SL 0 - 1 Eng. Match review from Galle.

Linz

New member
Have been going down to the stadium in Galle the last few days to catch as much live cricket as possible, from the latest test match to be played 'behind closed doors'. Most England cricket fans who've travelled to Sri Lanka before might've assumed that locking down the stadium at Galle would not prove so much of an obstacle to the dedicated spectator as you can always watch the game from atop the imposing ramparts of the Galle Fort, conveniently built adjacent to the future cricket oval by the Dutch some centuries ago. However, it'll come as no surprise to the same previous visitors to this island to hear that the Sri Lankan authorities' interpretation of assuring the match is played behind closed doors extends to them prohibiting anyone from watching the game at all, or even looking at the empty stadium from the main road. Accordingly, the police had cordoned off entry to those fort ramparts giving towards Galle town and overlooking the cricket stadium from the morning of day one. While we of course made efforts to ignore and overcome that inconvenience, and did gain access on a couple of occasions to the clock-tower, and more remote viewing points beyond a wide cow-corner, it was only a matter of time before we’d be approached by a police officer and politely but firmly moved on, quoting the 'pandemic' as reason for their on encroaching on people's enjoyment of their leisure time. And, when challenged on the plausibility of contagion, standing 300 metres away, alone, on top of the fort walls, they quickly retorted to there being "an ISIS threat" as cover for their intransigence.


Of course, I saw the lone Englishman, Rob, perched on the most advantageous of the fort walls, alongside a single Sri Lankan press correspondent esconced beneath a large parasol, and shouted to him from the more distant clock tower as to how they were enjoying effective police protection in the pound seats on the ramparts, to which was shouted back in reply, "Media accreditation" . Hmm, never thought to masquerade as a journalist, just to get access to a public area outside the ground, but good for them for doing so - to be able to watch the game in peace. A great effort..!

For us, then it was back down to ground level, which was patrolled by the Sri Lankan army (with eyes peeled for that 'ISIS threat', no doubt) and we settled for watching most of the live play from the City End, through the fence, just to the side of the pavilion, at long-on. After all, the more usual approach of blagging one's way into the stadium without a ticket, or just walking in, was as good as impossible in these unique times - bar some serious masquerading, like pretending to be TV pundit Simon Doull, or something. However, our presence at the perimeter fence inevitably attracted other, local, cricket fans to join us, which was a definite no-no for the machine gun toting sentries who, following orders to disperse any and all gatherings, attempted to move us away, and out of sight of the cricket - the continual harassment only becoming sporadic from the fourth day, once the penny had dropped we were in it for the long haul. While probably the better viewing point of any other available option, being able to identify the players and see how the wicket's playing, and deteriorating, it's still just too far away to be able to read the electronic scoreboard, facing towards us on the other side of the ground, so mostly had to guess how the game was progressing, before finally reverting to mobile internet for the 4th day 'run-chase'.

I’d previously been unaware that England had won the toss on the first morning, and bowled - going against the second unwritten rule of cricket. That’s, more often than not, how you go on to lose the game (I’d thought it had been a good toss to lose..). For those who may not have been aware, the weather here has been awful lately. It’s been raining almost every day for as long as I can remember, probably since before Christmas, so mud and mosquitoes are the order of the day. As such, it’s quite incredible that they manged to get in, and conclude, a full test match, by playing on all five days. In fact, even after Johnny and Dan Lawrence finished the game off in bright, breezy sunshine in no time at all on the fifth morning, the heavens opened after lunch and there was again more rainfall, of seemingly biblical proportions, which would’ve washed out any chance of a conclusion to the game. Just goes to show what a calamitous effort it had been by Sri Lanka on the first day; getting first use of the pitch and bowled out for 135. No coming back from there.

England, on the other hand, with all the pressure off after Sri Lanka’s spectacular first innings failure, did really well, pretty much universally, and it was a great team effort. Sure, the openers won no accolades, but those disappointments were readily offset by the notable successes of Johnny Bairstow at 3, Joe Root’s delectable double century innings – not the amount of runs but the way he played. A brilliant innings. Dan Lawrence’s fantastic, and confidence inspiring debut, Jack Leach’s bowling effort, in fact both the spinners, and Josh Buttler behind the stumps. As I said, a great team effort. In fact, the only criticism I could have, or the only piece of negativity, was our curious efforts to remove the last couple of ‘late order batsmen’ or, as bowlers refer to them, tail-enders, on the evening session of the fourth day. On a clearly deteriorating pitch, where you could see the top-soil exploding every ball from the boundary fence, and with England having two in-form spin bowlers, why were we persisting with Mark Wood bowling fast long-hops, with 4 or 5 fielders in the deep on the leg side, trying to get them caught out on the boundary? Curious, indeed, but nothing we haven’t seen before from England. In fact, my mind goes back to the SL 10th wicket at this same venue in 2003 when Michael Vaughan did something similar trying to dismiss Muralitharan, who, with the field out, went on to slog 35... (We fortuitously drew that match). But, in the end here, it was fortunate we only had to chase a tricky 74 batting last. It really should have been no more than 50, and a winning result within four days but, with Angelo Mathews still at the crease it could have been anything up to a hundred needed, and a VERY tricky batting effort required, facing trial by spin, on the fifth day. No surprises, then, that the Sri Lankan final wicket was Angelo himself, caught at regulation slip off Jack Leach. Nor that it took England about an hour and a half to get their last two tailenders out, while it took Sri Lanka about a minute and a half to remove our two top batsmen, crowding the bat with catchers with spin at both ends.

No matter. The inevitable bad light brought an end to England jitters on that otherwise very exciting fourth evening, and come the sunshine of the fifth morning, Johnny and our new kid in town, Dan Lawrence, dispensed of the 36 run deficit in no short-shrift to move ‘The Land’ into an unassailable one-nil lead, in what’s only a two-match series. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary efforts. Joe Root, Jack Leach and Dan Lawrence demonstrated that from an England perspective, as well as Thirimanne’s ton and Embuldenya’s sharp spin, albeit on a helpful surface, showed that for Sri Lanka, and the SL batting effort of 359 in the third innings, over 137 overs, was laudable. A sign of resurgence in a recently stagnated Sri Lanka batting entourage, perhaps? Whatever, there’s only three days for everyone to rally themselves for the rematch, at the same venue and under the same conditions. Let’s just hope for some relief in this seemingly incessant rain before then, as bowling in the mud reminds me of playing in the northern leagues back home. But, for us mere mortals on the ground, let’s hope for something as extraordinary as some common sense prevailing, and some leniency being extended, to the cricket loving general public on this isle who’d like nothing more as their Saturday afternoon goal but to stroll along the ramparts footpath with the kids while the game is underway. Or, dare even to halt on the footpath a while walking along the main road - but I doubt that.

Otherwise, it’ll be back to wearing a high-vis jacket and wellies, come Friday morning for me, in order to catch a view of the 2nd test-match from the perimeter fence building site. I’ve heard it said before, and now I’m convinced - touring’s not what it used to be…

LInz - England men from cricket, in Galle.

ps. By the way, where is everyone nowadays, Zuckeberg's Facebook..?
 
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