46th over: Sri Lanka 135-9 (Hasaranga 19, Fernando 0) Hasaranga is not going to die wondering. He flashes past slip for two, then slashes to cover, wants two more – and nearly perishes to a run-out that takes the TV umpire some time to adjudicate on.
“Morning Tim,” says Guy Hornsby, “from an absolutely biblical walk to nursery in sunny Manchester. I heartily second David Horn’s views [40th over]. Cricket has been a real ray of sunshine this last year. A gift. Much like England’s great start today, communicated via the beauty of your and Rob’s prose on the OBO and the dulcet tones of TMS are keeping the spirits dry even if my feet are sodden. Speaking of TMS, did you catch any of Ali Mitchell’s chat with Justin Langer at lunch? I like Langer a lot but it really was peak victimhood. Very strange indeed from an Aussie.” I didn’t! Langer was such a calm player, but you wouldn’t know it from the way he talks.
45th over: Sri Lanka 130-9 (Hasaranga 14, Fernando 0) Asitha Fernando restores a smidgen of order by playing out a maiden from Bess.
44th over: Sri Lanka 130-9 (Hasaranga 14, Fernando 0) Before that blow, Hasaranga thwacked Leach over extra-cover for four. He also bowls leg spin, and he looks like a star – but he may be wondering what he’s doing in this team.
Wicket! Embuldeniya run out Leach 0 (SL 130-9)
Another stroke of bad luck for Sri Lanka as Hasaranga plays a lusty straight drive, the bowler gets a fingertip to it and Embuldeniya is run out backing up. It never rains but it pours.
43rd over: Sri Lanka 126-8 (Hasaranga 10, Embuldeniya 0) Bess has three for 13 in this spell. Off three overs!
Wicket! Perera b Bess 0 (SL 126-8)
Perera aims an airy drive at a full flighted delivery, plays inside it and loses his off bail. It was a good ball this time, but Perera is 38, and he’s just let down a guy playing his third Test. Sri Lanka are heading for the lowest total batting first at Galle, breaking their own record of 181.
Slo-mo reveals that it was actually Bairstow’s ankle. Ouch. He’s gone off for treatment. Still, it’ll all seem worth it when he sees it again on A Question of Sport.
Wicket!? Shanaka c Buttler b Bess 23 (SL 126-7)
Ah this is bad luck. Shanaka sweeps, Bairstow at short leg leaps – and back-heels the ball straight to Buttler, who takes a simple catch. A tale of two wicketkeepers.
42nd over: Sri Lanka 126-6 (Shanaka 23, Hasaranga 10) Shanaka joins in the fun, slog-sweeping Leach for four. Root responds by taking out his short leg, which seems like the move you’d make at 126 for one, not 126 for six.
41st over: Sri Lanka 121-6 (Shanaka 18, Hasaranga 10) Hasaranga, who is playing his third Test, is already looking as if he won’t be down at No.8 for long. He cover-drives Bess for four, then chips him over mid-on for two. After facing nine deliveries, he’s the first batsman today to go at a run a ball.
40th over: Sri Lanka 113-6 (Shanaka 17, Hasaranga 3) An over with no mishaps: things are looking up for Sri Lanka.
“Morning Tim …” Morning, David Horn. ”A Smyth/ de Lisle opening partnership is very much the OBO equivalent of Anderson/Broad. I’m old enough to remember Booth/Bull (Harmison/Hoggard?) opening up the OBO in years gone by – another venerable double act. What a treat to have Test cricket back. I wanted the BBC to give the ECB a special award in their December shindig for the work they did last year with their bubble, and it’s not often in the last 35+ years of following cricket that I’ve said that about the sports governing body. I love football as well, but if there was ever a tonic for our times, it’s Test cricket. Fabulous to have it back, and in the capable hands of Smyth/de Lisle. Welcome back.” Thank you! Too kind. And amen to the bit about the bubble – 2020 was such a weird year that we even learned to love the ECB.
39th over: Sri Lanka 110-6 (Shanaka 15, Hasaranga 2) Bess nearly nabs another as Shanaka plays a glance perilously close to the man at leg slip. No alarms for the new batsman, the exciting Hasaranga. He’s just been Player of the Tournament in the Lanka Premier League, so we can be fairly sure he’s got the personality that this situation demands.
Wicket! Dickwella c Sibley b Bess 12 (SL 105-6)
Another one! And it’s a shocker. Bess offers Dickwella a long hop, and Dickwella pops it to backward point, where Sibley just recovers from his amazement in time to scoop it off the turf. Bad ball, bad shot, good catch.
Drinks: SL 105-5
So it’s been England’s hour, and England’s day so far – though Mahela Jayawardene thinks 250 is a decent score here.
That was too kind from Rob. The man is a star – and a team player, which may explain why he took the 4am shift this morning, allowing me to clock on at 8.15.
38th over: Sri Lanka 105-5 (Dickwella 12, Shanaka 12) Leach is starting to find his rhythm. He didn’t bowl badly at the start, but you could tell he was a bit rusty.
37th over: Sri Lanka 102-5 (Dickwella 9, Shanaka 12) Wood beats Shanaka with a terrific bouncer. Shanaka shaped to hook, realised that was a fool’s errand and dropped his hands at the last minute. Wood’s average speed is in excess of 90mph, which is admirable in this humidity.
36th over: Sri Lanka 97-5 (Dickwella 5, Shanaka 11) Before this game, Jack Leach was something like 6/5 to be England’s leading wickettaker in the series. I couldn’t be bothered to put the mortgage on it but I wish I had; he should outbowl Dom Bess, and I’d be staggered if a seamer takes more wickets than him on these pitches.
Shanaka, who has started positively, sweeps Leach flat and hard for four more. His Test record is modest (avge 14 from five games) but he averages over 40 in first-class cricket so it’s fair to assume he can play.
35th over: Sri Lanka 93-5 (Dickwella 5, Shanaka 7) Dickwella, a compulsively attacking player, tries to ramp Wood and is beaten for pace. Wood offers him another next ball but this time Dickwella sways out of the way.
34th over: Sri Lanka 93-5 (Dickwella 5, Shanaka 7) Shanaka drags Leach over mid-on for four. Wood leapt optimistically but Shanaka got enough on it to clear him fairly comfortably.
“Hello Rob,” says Paul Smith. “You linked to the Byrds in your intro. I’ve been racking my brains but other than the Simon & Garfunkel classic I can’t think of any songs about Sri Lanka. Can anyone else?”
Erm, Kandy Pop by Bis? I’m quite intrigued by how the subconscious guides you towards certain songs. I’ve had The Rat by the Walkmen in my head for the last 48 hours, particularly the line, “You’ve got a nerve to be asking a favour.” I’m convinced it’s because of all the Galle puns that were used in the various series previews, gall being a synonym of nerve.
33rd over: Sri Lanka 89-5 (Dickwella 5, Shanaka 3) Mark Wood replaces Broad, whose figures of 9-3-20-3 are quietly outrageous, if that isn’t an oxymoron. After a couple of 87mph looseners – 87mph looseners! – Wood is back over 90mph. The pitch is really slow, though, and Dickwell and Shanaka play him fairly comfortably. Dickwella has enough time to touch the last ball of the over off the pads for four.
31st over: Sri Lanka 83-5 (Dickwella 0, Shanaka 2) Dickwella bat-pads Broad into the leg side. There’s no short leg and the ball lands safely. Another maiden from Broad, who looks shattered and will surely take a break.
30th over: Sri Lanka 83-5 (Dickwella 0, Shanaka 2) Sri Lanka have played some really poor shots today. Kusal Mendis is the only batsman who didn’t give his wicket away. As he was out for a fourth consecutive duck, I doubt he’ll be clambering up the moral high ground.
WICKET! Sri Lanka 81-5 (Chandimal c Curran b Leach 28)
Another one! These are golden wickets for England. Leach tosses one up to Chandimal, who thumps it inside out towards cover. Curran moves to his right and swoops forward to take a fine low catch.
29th over: Sri Lanka 81-4 (Chandimal 28, Dickwella 0) In conditions that could barely be tougher for quick bowlers, Stuart Broad has figures of 8-2-20-3. The man’s an animal.
WICKET! Sri Lanka 81-4 (Mathews c Root b Broad 27)
That’s a huge wicket! Mathews slashes loosely at a shortish delivery outside off stump, and Root takes a brilliant catch to his right at slip. Stuart Broad, the remarkable Stuart Broad, has three wickets.
28.5 overs: Sri Lanka 81-3 (Mathews 27, Chandimal 28) Chandimal hooks Broad for a single. The outfield is very slow, which is another reason why Sri Lanka’s score is probably better than it looks. We’re only a session into the match but it’s already beautifully poised.
28th over: Sri Lanka 80-3 (Mathews 27, Chandimal 27) Sri Lanka are inching towards a decent position. This was always going to be such an important partnership, and I’d imagine Dan Lawrence is struggling to put that dropped catch before lunch out of his mind.
27th over: Sri Lanka 79-3 (Mathews 27, Chandimal 26) We’re having a few technical problems I’m afraid, though you haven’t missed much.
26th over: Sri Lanka 78-3 (Mathews 27, Chandimal 25) Hello! Out of nothing, Mathews chips Leach straight back over his head for six. That shot also brings up a calm, authoritative fifty partnership with Chandimal.
25th over: Sri Lanka 69-3 (Mathews 21, Chandimal 22) Stuart Broad, who took two early wickets, returns after lunch in place of Dom Bess. Angelo Mathews thick edges a cutter to third man for four, which takes him to 6,000 Test runs. He’s only the fifth Sri Lanka to reach that milestone after Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva.
That was a decent morning for England. Stuart Broad took two wickets in a smart new-ball spell, and then Kusal Perera gave Dom Bess a wicket with an ill-conceived reverse sweep. Sri Lanka were in big trouble at 25 for three, but Angelo Mathews and the stand-in-captain Dinesh Chandimal calmly restored order. For the most part they played really well, though Chandimal was dropped by Dan Lawrence in the covers just before lunch.
24th over: Sri Lanka 65-3 (Mathews 17, Chandimal 22) Leach bowls the last over before lunch and beats Chandimal with another jaffa that curves in and then rips past the outside edge. That’s lunch.
22nd over: Sri Lanka 61-3 (Mathews 13, Chandimal 22) Chandimal slaps Leach towards cover, where the debutant Lawrence drops a sitter. Eesh, that’s not a great way to start your Test career, and could be costly in what is likely to be a low-scoring game.
“Hello Rob, I appreciate your real emotional connection to the game, and your deep knowledge…” says Zaph. “However. I recently plugged into the OBO of the Aussie v India games and there’s loads more detail, e.g. the field settings, notes on variations on all balls of the over, field changes; whereas you only give the ‘highlights’ of these things. Can you not be bothered? And no, I’m not writing to Mr. correctness Ingle, just wondering what your thoughts are, do you read those OBOs?”
No, I can’t be bothered.
21st over: Sri Lanka 61-3 (Mathews 13, Chandimal 22) A couple of deliveries from the spinner have already gone through the top, which suggests this pitch will crumble long before day five. Bess and Leach have experience of bowling on surfaces like that at Somerset, though so far they haven’t been at their best. That’s understandable – Bess is bowling in a Test in Asia for the first time, Leach is bowling in a Test for the first time since 2019.
20th over: Sri Lanka 56-3 (Mathews 12, Chandimal 18) Mathews and Chandimal have played almost 150 Tests between them and know exactly what they are doing. They’re just accumulating sensibly – no fuss, no frills and hopefully no fourth wicket before lunch for England.
19th over: Sri Lanka 52-3 (Mathews 11, Chandimal 17) It’s hard to know what a good score is on this pitch, but I suspect Sri Lanka would be content with 250, especially as England have to bat last. At the moment batting looks relatively comfortable. But in Galle, there is usually one with your name on it.
18th over: Sri Lanka 50-3 (Mathews 10, Chandimal 16) “Morning Rob,” says Andy Bradshaw. “It’s a minor quibble considering he’s wanging it down at 90mph and making the batsmen play at it, but I do wish Wood slip a yorker in more often, considering how fast he is in the air and how slow the pitch is, why not take the pitch out of the equation?”
Always with the equations.