63rd over: Sri Lanka 175-3 (Mathews 78, Chandimal 47) Anderson goes for a single! Mathews, tiring of all these dots, plays a gentle straight drive.
62nd over: Sri Lanka 174-3 (Mathews 77, Chandimal 47) In an unexpected development, everyone has got the giggles – Wood, Root, even Chandimal. I can’t work out why, so I feel like the sort of teacher who says “if it’s so funny, you can share it with the class”. Maybe it’s a cunning plan, because a moment later Leach, bowling to Chandimal, gets a ball past the bat. From nowhere he finds a bit of turn, a bit of bounce, and a bit of hope.
61st over: Sri Lanka 173-3 (Mathews 76, Chandimal 47) Anderson to Chandimal: more dots than an email from Shreyas Das. There’s that hint of reverse again, but in this heat Anderson is only around 80mph, which gives the batsman time to adjust.
60th over: Sri Lanka 173-3 (Mathews 76, Chandimal 47) Again, Anderson’s parsimony persuades the batsmen to pick up runs at the other end. Chandimal gives Bess the charge and collects two, and then Mathews cuts for four, craftily, well in front of square.
59th over: Sri Lanka 166-3 (Mathews 72, Chandimal 44) Yes, Anderson has changed ends. It makes no difference: he just resumes bowling dry to Mathews.
Shreyas Das is pondering the England spinners. “Leach and Bess’s inconsistent line and length should be really worrying Joe Root….ahead of the tough India tour…..” Bess has been a bit better today, but yes, England may need to turn back to Moeen Ali. Also, impressive number of dots there – are you, by any chance, an ageing swing bowler?
58th over: Sri Lanka 166-3 (Mathews 72, Chandimal 44) Root takes Anderson off, which is interesting unless it’s a change of ends. Back comes Dom Bess, bearing singles, three of them – one of which he’ll be grateful for, as it comes off a half-tracker. That is Bess’s Achilles heel.
57th over: Sri Lanka 163-3 (Mathews 70, Chandimal 43) Starved by Anderson, Mathews decides to tuck into Leach, chipping over mid-on for four.
56th over: Sri Lanka 158-3 (Mathews 65, Chandimal 43) Those clouds are only there for show, not making the ball swing, so Anderson is bowling a fifth-stump line, daring the batsman to have a nibble. Mathews is not for tempting until there’s just enough width to punch a single into the covers. One seasoned pro, seeing off another.
55th over: Sri Lanka 157-3 (Mathews 64, Chandimal 43) Leach continues, immediately goes for two singles, then silently yells “Won’t get milked again!” and delivers four dots.
54th over: Sri Lanka 155-3 (Mathews 63, Chandimal 42) It’s a change of ends for the old boy, and he’s even greeted by some clouds, as Galle bends over backwards to be more like Burnley. Bowling to Mathews, he starts with a dot, another dot… and four more dots. After that unbelievable last over that cost eight runs, Jimmy Anderson is himself again.
This session could be a long one, as England have only managed a rather dismal 53 overs. It will begin, like its two processors, with a bit of Anderson.
“Definitely into the hard yakka now,” says Guy Hornsby, “stuff of my junior years, long-wave radio in the ear at 5am as England toiled in the sun. Just as Sri Lanka are digging in, so must our bowlers. Expect no help, try and land it in the same spot. Bess and Leach can learn a lot here.” Are you sure about that, Guy? Landing it in the same spot is what you do when there’s something in the pitch, to make things happen for you. On a track like this, I would have thought the variations have to come from the bowler, as Wood has been busting a gut to show. That said, I love the long-wave radio in the ear at 5am, and I’m wondering which era you’re harking back to – who was doing the toiling, Tuffers and Embers? Gifford and Underwood?
Tea: Sri Lanka getting on top
53rd over: Sri Lanka 155-3 (Mathews 63, Chandimal 42) Better from Leach, and that’s tea. The past hour belongs firmly to Sri Lanka, who have added 47 without loss. Only Wood, with his pace and hostility and hint of reverse, looked like breaking through, and he couldn’t quite manage it. For a seam bowler, the only way to get a wicket on this pitch is to be 38 years old. See you in a quarter of an hour.
52nd over: Sri Lanka 154-3 (Mathews 62, Chandimal 42) Decent from Bess, but decency doesn’t look like taking wickets. Anderson has three for 14, while the rest of the bowlers have none for 139. And one of them, Wood, has bowled very well. That’s how flat this pitch is.
51st over: Sri Lanka 152-3 (Mathews 60, Chandimal 42) Leach’s turn to be milked, and the partnership has risen without trace to 75.
50th over: Sri Lanka 147-3 (Mathews 57, Chandimal 40) Better from Bess, who gives it more flight and restricts Mathews to a single. “Good over this, Bessy,” says Jos Buttler, one Somerset exile to another.
49th over: Sri Lanka 146-3 (Mathews 56, Chandimal 40) A couple of singles off Leach.
48th over: Sri Lanka 144-3 (Mathews 55, Chandimal 39) If Bess and Leach are having a Branderson-style thrift contest, Bess has been winning it today, but now he goes for five singles as the batsmen realise that, on this flat pitch, he’s there for the milking.
47th over: Sri Lanka 139-3 (Mathews 53, Chandimal 36) Root gives Leach only one close catcher, himself at slip, so there’s no pressure on Mathews. Or on Leach, who begins with a maiden.
46th over: Sri Lanka 139-3 (Mathews 53, Chandimal 36) A single to each batsman off Bess, and sure enough, Wood is taking a breather – here comes Jack Leach.
45th over: Sri Lanka 137-3 (Mathews 52, Chandimal 35) Wood is having one last go at Chandimal. He changes his tune from chin music to rib music, and it very nearly works – Chandimal fends, the ball pops up… but short leg has gone deeper, a rare case of a funky field-placing costing a wicket. Chandimal celebrates his reprieve with a cut for two and a flick for a single. That’s probably that for this spell from Wood, which goes down in the book as none for 21, when it could easily have been two for 15.
44th over: Sri Lanka 132-3 (Mathews 52, Chandimal 30) Chandimal needs something to cheer him up, so he dances down the track to Bess and lofts him for six.
43rd over: Sri Lanka 124-3 (Mathews 51, Chandimal 23) Another good bouncer from Wood, drawing a top edge from Mathews – but it loops over Buttler’s shoulder for four. And that’s Mathews’ fifty, his second in succession. He once made 160 against England, and he could do it again here. Wood tests Chandimal with yet another bouncer, the best of the three, super-quick, but he’s ready for it and gets a more decisive duck in this time. Wood follows up with the yorker, and there’s a vague appeal for a catch by Zak Crawley at short leg as Chandimal inside-edges. The umpires call for a review but it’s a bump ball. Or an ump ball.
42nd over: Sri Lanka 117-3 (Mathews 44, Chandimal 23) Mathews drives down the ground for a single off Bess, who gets away with a long hop to Chandimal.
41st over: Sri Lanka 116-3 (Mathews 43, Chandimal 23) Chandimal takes on Wood, driving for four and clipping for two, and then Wood hits back with a bouncer that strikes him on the grille. He ducked into it, then took his eye off it, but the blow was only glancing and after a quick check from the physio, he’s OK to continue. The stump mike sadly fails to replay the conversation. “What day is it, Chanders?” “Groundhog Day, obviously.”
40th over: Sri Lanka 109-3 (Mathews 42, Chandimal 17) A maiden is beckoning to Bess when he drags one down and is lucky to get away with a single.
Here’s Felix Wood, picking up on Daniel’s remark in the 29th over about bowling depth. “I’m not sure that England do have such an embarrassment of bowling riches,” he argues. “Rotating Broad and Anderson to lessen chances of injury speaks to me of a lack of confidence in the other options. None of the others offer the same control, and I do worry that our bowlers will be taken to the cleaners in India and Australia. If either series is anything like as good as those two duking it out then it will be a good year, pandemic be damned.” It will! But I’m not sure the rotation is designed to avoid injury. In Sri Lanka, there’s only room for one trad right-arm fast-medium bowler, however distinguished. You need two spinners, one paceman and something a bit different.
39th over: Sri Lanka 108-3 (Mathews 41, Chandimal 17) Wood bangs it in to Chandimal, then brings out that inswinging yorker again. Chandimal copes with both but looks ruffled, as well he may. “Good from Wood,” says Rob Key, for the second time in a few minutes. And that’s drinks, with England ahead on points. They had the better of that hour by virtue of a single delivery, the one from Anderson that moved just enough to get rid of Thirimanne.
38th over: Sri Lanka 108-3 (Mathews 41, Chandimal 17) Bess keeps it tight until the last ball, when he floats it up outside off, an invitation to Mathews to square-drive for four.
37th over: Sri Lanka 103-3 (Mathews 37, Chandimal 16) Anderson has to go after being so embarrassingly expensive. Back comes Mark Wood, who tries a yorker to Mathews and gets it to jag in late, targeting the toes. Mathews’ eye is in, so he’s able to glance it for a single, but that’s an encouraging sign for Wood, and for the rest of the day: a bit of reverse swing.
36th over: Sri Lanka 101-3 (Mathews 36, Chandimal 15) Joe Root goes back to spin, and Bess whizzes through a maiden to Chandimal. Slow bowling isn’t slow when you’re writing about it.