England in Sri Lanka – 13th November 2018

Jos Buttler may have been quietly and privately upset about being overlooked for the wicket-keeping role when Jonny Bairstow was ruled out of the first Test but he never let it show and certainly never said anything publicly. It would have been hard to look past the tiny but nevertheless visible signs in his body language, however. Still, he performed well with the bat – at a critical time in the first innings – and fielded superbly.

He chatted this morning about the possibility of having “more flexibility” in the Test batting line-up, especially in “this part of the world where you are probably going to be facing spin first up whether you’re batting at number three or number eight.” He is not averse to the idea of batting at number three should Moeen Ali be moved down the order.

Neither, apparently, is Bairstow although he hasn’t said it publicly. The Yorkshireman has risen to every international challenge thrown his way so far. How about “make the Test number three spot your own”? Naturally there are the doubters who say he doesn’t have the technique – but they said that about the ODI opening position, too.

Bairstow was in the nets this morning, working furiously and demonstrably putting his fitness on display. He is desperate to play. I suspect he will not. If pre-tour vows are to be kept, Stuart Broad will return to the starting XI – in place of either Adil Rashid or Sam Curran, depending on the pitch. It seems likely that will be the only change.

The Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue towers over Kandy and provides a dramatic view, both during the day and especially at night when it is floodlit. It seems churlish and disrespectful to say that the trek up to it is the best part, provided you enjoy a steep climb and a bit of a sweat. You pay an entrance fee to stand at the base and…enjoy the view. I would never suggest people skip it, but it is not a cultural experience. The locals agree. Even those making money from it.

 

 

England’s players are tucked away from the city in their luxury, five-star hotel. And to be honest, I get the impression that many of them would rather not be. They enjoy going out for meals in Colombo and Galle but it can take 45 minutes to go 10 kilometres each way to a restaurant in the city so they stay where they are and ‘make do’ with the gym, an excellent restaurant and satellite TV. Like every other touring team to this city.

Tomorrow the Talksport commentary and production team has been challenged to a T10 contest by the Barmy Army. It will take place at the old Test venue, the Asgirya Stadium. Matt Prior and Gareth Batty will be headlining for the broadcasters with no word yet on whether Darren Gough will make it. He needs to speak to his knees. Will keep you posted!

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