The clouds that were menacing us earlier have retreated somewhat, so we should be good for some play after the break. There’s a fair chance bad light intervenes somewhere along the line, but England will fancy themselves to break the back of this this evening. See you presently.
120th over: Sri Lanka 302-7 (Mathews 51, Hasaranga 3) Mathews takes a further single behind square on the on side, then Hasaranga prods for one more, and that’s tea. Sri Lanka lead by 16.
The ball was missing the stumps, which on reflection is fair enough – an off spinner bowling over the wicket on a track that’s doing something. Good luck old mate.
120th over: Sri Lanka 300-7 (Mathews 50, Hasaranga 2) Hasaranga, who I meant to note got off the mark in the previous over, takes another to long on, then after an aborted single, Mathews misses with another sweep and it cracks the pad! There’s an appeal, a rejection, and England go upstairs. That looked outish to me.
119th over: Sri Lanka 299-7 (Mathews 50, Hasaranga 1) Leach is all over this and his first ball is a jaffa, drifting through the air then springing off the pitch and beating the edge. Mathews, though, has seen it before and opens the face to glide the single which raises his fifty; he’s such a pro. His knock when Sri Lanka won at Headingley is one of my favourites by a visiting bat, just as Moeen’s, in the sae Test, is one of my favourites my an English bat.
118th over: Sri Lanka 297-7 (Mathews 49, Hasaranga 0) Mathews gets down on one knee to sweep Bess but can only drag the ball onto his pad. The next delivery goes to leg for one, the only run off the over, and England will want to finish this tonight.
117th over: Sri Lanka 296-7 (Mathews 48, Hasaranga 0) Sri Lanka are punkt back in trouble now; they lead by 10 and need at least another hunnert to make a game out of this.
“Was it not the case that Sri Lanka requested Moeen Ali isolates for a longer period, and this has ruled him out of the second Test?’ asks Andrew Benton.
Ah yes, apologies – my mistake.
WICKET! Shanaka b Leach 4 (Sri Lanka 296-7)
One brings two! That’s what happens in the subcontinent, slow slow slow, fast! Insert your third cliche here! Leach, coming around, entices Shanaka to come down, deceives him in the flight and yorks him! This is a very fine and potentially matchwinning spell from the England batsman.
116th over: Sri Lanka 294-6 (Mathews 47, Shanaka 2) I wonder if that wicket might make it time for Broad to return, but while we ponder that we should also note that credit for that wicket doesn’t just go to Bess but to Leach, whose introduction at the other end changed the mood in the middle. Shanaka gets off the mark with a sweep for one, and when Mathews takes one into the on side, he adds another to cover.
WICKET! Dickwella c Buttler Bess 29 (Sri Lanka 291-6)
Bess comes back into the attack and his first ball is just outside off. It doesn’t look threatening so Dickwella plays a little run-down but doesn’t get enough of it, feathering a catch behind! That is a colossal breakthrough!
115th over: Sri Lanka 291-5 (Mathews 47, Dickwella 29) Leach is making things happen. He goes around to Mathews, finds a dead bit of pitch and the ball keeps low, taking the edge to beat, stumps and keeper; the resultant four puts Sri Lanka into the lead. Two singles then follow before another good one turns hard, far too good for Mathews’ cut; Buttler takes well.
114th over: Sri Lanka 285-5 (Mathews 42, Dickwella 28) This is going very nicely for the Lankans now, and they take three more singles from Root as the drizzle begins to fall.
113th over: Sri Lanka 282-5 (Mathews 40, Dickwella 27) Ah, here’s Jack Leach, and Root brings the field in – there’s a slip and a short leg – to try and entice the release shot. And Dickwella tolerates just one ball, heaving at the second with a reverse sweep and missing by plenty. This is good stuff from Leach; he’s getting some movement through the air and Dickwella goes again, missing again, but they run two byes before this time he connects with a less wild effort, adding two more. Eventful over, four from it.
112th over: Sri Lanka 278-5 (Mathews 40, Dickwella 25) The groundstaff are poised now; this looks ominous. I’m a little surprised that, given such, Root hasn’t given Leach a go, but he twizzles through another over of his own which yields a pair of singles. The partnership is 35, and is showing signs of being the decisive one in the match.
111st over: Sri Lanka 276-5 (Mathews 39, Dickwella 24) The light seems to be changing – there’s that kind of glow you get before rain. Well that’s what I’m feeling through my screen. Wood is hurling everything he’s got into this, and after a single to Dickwella his third ball is what he might call a “lift-ah”; Mathews fends it off his hips, but there’s no one at leg slip to take advantage and they run another. England’s lead is down to 10.
110th over: Sri Lanka 274-5 (Mathews 38, Dickwella 23) In comms, Sanga talks about his friendly rivalry with Mahela, who he says was a “genius when he was on song” but had more peaks and troughs. He’d have loved his skill, but appreciated his own consistency. Sanga isn’t too troubled by the clouds, and hopes that if there’s no rain, the spinners will mean that the light doesn’t intervene. Root’s latest over yields a single to Dickwella, swept behind him on the on side.
109th over: Sri Lanka 273-5 (Mathews 38, Dickwella 22) It’s not happening for Wood, who I imagine will be replaced by Curran in the near future. I’m wondering if he’s one of those bowlers who needs everything to be right to excel – I guess Mitchell Johnson is some kind of comparator – and I’m certain we’ll not be seeing him in the next Test. Two singles from the over, as Wardy notes some aggressive-looking crowds coming in off the ocean. There’s no rain scheduled, but round this way – ok, I’m in north London so round that way – you never know.
108th over: Sri Lanka 271-5 (Mathews 37, Dickwella 21) Root turns to himself, which tells you that England have a problem: they don’t have Ben Stokes. If these two can take Sri Lanka to 50 or so ahead, England will find themselves chasing something nasty.
107th over: Sri Lanka 268-5 (Mathews 35, Dickwella 20) Wood stays around to Dickwella, pursuing the novel tactic of seeking to hit the stumps; Bumble must’ve had a word. He tries a wider one … an 81mph off-spinner … and we’ve got that situation where Dickwella knows he’s trying to persuade the drive, but because he knows he’s trying to persuade the drive it’s alright for him to drive … and he misses, with meat and edge. Maiden.
106th over: Sri Lanka 268-5 (Mathews 35, Dickwella 20) Crawley is in at short leg – an unusual position for someone as long as he – and after three dots, there’s an appeal when Mathews misses with a reverse sweep; the umpire rejects it with all the disdain demanded by a ball pitching well outside leg. Mathews then comes down the track … to boot the ball away. Er, ok then. That reminded me a little of Good when he got out handling the ball – later that week, I was batting in my under 13s game and top-edged an attempted pull; as the fielder ran in for the dolly, I elbowed the ball into the ground; anger ensued. Maiden.
105th over: Sri Lanka 268-5 (Mathews 35, Dickwella 20) Wood goes around to Dickwella, and if there’s going to be any short stuff this is the time. In the middle of the over, England arrange the field to this effect, but it was a trick – a full cutter beats the outside edge! Then after five dots, Bess misfields at point and they run two; the lead is now just 18 and that’s drinks.
104th over: Sri Lanka 266-5 (Mathews 35, Dickwella 18) Another Bess over, one from it; the highlight is its penultimate ball, sent down a little quicker to force Mathews back, and he edges onto his pad.
“Rather a drab morning in Naples but with snow on Vesuvius to make amends,” brags Colum Fordham. “Really interesting situation and England clearly in the driving seat but Anegelo Mathews and Dickwella could conjure up a lead of sorts.
Mathews is so resilient and key to Sri Lanka. A few years ago I went up to play cricket with my sons in the former royal park of Capodimonte. Lots of Sri Lankans flock there on Sundays to play cricket and elle, a sort of crazy baseball. A young Sri Lankan teenager came over and asked if he could play. He was very good and said he was on holiday in Naples with relatives and that Angelo Mathews was his cricket coach back in Colombo. He did very good imitations of international bowlers including mystery spinner Sunil Narine, the kind of bowler England need.
Having just sung Mathew’s praises, he goes and plays a ridiculous reverse sweep to Bess.”
A friend of mine played against Mathews in Jewish cricket, I forget how and why. He made a few as you might imagine.
102nd over: Sri Lanka 265-5 (Mathews 35, Dickwella 17) It’s amazing how often we hear this, but when Wood replaces Broad, Bumble asks that he bowl fuller, a refrain of Broad’s mid-career semi-stasis. Apparently it brings bowled and lb into play; who knew? Maiden, but of the less threatening variety.
“Well, it’s getting a bit edgy isn’t it?” tweets Guy Hornsby. “England are still in front but they need wickets and control and they can’t seem to get both. Broad has been exceptional again but I worry this spin attack will get picked off by India. Mo and Jimmy will surely be back.”
Agreed on all counts, with the added lament that Root doesn’t enjoy Adil Rashid a bit more. I’m not having that Bess and Leach are in the same postcode as him.
102nd over: Sri Lanka 265-5 (Mathews 35, Dickwella 17) Looking at the weather forecast, at least one site reckons no rain until the day is long done, so our only enemy is the light; that’s decent. Meantime, a misfield from Sibley Dom Dom allows Dickwella a single, and three more follow; this is growing into a very nifty partnership.
101st over: Sri Lanka 261-5 (Mathews 33, Dickwella 15) This is Broad’s fifth over, about as many as can be managed when it’s this hot and humid. And he sends down four sixths of a fifth consecutive maiden before Dickwella ruins his spell with a nurdle into the on side for one.
“With Broad seemingly, maturing as a bowler and reaching that age where a fast bowler uses his head nearly as much as his body,” says Phil Withall, “can we reasonably expect him to surpass Anderson’s record at some point in the next few years? They have similar strike rates and with him being four years younger it seems a fair assumption.”
I was just thinking about this. There are more rivals for his position, so he’ll likely be rotated more than Anderson was, but he’s an absolute champion and an absolute monster, so nothing he does would surprise me.
100th over: Sri Lanka 260-5 (Mathews 33, Dickwella 13) If Bess can hold down this end England have scope at the other, and after conceding one from his first five balls Mathews attempts a reverse-sweep and misses! He avoids being bowled by the width of a watchmaker’s nasal hair. Broad will give it one more.
“A good friend of mine came up with a way of defeating earworms,’ emails Pete Salmon. “When you have one, sing ‘Lisa it’s your birthday’ from the Simpsons. Within minutes you forget the earworm and the Lisa song. This actually works!”
This is my earworm of that last few weeks.
99th over: Sri Lanka 259-5 (Mathews 33, Dickwella 14) This might be the time to ask Broad to force things, especially if he’s not playing in the second Test. There won’t be too many to come after this and this might be it, but England badly need one more wicket and in comms Nasser says if he was captain he’d be pleading for one more. Because his leadership style was very much one of supplication, as all who played for him will confirn,. Anyway, Broad beats Mathews with his penultimate delivery, the ball clipping the pad on its way through; naturally there’s an appeal, but as a matter of principle more than anything; it was missing high and side.
“Dickwella and Bess?” wonders John Starbuck. “You couldn’t get much more Dickens than that, could you? Could you?”
98th over: Sri Lanka 258-5 (Mathews 32, Dickwella 13) I think both sets of players will recognise this as a crucial passage of play; England don’t have spinners likely to run through, so Bess in his best moment of the match plus Broad being Broad, while the ball’s hard, is likely to be as demanding as it gets. And Bess finds some significant grip in beating Matthews on the retreat; there’s a strangulated appeal, but I think there was bat in it.
97th over: Sri Lanka 257-5 (Mathews 32, Dickwella 12) Another useful over from Broad, who beats Mathews with more bounce and away movement off the pitch, incited via fingers sliding down the side of the ball. He is so good, and England could really do with him getting into a temper. Maiden, and this is getting intense.
“Morning from Side Turkey,’ says I Wilson. “Weather has turned a bit nasty today here thunderstorms and heavy winds and rain. I still believe Anderson would have made a difference with his repertoire of ball movement both ways, as you say Wood is bowling length which to batsmen of Sri Lanka’s quality is just cannon fodder and Leach is also expensive, we are chipping away but possibly still see a lead 150+ to deal with to win the game.”
I can see why they picked Wood – a little extra pace can be helpful, especially if it’s reversing – but yes, Anderson would be handy here. The real problem, though, is the absence of Stokes who I’m sure would’ve personalitied at least one breakthrough. .
96th over: Sri Lanka 257-5 (Mathews 32, Dickwella 12) Bess is into this spell now, opening his over with three dots, and of course as I type that Dickwella gets down on one knee to absolutely cleanse him down to long on for four. They note in commentary that Bess won’t overly mind that because it’s a risk and he goes again next ball, top-edging … just over Bairstow on the 45, well it’s just over Bairstow on the 45. Talking of earworms and all that. They run three, and a single follows.
95th over: Sri Lanka 245-5 (Mathews 32, Dickwella 1) Avsummadat! Broad finds some lift and shape – I say finds, menaces is probably a better verb – the ball leaving the beating Mathews. He thinks about appealing for a moral wicket, but settles for sending down a maiden. It really is incredible how good he still is, and how significantly he’s still improving. I look forward to his interview after he’s left out of the next Test.
“Just catching up on the day’s events,” says Kim Thonger. “Read the scorecard, as far as Fernando and then the ABBA song popped into my head and now I can’t shake the earworm or think about anything else. Do any of the OBO amateur sports psychologists have any tricks for clearing the mind?”
I certainly do. You’re welcome.
94th over: Sri Lanka 249-5 (Mathews 32, Dickwella 5) Thanks Tim. Bess has another twirl at Dickwella, who hoists him over the leg for two, then comes down the track to create a full toss, turning it away for two more. This is better from Bess, who had a taxing morning.
93rd over: Sri Lanka 245-5 (Mathews 32, Dickwella 1) At the other end it’s Broad, who was denied the new ball earlier, and surely came close to giving an aggrieved interview during the lunch break. He starts, inevitably, with a maiden. Time for a change here too: I’m taking my floppy hat and handing over to Daniel Harris, to bring some spark to the afternoon’s play. Thanks for your company.
92nd over: Sri Lanka 245-5 (Mathews 32, Dickwella 1) Credit to Root, not just for a sharp catch, but for bringing on Bess, who now has seven wickets in the match and may be eyeing a rare feat: a jammy ten-for.
Wicket! Chandimal c Root b Bess 20 (SL 243-5)
Instant impact! Bess’s arm ball draws Chandimal forward and the nick just carries to Joe Root at slip. Sri Lanka are 43 behind with half their wickets gone.
The players are back out there after lunch and the ball is in the hands of Dom Bess, who just needs to make sure he doesn’t keep following a good ball with a gimme.
Meanwhile, in Brisbane, India have been bowled out for 336, only 33 behind. Their last four wickets added a feisty 150. There’s rain forecast and the draw is the favourite, which would mean a shared series, but with David Warner out of form, Australia just might have a collapse in them. You can follow that game here with Scott Heinrich.
Lunch: honours even
91st over: Sri Lanka 242-4 (Mathews 30, Chandimal 20) Leach delivers a beauty, looping, turning and kicking. Chandimal manages to miss it, and Buttler takes it with the sort of aplomb you associate with Ben Foakes. And that’s lunch, with honours even. England have taken two wickets, including the adhesive Thirimanne. But the other was only the nightwatchman, so Sri Lanka still have senior batsmen to dig them out of their hole, and Mathews and Chandimal have gone about the job with calm intent.
With England’s lead down to 44, Joe Root is being conservative with his fields, if not with his bowling changes. He’s used seven bowlers, three of them off-spinners, but only Sam Curran, with his waspish medium pace, has offered much threat. It’s been intriguing stuff. See you in half an hour.
90th over: Sri Lanka 241-4 (Mathews 29, Chandimal 20) A couple more to Chandimal. steering past gully. Wood is bowling with his usual pace and heart, but he’s mostly bowling length, which is Broad’s job. On this slow surface, Wood might be better off mixing bouncers and yorkers – chin music and toe balls. Easier said than done, of course.
89th over: Sri Lanka 239-4 (Mathews 29, Chandimal 18) And now back comes Leach, replacing Curran, and managing a maiden to Mathews. But no breakthrough, which is what England need before the ball goes soft.
88th over: Sri Lanka 239-4 (Mathews 29, Chandimal 18) Back comes Wood and Chandimal responds with more of his controlled uppishness, going over cover this time.
87th over: Sri Lanka 234-4 (Mathews 28, Chandimal 14) Curran keeps Mathews quiet until the last ball, which is guided for three. The deficit is down to 52. Meanwhile, in Brisbane, a thrilling partnership has just come to an end as Indian’s fearless young understudies stand up to Australia’s pace aces. If that doesn’t whet the appetite for the Ashes, and for England’s two meetings with India beforehand, I don’t know what will.
Here’s Brian Withington. “Shocked to see the chewy Malbec-munching Mac Millings sloping off to bed without so much as an amusing team list to leave us chuckling over – for shame, sir.” Ha. “On other fronts, is Stuart Broad ticking enough yet?” Hard to say, but here’s Wood again.