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…

16 Responses to “Never Say Never …”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    True. NOTHING like it.

  2. telescoper Says:

    That’s two Tests in Cardiff, two very different but sensational finishes.

  3. telescoper Says:

    I forgot to mention one thing that struck me watching this afternoon. I’ve never seen Chris Tremlett in the flesh before. He’s absolutely enormous.

  4. Alastair Says:

    Very envious of your proximity to Sophia Gardens!

    The fact that Cardiff hosts an event that overshadows the exploits of Swansea had nothing to do with it, right?!

    My cousin spent a day hosting Chris Tremlett when the England team visited the Childrens Hospital in Melbourne (where she works) during the recent Ashes tour. She was awestruck and had a crick in her neck by the end of the day!

  5. stringph Says:

    Did you have to pay entrance, by the way? The Glamorgan club website tells me it’s £15 for the last day, which to my Yorkshire side seemed a bit steep for what was – in all probability – going to turn out as a couple of hours leading to an uneventful draw … and by the time the wickets were falling in earnest it seemed a bit silly to be rushing up to the ground. But speaking of probability in cricket, priors are quite uninformative.

    • telescoper Says:

      It was free to get in for the last session, which is what spurred me on to take the 10 minute stroll down there at tea-time. I think Glamorgan should revise their whole pricing strategy to be honest. Far better to cut the prices, get a bigger crowd, and make money on the beer and food.

  6. Anton Garrett Says:

    This is most satisfying revenge for the one-off Oval Test vs Sri Lanka held at the end of the 1998 season, when England scored well over 400 in the first innings of the game yet went on to lose, almost by an innings, thanks to Muralitharan.

  7. telescoper Says:

    There was a lot of talk about yesterday’s extraordinary events at coffee this morning in the department. Most people seem to be assuming that the pitch had deteriorated drastically by the final session, but that’s not the impression I got while in the ground. Swann was getting some turn, and the odd ball was keeping low, but it certainly didn’t appear to me that the spin was remarkable. The two quicks did manage to get more bounce than the Sri Lankan bowlers had managed and, together with the occasional near-shooter, that suggests the pitch had started to wear but, again, there was nothing extreme about it.

    There was some excellent bowling, of course, but the Sri Lankan batsmen contributed enormously to their own downfall. There were some silly shots from players who should have known better and from the moment they lost their third wicket, just after tea, panic was in the air.

  8. Anton Garrett Says:

    Define your Bradman Number as min_{X}(N), where you have batted with cricketer X_1 who has batted with X_2… who has batted with X_{N-1} who has batted with Bradman. What’s yours?

    • telescoper Says:

      I’ve no idea what my Bradman Number is, except that it’s very large.

    • Dave Carter Says:

      It might not be as large as you think Peter. Many astronomers will, for instance, have played scratch matches with Victor Clube, who played first class cricket with and against some very eminent cricketers in the 1950s. People who were around RGO in the 1960s will have played with Sir Richard Woolley, and who knows who he might had played with in charity matches in Canberra when he was director of Mount Stromlo.

  9. The obvious question (sorry to raise this) is, how much were the Sri Lankan’s paid to throw the match?

    • telescoper Says:

      How much were Australia paid to throw the Ashes series?

    • Dave Carter Says:

      Thats not obvious at all, thats just silly. sure they let the pressure get to them, but thats not throwing a match, which is very, very rare (and did not occur last summer with Pakistan).

  10. Simon Kemp Says:

    England lost to Wales at Sophia Gardens in 2002 so they are not quite undefeated there.

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