England in Sri Lanka – 14th November 2018

Body language at team practises before a huge match can be misleading, often because the players themselves don’t know their selection fate, but it was hard to avoid the conclusion at today’s England training session before the second Test that the starting XI would be the same as that which produced such an impressive and rousing victory in Galle.

Jonny Bairstow’s return to full fitness appears to be in vain and Stuart Broad, who was widely understood to be standing down only for the Galle Test, looks like carrying drinks once again. By ‘widely understood’ I include Broad himself who was made to believe that Galle’s notoriously dry, spinner-friendly conditions would make way for the traditionally greener, quicker pitches of the rainy mountain city – and that he would return.

It is not only the nature of the emphatic win in Galle which may have forced a rethink, but the pitch in Kandy which looks like it hasn’t seen water in a fortnight, or more. It is uncharacteristically dry and barren as the Sri Lankans roll the dice in a desperate bid to level the series before the final Test in Colombo.

The decision to include Ben Foakes in the squad was controversial and the decision to play him in Galle even more so. His man-of-the-match performance made him impossible to drop and the ramifications are being felt throughout the squad. There would appear to be a considerable amount of unhappiness which will coach Trevor Bayliss and Joe Root will need to address. Head on.

Speaking of head on, that’s exactly how the TalkSport2 team tackled today’s T10 game against the Barmy Army. Unable to field a full XI because of Mark Nicholas, Matt Prior and Darren Gough’s prior golf arrangements, we took the field with nine good men and true – including our outstanding guest, Dean Wilson from The Mirror.

 

Jarrod Kimber’s leg-spin earned him a remarkable 4-8 (three tailenders, but who’s complaining?) as we restricted our challengers to 67-8 in their 10.

Unexpectedly asked to open the batting, I swung harder and harder at the first six deliveries of the run chase and missed them all. You don’t get many maidens in T10. The bowler was universally accepted as “quick by decent club standards” but still…

Opening partner Dean may be a wee bit larger these days than he was in his own club career but he still boasts one of the sweetest cover drives you’ll see and he coasted to an elegant 30 before retiring with victory in touching distance. Except it wasn’t. Scores were tied with a single ball remaining and much banter in the air. The unfortunate Barmer lost his nerve and delivered a wide – and victory – to the good guys, a win toasted by the effervescent Gareth Batty who did the work – at least – of the missing two players as well as his own.

 

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