Never Say Never …
It was tipping down with rain this morning so I wrote off the prospect of there being any result in the First Test between England and Sri Lanka at Cardiff which I’ve blogged about once already. However, the weather steadily improved and play eventually got started at about 3pm. England, resuming on 491 for 5, batted on for a couple of overs to allow Ian Bell to get his century then – perhaps surprisingly – declared on 496-5, with a lead of 96 on the first innings. An unusually adventurous decision by Strauss to declare so early, in fact. Nevertheless, a draw looked a virtual certainty to me (and most sports writers) so I wasn’t paying much attention to the cricket at first, deciding instead to get on with some other stuff at home.
When I checked the score around 4 o’clock I discovered Sri Lanka had lost a couple of early wickets and had gone in for tea at 33-2. It being free to get in for the last session and the weather now being very sunny, I finally decided to go and watch the final stages. A draw still seemed the likeliest outcome – Sri Lanka only had to bat out time for 35 overs or so. However, we don’t get much Test cricket in Cardiff and the last match here had an exciting finish, so I walked to the ground just after tea. There couldn’t have been more than a few hundred spectators in the ground, but what we saw turned out to be a demonstration of what Test cricket is all about.
I had hardly got to my seat when Tremlett produced a beauty that found the edge of M. Jayawardene’s bat and was caught at slip. Sri Lanka 33-3. A few minutes later Samaraweera played an inexplicable slash at spinner Graham Swann and dragged the ball onto his stumps; 36-4. Swann then disposed of Sangakkara and Maharoof, and Tremlett took the wicket of P. Jayawardene, all with the score on 43. Sri Lanka’s batting, so solid in the first innings was now in pieces on the floor. In came Herath with the air of a man wishing to commit suicide. Eventually he succeeded, playing an agricultural swipe at a delivery from Swann; he missed and the ball hit him on the back leg, plumb in front of the wicket. At 52-8 Sri Lanka looked doomed. Perera decided to take the attack to England. He played some good shots, as well as some lucky ones, and was fortunate to be dropped when two fielders ran into each other. Nevertheless, he and Mendis steadied the Sri Lankan ship for a while. I on the other hand was literally shaking with excitement and anticipation, hoping that I was about to witness a spectacular finale.
The score quickly moved onto 82 and it looked like Sri Lanka might at least have a chance of making England bat again. Then Broad replaced Tremlett, Perera tried to flick him away and Ian Bell took a superb reaction catch at short leg. 82-9. Last man Lakmal departed without troubling the scorers just three balls later, caught at 3rd slip by Alastair Cook. England had won by an innings and 14 runs. Amazing.
It had all been so exciting I hadn’t even had time to think about going for a beer. I think I’ll have one while I watch the highlights on TV.
There really is nothing like Test cricket, you know…