England in Sri Lanka – 14th October 2018

At the start of the second ODI the England supporters outnumbered the locals by about 10:1 but that gradually changed as the match wore on and by the time the monsoon rains returned it was close to the expected full house. Relief for the England fans that they had bought the ‘expensive’ tickets under the shelter of the grandstand. It may have been the heaviest downpour on tour so far, and they have been some strong contenders.

Once again England showed the resilience and strength of the squad when things went awry. Heading for a minimum of 300 with Root (71) and Morgan (92) setting things up superbly for Stokes, Buttler and Moeen etc, they slipped to 218-6 and might well have folded for 240 in a different era.

As it was, the total was way below par at 254-9 when the best number 10 in world cricket ensured something a great deal more competitive with a last wicket stand of 24 from only balls with last man Olly Stone.

It’s often forgotten or overlooked (or perhaps taken for granted) but Adil Rashid averages 20.5 at a strike rate of 103. That’s ridiculous.

The most exciting aspect of the run chase was the ‘debut’ of Olly Stone who finally got to do something with his match kit and the cap he was presented with before Wednesday’s washout by TalkSport commentator and former England great, Darren Gough.

It looked like England’s version of the Imran Khan approach to a young Wasim Akram in the early 90s: “You’re a fast bowler, I don’t care where you bowl it, just bowl fast.” So many young quicks are inhibited by the need to ‘keep it tidy’ early in their careers and lose rhythm as a result of their nerves and caution, but 25-year-old Stone was not amongst them.

The first ball of his second over took off like a golf ball from a block of concrete (which this pitch was not) forcing opener Niroshan Dickwella into self-preservation mode, fending the ball off with his hands inches from his helmet grille into the gloves of Jos Buttler. I asked Gough on air which would have been a more satisfying wicket, that or the off stump doing six cartwheels towards the ‘keeper.

“Ooh, that’s a tough choice I reckon, but I’d go with that one!”

It’s not just foreign or cricket tourists who visit Dambulla, it’s many thousands of locals who have more interest in the religious, historical and cultural aspects of the region. Accordingly, there are rooms and restaurants available on every street corner – and to suit every budget. A word of warning to the timid of spice: Anything “devilled” on the menu will provide a challenge. But you have no chance of survival if it is “deviled.”

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