1 Dom Sibley, 2 Zak Crawley, 3 Jonny Bairstow, 4 Joe Root (captain), 5 Dan Lawrence, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Sam Curran, 8 Dom Bess, 9 Mark Wood, 10 Jack Leach, 11 James Anderson.
We already know that England are making just the one change, Anderson coming in for Broad; that means no place for Olly Stone, who’s been bowling well in the nets, we’ve been told.
Sri Lanka leave out Kusal Mendis, Hasaranga and Shanaka; Ramesh Mendis comes in for his debut, with Suranga Lakmal coming in to lead the attack and Oshada Fernando also making the XI.
Sri Lanka win the toss and will, of course, bat!
“It’s a really good wicket,” says Dinesh Chandimal, who hopes his team do better than last time. Joe Root thinks England played well last week, but this week is a different challenge.
In times of misery and crisis, people take joy in the most peculiar things. OK, in times of joy and exultance, people take joy in the most peculiar things – beards, risotto and tight tracky bums, for example. But those are, when all’s said and done, consensual activities, whereas what we’re currently up to, whether baking bread, putting on clothes or looking after our children, are activities forced upon us by circumstance.
So the return of Test cricket was really something, a distraction, a balm and a friend. But even with everything we know about it and everything it’s given to us, the blessings with which it continues to shower us are staggering in both their bounty and their profundity.
The first match between these sides was a slow-burning belter and there’s every chance that the second will be as good if not better. Sri Lanka should have Suranga Lakmal back, and know that a merely sensible first-innings batting effort might have secured them the win last week. England, meanwhile, are absolutely ganserheyt with confidence and starting to look like a decent little team. I cannot wait for this.
Play: 10am local, 4.30am GMT