Archive for May 29, 2011

Testing Times

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , , on May 29, 2011 by telescoper

It’s raining this morning (again), delaying the start of the fourth day’s play in the First Test between England and Sri Lanka which is taking place at the SWALEC Stadium here in Cardiff, just a few hundred yards from my house.

One of the advantages of living so close to the ground is that I can stay home and dry when there is a delayed start and simply toddle down there when start of play is announced on the radio. That’s my plan for today, in fact. It was a similar state of affairs yesterday. There was heavy rain first thing, which had been forecast, but it was exacerbated by persistent heavy drizzle for hours afterwards, which hadn’t. The covers therefore stayed on all morning with the result that (a) play didn’t start until 2pm but (b) I had time to write a lengthy blog post about Friday’s concert and (c) have lunch at home before walking to the ground.

The match was interestingly poised, with Sri Lanka all out for exactly 400 and England on 47-1 having lost Andrew Strauss late on Friday evening. Jimmy Anderson, who had come in as nightwatchman, departed almost immediately on Saturday, bringing in Jonathan Trott to join Alastair Cook. The pair batted steadily on. And on. Seventy overs passed, in fact, and the two accumulated runs in remorseless fashion without offering any significant chances, adding 240 runs to bring England to 287-2 at stumps, both reaching fine centuries. It wasn’t thrilling strokeplay of the crash-bang-wallop style you get in Twenty20, but good old-fashioned Test cricket. I thought it was magnificent, although it’s probably precisely the kind of cricket that puts some people off Test matches.

Unfortunately, the state of the game and the weather both mean that anything other than a draw is extremely unlikely. There’s already been quite a lot of time lost to the rain and only Sri Lanka’s first innings is complete. The forecast for today is showery – it’s raining right now, in fact – so it’s unlikely we’ll get a full day’s play. The forecast for Day 5 is even worse – with heavy rain in store most of the day. It’s hard to see how two more innings can possibly be completed. Moreover, England’s best bowler, James Anderson, is injured and will not be bowling in the Sri Lanka second innings (if there is one). The Cardiff wicket is basically a good batting pitch, although it is a bit on the slow side,  and I don’t see how England can bowl out Sri Lanka with only two seamers and a spinner. If England could have got to 600 plus then with a full bowling attack they might have had a chance at an inning’s victory – especially if the pitch starts to turn, which it shows signs of doing – but that seems very unlikely now.

At the risk of being too critical, I think this all illustrates the folly of England’s selection policy. They went into this game knowing that Sri Lanka was a good batting side, and Sri Lanka’s fine first innings display should not have come as a surprise. I wasn’t at the first two days’ but it seems that the England bowling attack looked quite ordinary even at full strength. I think a Test team really needs five bowlers. In the absence of a genuine all-rounder, England should not have picked a specialist batsman (Morgan) at number 6, but another bowler and the top-order batsmen told to stand up and be counted (which is precisely what they are doing). Wicket-keeper Prior should be at 6, with Broad and Swann counting as half an all-rounder each. The injury to Anderson reinforces this argument, as does Broad’s obvious lack of match fitness. They might get away with it for this game, but think they need to rethink this before taking on India who are a much stronger side than Sri Lanka.

I had been hoping to take a few snaps in the ground, but like the idiot I am I forgot to charge my phone up beforehand and when I got there the battery was almost flat. I decided to preserve what juice there was for emergency calls – though that was an unlikely contingency – by refraining even from Tweeting for the duration, regular intakes of beer staving off any sense of boredom. It was well after 7pm when the final over was bowled, and I only just got home to watch Barcelona’s comprehensive dismantling of Manchester United in the Champion’s League final.

UPDATE: Just for the record, England ended day 4 on 491-5 with Trott out for 203 and Bell unbeaten on 98. Great batting from everyone, except Pietersen. Not much chance of a result, though, especially if the weather forecast for tomorrow is accurate…

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