Archive for Sri Lanka

A Great Test

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , on June 16, 2014 by telescoper

Just back to Brighton from a short break, part of which (Saturday) I spent at Lords Cricket Ground watching Day 3 of the First Test between England and Sri Lanka.

England had been put in to bat on the first morning and has wobbled early on, but had rallied strongy with young Joe Root scoring 200 not out as they reached 575 for 9 before declaring on Day 2. Sri Lanka batted, needing 375 to avoid the follow-on.

The morning of Day 3 found Sri Lanka resuming on 140-1. Conditions were a bit murky and it drizzled for much of the morning, but not to the extent that it interrupted play. Sri Lanka, especially the excellent Sangakkara, batted with resilience and resourcefulness, as the England bowlers struggled to take wickets on a flat and rather lifeless pitch. The swing of Anderson didn’t threaten as much as I expected in the overcast conditions. The all-rounder Ali was reasonably tidy as a bowler but didn’t cause many alarms, though he did take the wicket of Sangakkara. Broad and Plunkett were fast and aggressive but the latter was a bit unlucky only to take one wicket.

Fortunately at Lords there are plenty of distractions during the intervals or when the cricket is slow, including jazz from The Outswingers and a school band at lunchtime.

The batsman passed the follow-on target for the loss of only six wickets and as I headed from the ground the game seemed to be heading for a high-scoring draw.

Sri Lanka were eventually out for 453 on Day 4 and England, batting again, wobbled again, in deep trouble at 123 for 6. A fine hundred from Ballance and some good batting from the lower order took them to 267 for 8 at the close, a lead of 389. England declared overnight.

There was talk about Alastair Cook’s captaincy over this, some suggesting he should have declared earlier. For what it’s worth I would have done exactly what Cook did. Sri Lanka are a good batting side, and well capable of scoring 300 in a day on such a good pitch.

So Day 5 saw Sri Lanka needing 390 to win off the 90 overs to be bowled or, more realistically, to bat all day to draw the game. They showed no inclination to go for the runs but batted well defensively for most of the day. A draw looked inevitable in mid-afternoon.

But then, as is so often the case in Test cricket, there was a dramatic twist. Wickets started to fall. Suddenly Sri Lanka were 170 for 5, with both their best batsmen (Sangakkara and Jayawardene) out. More wickets fell, but time was ticking away. Then came the last over, with Sri Lanka on 201 for 8. After five relatively sedate days everything now hinged on the final six balls.

Broad struck with the first ball. Sri Lanka 201 for 9. Only one wicket needed for England to win. Could Sri Lanka hang on!

Broad bowled to the tailender Herath. There was an appeal for lbw. Up went the umpire’s finger. England had won with just a few balls left of the day’s play.

Or had they? No. Sri Lanka used a review. Herath had hit the ball. Not out. Sri Lanka survived. Match drawn.

It’s hard to explain to people who don’t know cricket how a game can last for five days and end in a draw, and that can be exciting. But great Test match like this one prove that it is true. Credit to both teams for playing their parts.

A Test Match is like a Symphony in which the slow movement is just as important as the finale. Without the five days preceding it, the drama of that final over wouldn’t have been anything like as intense.

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Never Say Never …

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , , on May 30, 2011 by telescoper

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…

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…